The primary difference between most of this season’s Southeastern Conference men’s basketball teams and the last one’s is a year.
“There are four teams in the league that return all five starters, and we are one of them,” University of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said Thursday at the SEC’s annual basketball media day. “There are eight teams in the league that return four starters. So the league is going to be a lot better and part of the reason is because of returning players.”
Vanderbilt and Tennessee both are among the teams that will have most of last season’s key contributors back.
The Commodores return all six members of their highly productive 2008-09 freshman class as well as senior point guard Jermaine Beal and junior center A.J. Ogilvy. They also get back Andre Walker, one of their most athletic and fit players who appeared in just three games last season before he sustained a season-ending knee injury.
“We are delighted that (last season’s freshmen) have a year of college basketball under their belts,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “We are very excited about what this season might hold for us. They have all improved and we feel that there is a significant amount of talent in that class for us and we are hoping that it will show for us on the court.”
The Volunteers have six seniors, including forward Tyler Smith, guard J.P Prince and forward Wayne Chism, all of whom have been mainstays.
“That experience is going to put us in a position to not get too high when we win and not get too low when we lose, because this league is going to beat up on each other,” Pearl said. “I think the team that handles adversity and handles success the best is the team that is going to win the championship.”
Other notable comments from media day:
UT women’s coach Pat Summitt on her expectations for the season: “We have learned from last season’s mistakes that we need to be more unified and put forth a greater effort on the defensive end of the floor.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari on his offensive approach: “We have had six practices, so we are still a month away from the guys being comfortable. Once they are comfortable, there is no holding them back. My offense is meant to put players in a position to make their own shot.”
Vanderbilt women’s coach Melanie Balcomb on goals: “We aim to lead the conference in assists, we try to play as a team, and our roles will be developed as the season moves on. … We shoot to win the conference every year and we’re going to do the same thing this season.”