It may seem like it's been awhile since Mack Rhoades and the Houston Cougars hired James Dickey to take over the men's basketball program.
But in many ways, the time has been flying by as Dickey and his staff have attempted to settle in to the school, recruit players, get to know the old players, set the schedule, and just find time to breathe.
"We're as settled as we can be for the amount of work that we've got to get to down," Dickey told Hair Balls. "I've really been fortunate to have a terrific staff. And they've been very helpful. We're very pleased with our recruiting class and what we have committed for next year already. And we're excited about getting on the floor with our players, which we could do after school started. That's been a very good opportunity for us to get our system started as far as getting it in place. And fall recruiting for next year. It's an exciting time. I'm settled. We've got into a good routine, and I like it.'
Dickey and his coaches couldn't work with the players until after school started, and even now, they're not fully able to work and coach the players until October 15. The conditioning staff spent the summer making sure the team was getting in shape for the season, and since classes began, Dickey and the coaches have been able to work out with four players at a time for a total of two hours a week, and since September 15, he's been working with the entire squad for two hours a week.
"The guys have worked really hard," Dickey said. "They've been committed to the off-season program, in terms of strength and conditioning, which is all anyone can do during the summertime. We're not allowed to do anything with them. So they've done a good job in the weight room. We continued that in the fall along with their individual instruction. We're pleased with the progress they've made."
Dickey is returning several players from last year's NCAA Tournament team, but he's lacking a go-to scorer at the moment seeing as how Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis have departed. And Dickey has a crew of new players arriving on the scene that he is going to have to make sure mesh with returning players like Maurice McNeil and Kendrick Washington.
One of the players who would have been the key to the meshing isn't going to be able to play this season however. Joseph Young, the son of former Cougar star Michael Young, had committed to playing Providence when Tom Penders was still in charge -- the internets were rife with rumors of conflicts between Michael Young and Penders which is supposedly why Young the younger committed to Providence. But once Dickey came on board, Providence refused to release from Young from his commitment, meaning that he has to sit out a year in order to play for the Cougars.
But Dickey is happy with the players he and his staff were able to get onto the roster in the short amount of time they had available, and he thinks they'll go together well with the returning guys.
"We're pleased with all of the guys that we have," Dickey said. "We look at the transfers -- Darian Thibodeaux from Navarro who is from Dallas Kimball High School. A really hard worker, athlete, shooter. Trumaine Johnson who is a transfer from San Diego -- is going to be a junior. He just needs to get in condition because he hasn't played in a while. He just needs to get in condition, but he can be a terrific defensive player because he has good speed and quickness with the ball.
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"You look at the freshman. You're talking about Joe [Young] who's going to use this as a redshirt year... [and Mikhail] McHale who is a hard-working young man. Alandise Harris is a terrific athlete that just -- I think he'll be a tremendous offense and defensive player. We're pleased with the guys we've gotten in here."
Along with recruiting players and preparing to start the season, Dickey has been taking the time to meet the alumni, fans, and supporters of Cougar athletics and basketball. He says he's getting along just fine with everybody at the moment, but then again, as he said, he hasn't lost a game yet.
"The reception has been very good, but we're still undefeated," he said. "But the people have been very receptive, very supportive and very enthusiastic. But the biggest thing is going to be boil down to two things: one, recruiting, and two, winning games on the court. Those are great marketing tools. People want to see a winner; they want to see good players. We understand that, and I don't think there's any doubt that if we get the players of the caliber that we want and start winning at the level that our fans expect, then you'll see a lot more people in the seats."
The season officially opens up for the Cougars on November 12 when Dickey and crew host Nicholls State at Hofheinz Pavilion. So while the last several months might have been a whirlwind for Dickey, the next six weeks or so might end up seeming like a hurricane.