Men's Basketball

Veteran Morehead State all business for Bahamas basketball trip

Woods Lexington Herald-Leader

The calendar says July, but things seem to have an October feel for the Morehead State men's basketball team.

Like Kentucky, the Eagles are preparing for a preseason trip to the Bahamas. In Nassau, they will play exhibition games against former NCAA Division I and II players on the Grand Bahamas All-Stars, Real Deal Shockers and Pyramid Food Rockets, Aug. 9 to 11.

UK, Alabama State, Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi, North Carolina, Northern Arizona, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Portland State and Samford also will play exhibitions in the Bahamas, but NCAA rules don't allow U.S. teams to play each other at this time.

NCAA rules do allow a maximum of 10 workouts before leaving for foreign trips, though. MSU Coach Sean Woods said the extra work will pay dividends when the regular season rolls around.

"Getting into that competitive situation so that when October and November (come), we're so far ahead of the game as far as teaching and things like that, we can work on other things that you normally work on during midseason," Woods said during a break from Wednesday's workouts.

Billy Reader, a 6-foot-10 senior, had off-season rotator cuff surgery and won't play in the Bahamas. But he likes what he's seeing from his teammates thus far.

"Practices that we're having right now look like we're in November already, and I think that's to do with the experience that we have from last year and the fact that we all know what we want," said Reader, who is expected to be full speed when regular-season practice begins. "We came in with the mindset that we're going to take this as a business trip. This isn't 'fun' for us. This is going to help us get to where we want to be. It's going to help us a lot."

Reader is one of eight seniors on the roster.

Another is Jalen Courtney, who sat out last year after transferring from LSU.

Courtney said the team is treating the Bahamas tour like the regular season.

"We're out there doing two-a-days (practices) as we speak," the 6-7, 220-pounder said. "We treat it as if it's conference play. We treat it as if these are the steps that we have to take to get to the NCAA Tournament, which is ultimately our goal."

Reader and Courtney will be captains with fellow seniors Angelo Warner and Bakari Turner.

Warner averaged 17.5 points a game in leading Morehead to a 20-14 record last season. That marked MSU's fourth 20-win season in the last six years.

Woods says his veterans are leading by example, showing the newer players how to do things his way.

Warner, a 6-2 guard, sees this team coming together already.

"This team is picking up on things that last year's team picked up on three weeks (later). This team is a lot smarter," Warner said. "We're more confident. And we have better players that can do it all."

Woods said the three exhibitions will give him an opportunity to see how things are coming together, and how his younger players will react in game-type situations. He'll try different combinations.

He said this team is deeper and more athletic than last year's squad.

"This is one of the funnest teams that I've had to coach thus far, especially at Morehead," Woods said. "If we can stay healthy and continue to get better and grow like we have been, good things can happen this year."