"Team First" Mentality Keeps Eagles Grounded

The Golden Eagles had a few days off before gearing back up today in an afternoon work-out. With no mid-week game, Southern Miss has some time to sharpen up and work on a few of the little things as they head toward a big weekend road test at UAB. Cedric Jenkins took a few minutes after practice to talk with us about the team's mindset and his own performance this season.

The Eagles are on a serious roll right now, and there is no one player that can be singled out as making the difference.

That is just the way this Eagle team likes it.

The Golden Eagle coaches have made it a point to preach the importance of team concept, and the message has gotten through loud and clear. As Cedric Jenkins tells it, the recent surge lately is a product of everyone buying into the system.

"Coach Tyndall is always preaching to us about how we have to play as a team, and its reflective of how they treat us as a whole," the junior guard said in an interview today after practice.

"They keep us humble by helping us to appreciate everything. That is there thing, they teach us how to do that. It was already a group of humble guys, but we have all bought in to the system."

Even with only four returning players, it has been remarkable to see how well they have been able to blend together.

"It seems like naturally every player on our team has had a legit base of coaching before they got to this level," he said. "When you take that and put it with the coaching staff we have now, it just makes it work.

"Not just as basketball players, but as people too. We just have a great group of guys who work well together and really pull for each other."

Jenkins deflected any praise of himself, and just focused on his role of doing anything to help the team win games.

"I've been pleased that I have been able to bring things up a notch when I get in the game," he said. "Rashard (McGill) and I really try to get in the game and step it up and keep what the starters have done going.

"We just try to be a boost and make plays. It might be making a play on a loose ball, or getting a steal, or getting that big steal that leads to a break. Whatever it is, that is just what we try to do out there."

Jenkins is averaging 5.9 points on the season, but he does so much more to help this team win, especially on the defensive end.

"Every guy is active at all times," he said. "We expect to make plays now on defense. We compete for steals. Where a lot of teams brag on their points or dunks, we brag on the steals we make.

"It is all about pressure for us, and we like to get after it on defense."

The junior said it is all about the effort at practice.

"It is all about what the coaches emphasize in practice," he said. "We always try to create offense out of our defense. We have our hands in the passing lanes and are always trusting each other. As we've trusted each other more, we've had more success on the defensive end."

Jenkins and the Eagles know they have their hands full in a road test at UAB, a team they have already beaten at home.

"The first game, obviously, the score didn't indicate the type of team they are," he said. "They are very aggressive, talented, and they really compete.

"We are going to have to compete as hard as they do. It is going to be a good atmosphere, and we know we are in for a tough fight. It's an opportunity to spark their season, for sure. We have to be ready for that."

For any Southern Miss fans thinking of making the trip up I-59 to the game, Jenkins has a message.

"We really, really appreciate our fans," he said. "We know we'll have our plans there because of the way they've supported us this year.

"I hope they'll come out, and we'll always be honored to play in front of them. It would help a lot."

The Eagles and Blazers will tip-off at 7:00 this Saturday night.

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