In some ways it’s been a low key preseason for the Arkansas State Red Wolves basketball team.
Coming off a disappointing season where it started strong, Coach John Brady’s team has stayed out of the spotlight. Even one of the two preseason exhibitions were held behind closed doors, but word-of-mouth said it was a good thumping of SE Missouri.
There was an exhibition game vs. Henderson State on Monday night that was an 89-79 victory.
On Friday the real season begins at SIU-Edwardsville. The game is at 8 p.m. and is available on Fox Sports Midwest. The Red Wolves’ home opener is Monday vs. Lyon College.
It is a start-over year for Brady and the Red Wolves, who started 6-4 a year ago and had 4 road victories before finishing 11-18.
“I think our team has improved a lot in other areas,’’ said Brady. “Not only from a executing, rebounding and defensing but in terms of understanding each other, getting along better and getting to know each other better … a camaraderie about it. Some unselfishness. I think all of those things have gotten better.
“Certainly last year was a year we didn’t like. We want to change all of that.
“We’ve learned about each other a little bit better. We really understand how to understand each other, how to get along, have the camaraderie that good teams need to have. We did have 11 or 12 new guys last year and I probably underestimated the newness in that.
“We hit a little adversity and we didn’t handle it was well.”
The Red Wolves have three new players who Brady thinks will make an impact, 6-foot-5 transfer Devin Carter, 6-3 junior college signee Donte Thomas and 6-5 freshman Christian Davis. Also new is 6-4 redshirt freshman Connor Kern, who is recovering from a torn ACL that knocked him out of this freshman season.
“I like our 3 new players,’’ said Brady. “I like Donte Thomas as a point guard and he is going to play off the ball too. He has got some size at the point, although PJ has played well too. Devin Carter has played really well, a young man we had sitting out a year ago, and our freshman Christian (Davis) has played well from Dallas. Those three guys have played well and I think our returnees have played well.”
They will join with an experienced group of returnees that accounted for 76 percent of the offense an 88.2 percent or the rebounds a year ago.
Anthony Livingston, 6-9 center, averaged 15.9 points and 11 rebounds per game and wing player Sean Gardner scored 12 per game. Frederick Dure, a 6-5 guard, who came on late and averaged 6.8 per game and 6-9 Nom Boucoum averaged 6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Junior point guard PJ Hardwick averaged 4.8 points, 3.1 rebound and 4.8 assists per game.
Livingston has been slowed by knee issues in the preseason.
“His health for our team and his play is important for us to be the kind of team we want to be,’’ said Brady. “He is a difference maker on our team and everybody knows that.”
Other returnees are 6-8 Kelvin Downs, a senior, 6-6 Charles Waters, 6-3 C.J. Foster and 6-0 Josh Pierre.
“The 3 things we have been emphasizing if to execute the offense better than we did. Defend it better than we did a year ago and rebound it better. We did accomplish those 3 things in scrimmage vs. Semo.
“I think this will be the first time probably in my career that I am going to change the lineup from time to time,’’ said Brady. “I think we have got about 10 guys really who can be interchangeable. I’ve said that before and not played but 7 or 8 but this year I think we still have 10 guys or so who can do a lot of different things. I think we are going to play some different guys and start some different guys depending upon matchups for one, but just keeping everybody’s head up and giving everybody an opportunity.”