Early Observations; ULM Basketball

A remix version of the ULM men's basketball team started practice Friday night with a 7 p.m. workout at Fant-Ewing Coliseum. WarhawkNation.com was there and formed a few early observations on the team.

--As we learned over the summer, fifth-year senior guard Tony Hooper will return after his being granted a medical redshirt. Injuries and attitude kept Hooper off the court for all but four games last season, which contributed to ULM's disappointing 10-20 finish. At least on this opening night, Hooper appeared quiet and reserved – humbled perhaps by the circumstances of a year ago that included a suspension. One of the interesting storylines to follow with this team will be Hooper's re-introduction to the lineup.

When he's right, Hooper is a spark plug. He averaged 13.8 points over the first three years of his career and ranks 15th in school history with 1,275 points. He also ranks third in 3-pointers made (178), sixth in steals (156), and 10th in assists (266) in the career annals at ULM.

--Right away, you notice that this is a taller team with the additions of 6-10 juco center Fabio Ribero and 7-0 redshirt freshman Robert "Rory" Burt.

Ribero is a well-proportioned big man who transferred from New Mexico Junior College. He appears to run the floor well and can handle the ball. Word is that he can rebound and score facing the basket.

Burt is unfinished but can give ULM valuable minutes as he learns. On a three-man end-to-end drill, he dunked aggressively every time he reached the basket. He averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds as a senior at Wichita Falls (Texas) High.

The biggest beneficiary will be burly forward Rudy Turner, who has been forced to play the middle most of his career out of necessity. Turner should become more effective with fewer minutes and more time at his natural power forward position.

--Early takes different tones with his teams, depending on their skill level and maturity. In the past with bunches that needed a push, we've seen him peel the paint off the ceiling with attention-grabbing verbal outbursts.

Perhaps it's a good sign that Early was in a calm teaching mode on Friday. There was the businesslike approach to the session that you'd expect for a team that returns all five starters, 88.4 percent of its points and the top seven scorers from last season's squad.

Additionally, I suspect that new associate head coach Jimmy Voight will be one of the most valuable additions to the team. Voight has won more than 400 games as a head coach including 260 in the junior college ranks.

--It seems like ULM is always looking for a bona fide point guard. One of this year's new candidates is junior Warren Fuselier, a transfer from San Bernardino Valley College.

Though smallish at 5-10, 160, Fuselier comes billed as a fierce competitor. A native of Lafayette, he led Northside to state championship while in high school.

--As WarhawkNation.com first told you earlier this month, West Monroe product Hugh Mingo is out for now with stress fractures on both legs.

Mingo, a transfer from South Plains College, was limited to stretching exercises on the sidelines as his team drilled.

Locker room and training room renovations are underway at Fant-Ewing. The project isn't completed yet, but the new tile and flooring is down.

The overhead scoreboard in the arena, which went on the fritz last year, has also been replaced with a similar model.

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