3 Takeaways from the First Week of UTEP Basketball Practice
It's almost that time of year already. UTEP basketball is less than 40 days away from their season opener at Texas on Nov. 9. For this new-look men's basketball squad, the 30 practices are vital for the team's overall growth as they prepare for the 2022-23 season.
Year two for Joe Golding is headlined by 13 newcomers, including 10 scholarship additions and three walk-ons. Only three players are returning from last year—Jamari Sibley, Kevin Kalu and Ze'Rik Onyema.
It's way too early to gauge how good of a team this will be once the season hits, but we can still dive into the things we know early on.
Let's talk about some of the key takeaways from the official start of fall practice
New faces means building new chemistry
To no surprise, one of the first things that Golding discussed when he met the media on Monday was the newcomers on the team.
"It's always good to get new energy," Golding said. "Thirteen new players, 10 scholarships and three walk-ons, so we have a lot of newness. We have a lot of stuff to figure out. I think the summer and the fall gave us a good baseline of where to start and now we're fixing to learn more."
The scholarship newcomers include forwards Jonathan Dos Anjos (Florida Southwestern College), Otis Frazier III (George Mason), Derick Hamilton (Bossier Parish CC) and Calvin Solomon (Stephen F. Austin), along with guards Shamar Givance (Evansville), Tae Hardy (Southern Miss), Carlos Lemus (Chipola College), Mario McKinney Jr. (NM State), Jamal Sumlin (Rhodes HS) and Malik Zachery (South Plains College).
From early observations, it's obvious that the Miners have depth in their backcourt and a ton of upside among the bigs.
"It's the start of the journey," Golding said. "These guys have worked hard all summer and fall. We have 30 practices—really 28 because of two scrimmages."
Miners will switch things up at the 3
With the returning players comes some immediate changes. One of the most notable position changes will be redshirt sophomore Jamari Sibley moving from the 4 to the 3. Sibley started 23 games last year at the forward spot, including 17 of 18 games started in C-USA play. He averaged 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds last year, while shooting 46% from the floor and 35% from 3-point range.
Now, Sibley will be asked to be a stretch wing for the Miners in the 2022-23 season. Since the Miners are loaded in their backcourt, they have the ability to go small and throw a combo guard out on the wing.
Besides Sibley, another player to watch at the wing spot could be Otis Frazier III, a 6-foot-6 combo guard/forward that is a sophomore transfer from George Mason. Though he was buried in the depth chart at George Mason, Frazier III could end up being a formidable option at the 3.
"Sibley is doing good," said Golding. "He's making strides in the right direction. We need him to be a leader. We need him to become an everyday guy. He's had an okay summer. We're obviously moving him to the perimeter. It's not different for him, he's done it before but he hasn't done it here. He spent a lot of time for us last year at the 4."
As far as the true center position, both Ze'Rik Onyema and Kevin Kalu could compete for minutes. Golding praised both players' efforts in the summer.
"I think (Ze'Rik Onyema) and (Kevin Kalu) have done a great job," Golding said. "They've showed up every day from the summer and the fall. I think Kevin's been tremendous. His body looks great, he's put a lot of muscle on. (Onyema's) not far behind him."
Shamar Givance could be the star of the team
Could Shamar Givance be the best player on this squad? For starters, no one on the current roster shows they can replicate what All C-USA guard Souley Boum did last year, leading the conference in scoring at 20 points per game.
The former Evansville star led the Purple Aces with 13.7 points and 3.9 assists per game throughout last season. Not only will Givance provide an immediate option at the point guard position, but Golding also loves the way he carries himself as a graduate transfer.
"Leadership," said Golding when asked what he likes about Givance. "He's a true point guard. He gets guys involved. He takes care of the basketball. He gets the ball in the paint, we call it paint gravity when you draw people to you in the paint. He does a good job of drawing multiple defenders inside the paint. He's really good at passing. What he's figuring out, since he's playing with a lot better players, trusting those guys and he's doing a good job of that."
The 5-10, 155-pound senior from Toronto, Canada played all four years at Evansville and he averaged double figures in scoring each of his last two seasons. He is known to be well-disciplined with the ball, having been among the best across the Missouri Valley Conference for assist to turnover ratio.
Bonus: Way-too-early depth chart breakdown
Note: This is just a prediction for what could be UTEP's depth chart based on the roster as it stands. As one in the men's basketball program said, it's way too early to even think about a depth chart. Let's see how this changes by the tip-off on Nov. 9.
- PG Shamar Givance / Malik Zachery / Jamal Sumlin
- SG Mario McKinney Jr. or Tae Hardy / Carlos Lemus
- SF Jamari Sibley / Otis Frazier III
- PF Jonathan Dos Anjos / Calvin Solomon
- C Ze'Rik Onyema / Kevin Kalu / Derick Hamilton