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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette IPFW men’s basketball coach Jon Coffman instructs his players during the team’s first practice at the Gates Center on Friday.  

  • IPFW guard Bryson Scott drives past teammate John Konchar on Friday.

Saturday, September 30, 2017 1:00 am

Mastodons excited for season to get underway

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

IPFW men’s basketball coach Jon Coffman loves this time of year.

Friday marked the season’s first official practice, as well as 42 days until the Mastodons’ season opener at Oakland on Nov. 10, so there will be no need for a scouting report just yet.

“The offseason, the summer where there’s no pressure of focusing on scouting reports or anything, I love that,” Coffman said. “The first two weeks of the season where there’s no urgency of, ‘If you don’t get this in, you’re going to lose the game tomorrow.’ We’re looking at winning plays, ourselves, building our identity. I love this time.”

Between April and September, the team was allowed two hours per week of skill-work. The Mastodons were able to get in the gym, get in conditioning, agility and lifting but, despite all the time spent together already, Fridayhad a certain enthusiasm.

“There’s just an excitement with Practice One,” redshirt junior guard John Konchar said. “Practice finally started and we’re not limited anymore to two hours per week, we get two hours per day now, so we’re just amped about it and we have 29 practices left until our first game.

“We did have a productive day. We’ve been doing this all summer but it’s technically Practice One, so just put it on the court and did what we needed to do.”

The team has five newcomers and added three players who redshirted last year. Roles that will need to be filled include those left by Brent Calhoun at center and guards Mo Evans and DeAngelo Stewart.

“(We need to be) coaching from within,” junior guard Kason Harrell said. “A lot of guys that were here last year, and guys who were here the year before that, just have to bring (the newcomers) up to speed with how we operate, certain drills that they might not have done before.

“Mo was a big piece of us last year, not only on offense but defense, as well. It’s going to be a loss but we have guys coming back like John, Bryson (Scott) and Xzavier (Taylor) and a lot of the new guys, they’re great players, as well. When we they get caught up to speed and get a better feel for the program, it’s going to be a fun year.”

This offseason included a lot of work on the defensive end to instill an innate sense of toughness for the end of games.

“We’ve worked on more defense this summer than ever before. I’ve always taken the offseason of working on getting up shots, working on offensive skill-work, but I recognize with all these newcomers, and that’s something with the transition is defense and just changing our mindset to getting stops,” Coffman said. “It starts with putting pressure on the ball, it starts with having a pride, just caring about getting a stop. It starts with getting into your gaps and your flat-out 1-on-1 defense. We did a ton of close-out work this summer whether it was playing live or it was in conditioning drills where we didn’t have a basketball, just working on the closeout footwork. I feel like we did a ton of work this summer but we’re nowhere near where we need to be to be successful this season.”

areichel@jg.net