As I walked into the Spartans practice facility, the unmistakable sound of a ball swishing through the hoop, sneakers squeaking from explosive movements all rang out to a chorus, with Drake’s Scorpion album pumping in the background. There is no doubt about the talent level of the 2018-2019 UNC Greensboro Spartans men’s basketball team. Coach Wes Miller has his Spartans solidified as the odds on favorite to go back to the NCAA tournament.
They are loaded with size, length, the best offensive player in their conference in Francis Alonso, a senior do everything point guard in Demetrius Troy and arguably have the 2 best defenders in James Dickey and Isaiah Miller. So what if anything is this team coming off back to back Southern Conference Titles feverishly trying to improve?
The consensus from key returning players is evident: A VOICE
“My voice has to be better, losing Marvin Smith and Jordy Kuiper those guys were 2 of the most dominate voices for our team. We respected everything they said and even though everyone respects what I say, we still need more of that to hold each other accountable” said Demetrius Troy, Senior starting point guard for the Spartans.
Troy feels his leadership, as well as the collective help from everyone is what is going to push this team forward in every facet.
His sentiments were echoed by junior forward James Dickey when he was asked about what he needs to do to improve his game this upcoming season. “Just to be a voice, we lost 2 of the loudest voices in the program”.
There’s that word again, voice, and with the style of play that UNCG’s coaching staff demands it begs the question, how important being is finding a new voice? I asked Coach Miller just that.
“Well it’s nice to hear that our guys have the self-awareness to see these areas where we are currently deficient and also shows that our guys are holding each other up to the standards we set.” Miller said
UNCG opens up it’s 2018-2019 campaign against Jay Joyner’s NC A&T Aggies. The Aggies were went 20-15 last season, a 17 win improvement from the year before, 1 shy of the NCAA record of 18. A&T is coming of a 12-0 home record from last year that saw away teams struggling to get comfortable in the tough home environment created by the Aggies.
This matchup of the two universities has Greensboro buzzing and it’s not lost on the Spartan players or Coach Miller himself.
Troy spoke about the battle for Greensboro and what it meant to him and the city as a whole. “I definitely think its important for our city, and for both programs, not only from a competitive standpoint but for opposing alumni, we really never get to see UNCG vs A&T because we don’t have a football program, and were not in the same conference, so I’m happy they were able to pull that off .”
Isaiah Miller the sophomore point guard with hops that have made his dunking ability legendary and landed him on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays and YouTube fame, echoed his Senior leader, “ I’m definitively looking forward to A&T, it’s the first game of the year, we don’t look past any team, I’m going after them and were looking to come away with a W”
Just like his players Coach Miller spent his last weekend of the preseason locked in on his match-up with Coach Joyner’s Aggies. “Well for one it’s a great game for the community, really excited to open up against A&T and Jay. Jay has proven with his guys that he’s an elite coach and I think it’ll be a positive test and a challenging game for both teams.”
Coach Miller and the Spartans are poised to have a great season, but like any journey, it starts with finding one’s identity, or in the Spartans case a Voice.
The stage is sent Nov 6th 7:30 at the Corbett Sports Center on the campus of NC A&T. Two 20 win programs, one city, let the college basketball season begin.
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