UNO coach Derrin Hansen thinks his team has depth. He’ll find out if his assessment is accurate next week.
The Mavericks are set to open the season Wednesday at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Fort Myers, Florida. They’ll play three games in three days, starting with a matchup against Ohio Valley Conference co-favorite Austin Peay.
“I won’t know for sure if we have depth until our depth is tested,” Hansen said. “We’ll have our hands full right off the bat. We’ll learn a lot about ourselves. And we’ll get right back to the floor the next day to correct some things, win or lose.”
UNO returns five players who averaged at least 7.0 points per game last season. It’s adding transfer Marco Smith and redshirt freshman La’Mel Robinson into the rotation. Plus, Hansen said juco transfer Sam’i Roe and freshman Jadin Booth (Omaha Westside) have both impressed during preseason camp.
“I think we’re extremely deep,” senior guard Ayo Akinwole said.
Akinwole, Hansen and senior Matt Pile all spoke to reporters on a Zoom call Thursday as part of UNO’s media day.
They previewed the unconventional season, which they hope to handle well enough to position themselves to make a postseason run in March.
So far, so good. The players have been adaptable throughout the pandemic, Hansen said.
They’ll have to keep that approach. Because game postponements and cancellations are always possible under these circumstances.
Hansen said he’s still working to add to the Mavs’ schedule — after playing three games next week, they’re scheduled to play at Creighton (Dec. 1), at SIUE (Dec. 5), at Kansas (Dec. 11), at Colorado (Dec. 15), at Wyoming (Dec. 17) and at Kansas State (Dec. 29). There are still two open spots for games.
UNO’s leaders say their team just wants to compete. Doesn’t matter where or when, or who’s on the opposite bench.
Akinwole said the players have been encouraged since the summer by their competitive practices and unified approach. The Mavs were picked to finish fourth in the Summit League. They think they can do better.
Pile expects to see a motivated group Wednesday. He’s ready, for sure.
“It’s definitely really exciting that we finally get to step on the floor,” Pile said.
Changes aplenty for women
The UNO women’s team is embracing a new approach under first-year coach Carrie Banks, and the Mavs are eager to show their improvement.
Banks, hired in April, has been working to establish her foundation since the team reassembled in July. She said the players have been receptive. She’s asked a lot of them.
But the team hasn’t had many reasons to object because it’s noticed positive results along the way, senior guard Claire Killian said.
“Everything that could have changed, changed,” Killian said Thursday. “Our offensive style, our defense, the way we pressure, we’ve got new plays — all that kind of stuff. It feels like a new team. And everyone’s finding new skills that we’re able to master.
“I feel like we’ve definitely grown.”
The Mavs finished 7-23 last season in the final year of coach Brittany Lange’s tenure. They have yet to release their nonconference schedule.
Omaha World-Herald: Local Sports
The latest sports headlines from Omaha.com.