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UTEP basketball: Floyd, new look Miners open basketball practice with plenty of questions

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Tim Floyd knows he has his work cut out over the next month, but will improved guard depth make it easier?

Alex Nicolas

Tim Floyd officially started year six as UTEP's head coach today, with a slew of new faces, and one of the deepest gallery of guard options he's had working out in the Foster-Stevens Center.

"It always a long off season, we're all eager.  We have a lot of questions."  Tim Floyd said of starting a new season.  "We're hopeful that our guards are going to be good players.  All college teams have to have them, and for this team to be a very competitive team, we're going to have to have exceptional guard play from some of our newcomers".

One theme Floyd mentioned was that even with the talented guards he has brought in, and those that have red-shirted, most haven't seen game competition over the past couple of years.

That aspect will be key in getting guys ready for the season.

"I think that both those guys are so excited after laying out last year." Floyd said of Trey Touchet and Jake Flaggert.  "We've also got Lee Moore who didn't play last year, Dominic Artis who did not play last year. "

"These guys are going to be new to competition, and I think they're all really good players.  This might be our strongest group of perimeter players that we've had since we've been here. I'm excited, really about all of our guards right now."

While the back court looks be strong, although under heavy construction over the next month, UTEP is thin in the front court.

Floyd talked about how some lineups may look this season and how rebounding is one of the biggest questions heading into the season.

"You will see some four guard lineups."  Floyd said.  "But you're also going to see some lineups with two big's.  We're going to have to be able to rebound it, and that's one of the primary questions that this team has is going to be our ability to rebound the ball. I question that at this point. Hopefully someone will show us that they can."

The rotation might not be 10-11 deep, but expects Floyd to find a base 8-9 man rotation, and if someone steps up over the next month, a deeper rotation may not be out of the question.

Matt Willms will be playing injured this year on a limited basis, and Floyd explained the process Matt will go through this season.

"Matt is going work cautiously."  Floyd carefully explained.  "We're going to look at him playing limited practice minutes.  We're going to look at him playing limited minutes in games.  Any flare ups, it will be an immediate surgery."

Willms was originally scheduled to have season-ending surgery on September 10th.

Floyd said Willms couldn't imagine being out an entire season, but will have to go through the surgery at the end of the season.

"He may practice once a week." Floyd said.  "We're not a very deep team, he couldn't stomach the thought of not being able to play at all."

So with Willms' situation, Floyd knows he will be asking a lot out of the young front court players who will be in the rotation this year.

"All of these young big guys we're going to have to rely upon as well." Floyd said.  "Brodericks Jones is an eager young guy at 6'10 who can run and jump.  Christian Romine is young and eager.  This is a brand new team basically.  I'm excited about seeing all of them, because we know that have to rely on all of them them."

As young as UTEP is, and with key some losses,  some growth with some young players will be expedited, and Floyd seems perfectly fine with relying on that youth and hopes the benefit of red-shirting returning players comes through this season.

"We're very hopeful that some of the red-shirting that we've done in order to establish a program is going to ultimately pay off for us this year."  Floyd said.  "We had felt like we were in great shape had we not lost Vince Hunter, not lost Omega Harris, not lost Matt in terms of having that program established where you lose three, and got three more coming in."

"We're going to have to speed up the timetable a little bit on some of these freshman." Floyd added.

The key piece of Floyd's 2015 class in Dominic Artis is also eager to run the show, and says it almost feels like being a freshman again to a certain extent with his new team.

"Just being back in a college uniform, and being around these guys."  Artis said when asked about his excitement for the season.  "Everybody gets along very well."

"Defense, executing not turning the ball over is a main thing offensively, and making shots, we've really been working on our shots." Artis talked about the things the team has been working on in limited off-season practices.

UTEP doesn't return any battled scarred veterans like they had at this point last year, but Earvin Morris was second on last year's team in scoring and will man a bigger impact role than the multiple roles he saw a year ago.

"For me I feel like its confidence." Morris said of his increased role as a leader.  "Since I've been playing basketball I've always felt like my teammates look to me to be a leader, and be the guy that they look up to.  I feel like I'm going to step into that role really well."

"Well you'd hope." Floyd said of Morris becoming major producer and leader.  "He's been around a year and generally guys are better the second year than they are the first.   He played an awful lot of minutes last year"

On another injury note, as first reported by the El Paso Times, Josh McSwiggan had his meniscus repaired this morning.  The timetable on his status is unknown.

So while the pieces in the back court appear to finally be there for UTEP, its now time time for this group of new Miners to continue to build on the chemistry they have built over the summer and since the start of school.

For Floyd, his job is to piece this wide eyed, eager group together, and hammer the basic principles over the next month that will help this team reverse current history in Birmingham come March.

He also has the bigger task of finding new faces to rely on.

"We expect a great practice today, and I think the real key to any team is how we will be practicing in February and who will we be able to rely on." Floyd said.  "So much of this stuff is makeup, and who guys really are."

"We're going to get down to try to learn how to really play basketball, and share and move it, take care of it.  All of those things that are important."