Hilltopper basketball practice underway with 10 new players

Head Coach Ray Harper yells to his team after a forced turnover during the second half of WKU’s 62-52 victory over Bowling Green State. The Hilltoppers totaled five steals and held the Falcons to a 34.5% shooting percentage from the field. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

The Hilltopper basketball team held its first practice in preparation for the 2015-2016 season on Monday.

Since the Hilltoppers return just five players from the 2014-2015 season, Head Coach Ray Harper immediately began working on meshing a roster that includes 10 newcomers.

Harper has experience coaching a team nearly full of new faces, and through that experience, he knows it takes patience and effort.

“It is fun, but you have to be patient. Guys are going to make mistakes, and you are going to have to be patient,” Harper said. “But the guys are trying hard. I haven’t had to coach effort at all this preseason.”

That effort isn’t something that went unnoticed throughout the squad, and returning players already recognize a shift in tempo from last season.

“I think it is really good,” said 7-foot-1 junior forward Ben Lawson of getting back to practice. “I love the new energy that has come to the team. Obviously we had a little bit of complacency last year, but we are seeing a new, real intensity at practice that we struggled to find last year.”

Lawson said he acknowledges that with so many new faces, he is going to have to step into much more of a leadership role this season, especially with the graduation of TJ Price and the departure of George Fant after his NCAA basketball eligibility expired.

“I think I have [become a leader]. Over the summer, we had a lot of workouts with a coach that likes to be a little hard on the new guys,” Lawson said. “I feel like the returners at least knew what was coming and were prepared a little bit more, so it was great to be able to help the new guys out.”

Of the 10 new faces on the Hilltopper roster, five are true freshman.

One addition is redshirt senior transfer and guard Aaron Cosby, who is originally from Louisville but spent time at Seton Hall and the University of Illinois.

“I’m just excited. It is my last, first practice of college you know, so I just want to come out and be a leader to the new guys and become more familiar with the system,” Cosby said.

Cosby was anxious to finally be acclimated to his teammates in a practice setting.

“We had some team workouts the past couple of weeks, but today was the first time we all got out and actually practiced together,” Cosby said. “You saw fatigue set in a little bit — that was my first issue — but we are going to get that worked out. It is just the first day.”

Harper knows there is a lot of work to do to make his team competitive by Nov. 14, the beginning of the regular season.

“We will add things offensively, and we will add things defensively; that’s just what you have to do to keep up,” Harper said. “But practices are going to get a little more extended and a little more detailed each day, so we will see.”

Something Harper and some Hilltoppers noticed in the first day of practice was the athleticism of the new bunch.

“I like our size. From last year being a very physical team, I think we are a lot more athletic this year, and we will be able to get up and down the floor more,” Lawson said. “I think that is going to be a great asset to have.”