UT Tyler basketball programs open practice on Thursday

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
by Wes Bloomquist || jbloomquist@uttyler.edu

TYLER – Champions are ready to be created on the Herrington Patriot Center court.

The University of Texas at Tyler basketball programs open their official team practices at 6 a.m. on Thursday with a month of preseason workouts ahead of them before the start of the 2015-16 arrives. The women’s program is coming off back-to-back American Southwest Conference Championship and NCAA Division III Tournament appearances, but will have a new leader this season with Kendra Hassell beginning her first season as the team’s head coach. Hassell, who has been an assistant coach at Abilene Christian, Carroll University and Texas Woman’s, is an ASC Hall of Honor member for her production as a player at Hardin-Simmons University. She takes over the surging program after Kevin Baker left to take the same position at Angelo State.

“This time of the year is critical for us, especially since we have a whole new system to put in,” Hassell said. “Every drill will be new and my expectations will be different, so we will strive to make those adjustments as quickly as possible. I also think it's very important to get in great shape during these first few weeks before we start games. This is the time when a team develops their identity through work ethic and determination.”

Jamon Copeland led the men’s program to its first postseason win in 2014 and returns for his third season as the head men’s coach. Copeland, who has recorded 91 wins during his six seasons as a head coach, is looking forward to returning to the success of the 2013-14 season and developing the talent that is on the Patriot roster this season.

“I am really excited about this group,” Copeland said. “They are a really fun group to be around because of how much they love each other. This is a gritty group that is very cohesive, tough, and passionate about basketball. I can’t wait to get started.”

Copeland and the Patriots will have their first practice at 6 a.m. on Thursday and then another session in the afternoon. The team opens its season against Texas Lutheran on Sunday, Nov. 15 in Seguin and will also play an exhibition game against Texas State on Monday, Nov. 16 in San Marcos. Those games will give the Patriots their first look at competition against opponents, but the next four weeks working together at the HPC are designed to set the tone for the season.

“The first few weeks of practice are huge in setting what your identity will be as a team and building upon your culture,” Copeland said. “As a basketball player or coach, this is the most exciting time of the year. I can’t wait to work with our guys every day.”

UT Tyler’s women’s team, which is 54-7 over the past two season, returns to practice ready to build on past success with a new coaching staff and a mix of returners and newcomers. Hassell and the Patriots will travel to Nacogdoches to play an exhibition against SFA on Friday, Nov. 13 in their first test before taking on Southwestern on Friday, Nov. 20 in the first official game of the season in Georgetown. But before that, each day of practice will be maximized to work towards continuing the steps the program has taken over the past three seasons.

“I'm excited about the returning group that we have and the leadership they have shown already,” Hassell said. “They truly are driven to excel in everything they do. I feel like we also have some good new players that will complement them. I believe our team is going to be extremely tough both mentally and physically. And, I believe they will also play as a unified group striving for a common purpose.”

For Hassell, the next month is about gaining an understanding of the talent and personalities of the team and building relationships of trust within the locker room. 

“I'm mostly looking forward to the opportunity to work with our players and be with them on a daily basis,” Hassell said. “I feel like I'm still getting to know them and they are certainly still getting to know me and my personality. They have shown a lot of motivation and dedication by consistently meeting for open gyms and strength and conditioning workouts. I'm really excited to give them some structure and start to see what kind of team we are going to have.”

Fans can follow the programs throughout the season at www.uttylerpatriots .com along with on twitter at @uttylermbb and @UTTylerWBB.