Men's Basketball Holds First Team Practice
Colonials return four players with starting experience and welcome nine newcomers this season
WASHINGTON -- The GW men's basketball team on Monday ushered in the official start of preseason with its first team practice in the Charles E. Smith Center.
The Colonials have been working in small groups for the last month, focusing on their conditioning and educating nine newcomers on the ins and outs of the program. Though their time together so far has been limited, head coach Maurice Joseph has seen enough to come away impressed, especially with the group's athleticism.
"So far the biggest strength of our team is our athleticism from top to bottom," said Joseph. "We've had some athletes in the past, but we haven't had this amount of athletes, especially in the back court.
"The second piece is how good we are with versatile, interchangeable defensive pieces. We have four or five guys on this team that can guard four positions, and maybe two that can guard five positions. That's huge when you're scouting and you don't have to be so specific about who can guard who. Our athleticism has really been a bright spot so far."
— GW Men's Basketball (@GW_MBB) October 2, 2017
Among the newcomers are graduate student forward Bo Zeigler, who transferred from South Florida and is eligible immediately, and a trio of freshmen guards in Terry Nolan Jr., Maceo Jack and Justin Mazzulla. Zeigler will add a new dimension as a versatile playmaker capable of running the floor, defending and playing above the rim. Each freshman guard brings something different, Joseph said. Nolan is a big-time athlete and natural scorer, Jack is a coach's son with a knowledge of the game most freshmen don't possess, and Mazzulla is at his best on defense and as an offensive facilitator.
Meanwhile, four players with starting experience return in senior guard Yuta Watanabe, graduate student forward Patrick Steeves and a pair of sophomores in forward Arnaldo Toro and guard Jair Bolden. Those returners will be leaned on to increase their production from last season, when each started at least 10 games.
Steeves, who along with Watanabe and Zeigler has proven adept at providing veteran leadership to the younger players, also pointed to the team's athleticism and how that could translate to success on the defensive end.
"We're very athletic this year," said Steeves. "If we can find the right tempo, play very athletic and put pressure on teams but do it in an intelligent way, I think we we're going to be very hard to score on."
Offensively, GW will have to replace the always-reliable Tyler Cavanaugh and his 18.3 points per game, a task Joseph says must be accomplished by committee and through limiting teams to fewer points. Joseph also pointed to Watanabe showing a more assertive side as the senior guard looks to increase his scoring load from the 12.2 points per game he provided a season ago.
"We've got to understand who we need to be in order for us to be successful this year and we know we've got to be a very hungry, aggressive and relentless team," said Joseph. "They know the offense is going to come; we're going to work at it, but we need to be relentless defensively. That's going to be our bread and butter."
Fans will get their first chance to see the Colonials on Oct. 20 with Colonials Madness, ahead of the team's only exhibition vs. Fairmont State on November 4. The regular-season opener is slated for Nov. 10 vs. Howard.
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