By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (August 4, 2016) — There won’t be pigskins flying around Memorial Stadium for another week, but there are already basketballs thumping on the hardwood inside Wisdom Gym.
Yes, at Tarleton, basketball practice has begun, even before football.
That may seem irrational, but it’s all NCAA approved as part of a foreign basketball tour that this year will send Tarleton to Nassau, Bahamas from August 15-19. They face Bahamian professional teams on Tuesday, August 16 and Thursday, August 18, and will also visit an orphanage as community service. There will even be a Tarleton fan reception at Atlantis Resort on Wednesday, August 17.
With the trip to the Bahamas comes 10 days of unlimited, NCAA-approved practice. And when you play for Lonn Reisman, that means 10 two-a-days, or 20 practices in all.
“This gives us the opportunity to do a lot of teaching at a time where we normally don’t even have everyone on campus yet,” says Reisman, the 29th year leader of the Texans and the winningest active college basketball coach – at any level – in Texas. “It gives the new and returning players time together and it gives the new guys a chance to get to know our coaching staff and vice versa. It’s huge for camaraderie and chemistry.”
Reisman plans to make the August practices and trip to the Bahamas a positive for his program regardless of the outcome of the exhibitions.
“Not that the score isn’t important, but the primary focus won’t be on the scoreboard. We look forward to the chance to see everyone, because we’re going to play everyone, and to see different groups work together,” he said. “We may win by five or six, we may lose by five or six, but we will be analyzing each group of players based on the score and what transpires on the court during the minutes they are out there.
“It’s a chance to see everybody, it’s a chance to come together and have some fun before the school year starts and it’s a great time for teaching our program to new guys who we believe will be big-time players for us during the season ahead.”
Returning players are already showing leadership, Reisman says, as guys like senior guard Chantz Chambers, senior forward Romond Jenkins and junior guards Deshawn Riddick and Nosa Ebomwonyi lead new players through individual drills.
“Normally when we start on October 16, we’ve already been doing individual drills for a month and a half,” said Reisman. “We have so many returners who already know what we’re doing, this gives them the opportunity to take leadership of the new guys and help them get familiar with our program earlier than ever before.”
Some of those leaders are just redshirt freshmen. Reisman and staff redshirted five players last year who were ranked among the top 110 prospects statewide in the Class of 2015, according to TexasHoops.com. That includes Lewisville forward Anthony Davis, Irving MacArthur forward Josh Hawley, Cedar Hill guard Kealon Clayborne, Cedar Hill forward Da’Rhon Mitchell and Brock guard Lance Ewell.
“Those five redshirt freshmen are the core, the foundation of this program right now, and I am very confident in them,” Reisman said. “I can’t wait to see them perform and continue to develop as the season unfolds.”
Another new face is Baltimore product Brandon Willis, a guard who became the first out-of-state high school product to sign a national letter of intent with Tarleton basketball. There are other new faces, as well, and Tarleton athletic communications personnel say a complete roster will be released next week.
Reisman doesn’t experience many firsts after 28 complete seasons in Stephenville. But Tarleton practicing basketball in August is a new experience, even for a 600-game winner.
“This is as new to me as it is to everyone else,” he said. “I’ve been very blessed that God has given me the opportunity to be here 29 years, and I feel we’ve built a great program here that has seen many young men come through and then go on to success in the game of life, and we are very proud of that.”
“Now we have another great core group of guys taking the mantle,” he added. “I’m excited to see what they do with it and how they represent our program, our university and our community.”
Photos by DAVID SWEARINGEN