You can almost visualize Winthrop mens basketball coach Pat Kelsey in a onesie, jumping on the bed before racing downstairs and shouting to no one in particular, is it time yet?
I couldnt sleep last night, he said Monday morning after a two and a half hour practice, the first of roughly 120 the team will have during the 2013-14 season.
The last five weeks have been tough on the guys, a lot of conditioning, a lot of running, Kelsey said. So for them to get a basketball in their hands, I know theyre excited.
At the dawn of a new campaign there is excitement around Kelseys program for other reasons. Winthrop returns six of its top seven scorers, and a roster depleted by injury last season has been augmented amply. Kelseys team has seven newcomers, plus point guard Brandon Vega returning from a knee injury that cost him all of last season and Catawba College transfer Keon Moore eligible to suit up after he sat 2012 per NCAA rules.
Kelsey has more bodies than last year, which he said makes for more competition, but also covers injuries like the fractured fibula that has already sidelined 6-foot-8 freshman Duby Okeke for 10-12 weeks.
Winthrop also has the speedy ball-handlers Kelsey desperately wanted in 2012-13. Vega and jitterbug freshman point guard Keon Johnson have been given the green light to push the basketball up the floor, and that showed Monday morning in a frantic practice.
We are much more equipped to play the style that Im accustomed to, said Kelsey. The older I get, the faster I want to play. We will look very different offensively, in terms of our ability to play in the first seven seconds of the shot clock.
Like season-opening college basketball practices across America, there were a bunch of bricks, plenty of extra sprints and some befuddled and overwhelmed rookies.
We made a million mistakes, but thats to be expected on the first day, Kelsey said.
Still, it was hard to temper the optimism flowing in Winthrop Coliseum. The Eagles finished 14-17 last season, and 6-10 in the Big South, but theyve already got a new mantra this year, closing practices with all in, followed by championship.
Thats what we do, Kelsey said. This place is about winning championships and hanging banners and playing in the national tournament. I want our guys to remember that every time we lace them up.
Hungering for a first winning season and NCAA appearance since 2009-10, the Eagles begin their march Nov. 9 with the season opener versus Roanoke College. Thats 40 days away. Maybe Kelsey can get a little sleep before then.
Bret McCormick 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T