GREENSBORO — Basketball practice starts today for the UNCG men’s team, the first in five years without the greatest guard in the program’s history.
Francis Alonso, the most important recruit during Wes Miller’s eight seasons as head coach, is playing pro basketball in Spain now.
And yet as a new season dawns, there is plenty of optimism around the Spartans, who are 81-25 (.764) the last three seasons with an NCAA Tournament and two NIT berths.
Here are five things to know about The G ...
UNCG lost three key guys who played in all 36 games last season, including its starting backcourt of Alonso and steady, playmaking point guard Demetrius Troy.
Alonso finished his career with 2,142 points, No. 2 on UNCG’s all-time scoring list behind Kyle Hines, who scored 2,187 from 2004-08. The guard from Spain also set school career record for games played, 3-pointers, free throws and free-throw percentage.
Troy finished among the program’s all-time leaders in assists and steals.
Also gone is power forward Eric Hamilton, the first big man off the bench who made six starts when starting center James Dickey was out with a foot injury.
Junior guard Isaiah Miller figures to be the focal point this year. He had a breakout year last season, setting a school record with 104 steals and averaging a team-high 16.2 points in conference games.
Senior big men Dickey and Kyrin Galloway are returning starters. The 6-foot-10 Dickey is a tenacious rebounder, shot-blocker and low-post defender. Galloway evolved into a stretch forward last season, shooting a team-best 37.9 percent from the 3-point line.
Dickey and Miller are the last two winners of the Southern Conference’s defensive player of the year honor.
Senior guard Malik Massey made 16 starts last year, and sophomore guard/forwards Kaleb Hunter and Angelo Allegri both had big games off the bench as rookies.
Keyshaun and Kobe Langley, twin brothers who starred as guards for championship teams at Southwest Guilford, lead a group of six freshmen in this year’s recruiting class. The 6-foot-1 brothers’ style of play fits neatly into UNCG’s defense-first, pressing philosophy.
Along with the six freshmen, UNCG adds sophomore Michael Hueitt, a 6-3 shooter who sat out last season after transferring from Old Dominion.
The non-conference schedule features a number of intriguing games, including a trip to Kansas on Nov. 8 for the Jayhawks home opener at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
UNCG will host N.C. State on Dec. 15 to conclude a home-and-home deal that saw the Spartans win in Raleigh in the 2016-17 season.
The Spartans open Nov. 5 at home against crosstown rival N.C. A&T, and The G also takes road trips to Georgetown, last year’s Big South regular-season champ Radford and Vermont, which is one of only eight NCAA Division I teams to win at least 20 games the last 11 years in a row.
DEAN OF COACHES
Miller, who turns 37 in January, is in his ninth season with the Spartans and holds a 141-117 (.547) record. With Mike Young leaving Wofford after last season to take the Virginia Tech job, Miller is now the longest-tenured active coach in the Southern Conference.
Miller will be without his top assistant from the last seven years. Associate head coach Mike Roberts returned to his alma mater and took a job as an assistant coach at Indiana.