CHATTANOOGA (GoMocs.com) -- Lights, cameras, action! The 2016-17 season is ready to get underway and for Chattanooga Mocs ball coach Matt McCall, it's time to take the court with an interesting mix of experience and youth.
"If you look at our team right now, we have four guys who've played significant roles within the last year and Casey (Jones) hasn't played since early December last year," McCall shared. "There's a lot of fresh faces out there for us that will get a taste of what college basketball is all about Friday night at 7 o'clock."
Four starters return from last year's school-record 29-win team. That squad opened with wins at Georgia and at Illinois in the first three games.
"We're not sneaking up on anyone," the second-year coach added. "Last year is last year. But last year to our opponents puts a big target on our backs. If we don't walk into that arena with the right mindset, it could be a long night for us no matter who we are playing."
Southern Conference Preseason Player of the Year Tre' McLean (12.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg) is joined by fellow seniors Justin Tuoyo (11.1, 5.0, 2.3 bpg) and Greg Pryor (9.8, 3.5 apg). Chuck Ester, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury, started the last 27 games for Casey Jones (12.6, 6.5, 3.8 apg) after the latter sustained a season-ending ankle injury prior to the Dayton win. Jones received a medical redshirt and is back on court for the Mocs.
"Those guys have played in big games and big-time environments," McCall continued. "But we have a lot of guys who've never played in a college basketball game before. Before Chuck Ester went down, you knew you were going to have guys coming off the bench that have played in environments.
"Now, we have guys who've never played [at this level]."
On the active roster, there are six returnees and six newcomers. So what's the key to success Friday?
"We have to focus on each-and-every possession," he concluded. "There's going to be adversity in the game. Something's not going to go right, something's not going to go our way...how do we respond? How do we move past that and focus on the next possession? I think it will be a game of runs, and I think it will come back to how we handle their pressure defense and keep them out of transition.
"To reach our potential as a team, we have to be fully invested mentally, physically and emotionally every day. Everyone is going to be coming for us because of what they did a group last year, even though it is a whole, new team."
The probable starters are all seniors in Pryor, Johnathan Burroughs-Cook, McLean, Jones and Tuoyo. Sophomore Peyton Woods is a key reserve on the wing along with sophomore junior college transfer Nat Dixon. Freshman Rodney Chatman enters as the primary backup to Pryor at the point, while junior college addition Trayvond Massenburg is needed to bulk up the post in Ester's absence. Freshmen wings Makale Foreman and David Jean-Baptiste provide depth in the backcourt along with walk-on Dylan Brewster.
The game airs on SEC Network + online and over the airwaves at 96.1 the Legend in Chattanooga. Links to live stats, video (WatchESPN app) and audio (Mocs Sports Network) are on GoMocs.com's men's basketball schedule page. Click the link above for game notes for both programs.