FAYETTEVILLE, NC - The day had finally arrived. And judging by the ferocity with which they attacked the opening layup lines, you could sense just how glad the Broncos were to be back at practice.
Nothing else mattered. Not the time of day. Not the day of the week.
"We've been waiting so long, the guys were hungry," says Fayetteville State coach Alphonza Kee. "It could've been at 3 a.m. or 5 a.m. or in the parking lot, the guys were just ready to go. Time and everything else in the gym just kind of stopped."
On the first official day of basketball practice, the Broncos hit the floor running, hustling through myriad drills. Shoes squeaked. Sweat dripped. The Broncos were back - and they were going at it hard.
"We like to show our guys the value of a hard day's work," says Kee, who enters his second season as the Broncos head coach.
That was the plan.
"You have to earn anything in life," says Kee. "Once you learn to value that day of hard work, it'll carry over into life. We just want to emphasize that you have to come to work every day and be great, and hopefully that becomes a habit. It can carry over to the classroom and as an everyday value in life."
Entering Year 2 of Kee's rebuilding efforts at Fayetteville State, the Broncos welcome back Ariel Robinson (10.2 ppg) and Jarmel Baxter (8.2 ppg) while infusing the program with fresh faces that include three incoming players.
After finishing 2009 with an 8-19 record and a sixth-place result in the Western Division standings of the CIAA, Fayetteville State expects more consistency throughout the roster as the program works to begin its ascent through the league. FSU opens the new season on Nov. 12 at home against Barber Scotia.
Kee and Broncos are clearly focused on making the necessary improvements that will enable to program to begin to take steps forward - steps that weren't necessarily possible a year ago.
"As competitors, this is a character-building year, and that's part of the process of what we're building. The guys are excited to take it to Phase 2," says Kee. "We were looking for effort and intensity (in the first practice), and some carryover from last year."
Kee expects the Broncos' newcomers to contribute almost immediately on the floor in 2010-11. Three of those players -- Sidney Evans, Tim Plummer and John Herrington -- will enter FSU from powerful and successful junior college teams.
Herrington, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 7.4 points, six rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game at Florida State Community College. A native of Jacksonville, FL, Herrington was an All-Conference selection at FSCC, and, while at Orlando Oakridge High School, was named high school athlete of the year.
Evans, originally from Durham, NC, amassed 12 points and seven rebounds per game while at Cecil Community College in North East, MD. At 6-foot-7, Evans is expected to help FSU both on the wing and in the paint.
Plummer, who will play point guard for the Broncos, was an All-Conference selection and averaged 15 points, five rebounds and five assists per game at State College of Florida at Bradenton.
Right now, though, the Broncos aren't worried about what the new season may hold. Right now, it's about improving every day, working hard every day - and enjoying playing the game of basketball.
"We've been working all offseason with weight and conditioning," says Kee, "but the guys were excited to get together out there as a group with a basketball."