MEN’S BASKETBALL: Hoopsters, new and old, hit the court running

Kyle Hightower

As construction crews hammered at nails and chiseled away on the aging concrete structure that is Diddle Arena Saturday morning, Western men’s basketball coach Dennis Felton, too, was hard at work.

And as Western basketball opened its 2002-2003 season with its first official practice Saturday at old Bowling Green Junior High School, Felton’s task is similar to that of the hard-hat clad workers at Diddle.

His job this season won’t be to build something totally new. Many of the pieces have been here for three or more years. Felton’s task, instead, will be for really the first time to erect a team loaded with veterans that will be ready to defend its Sun Belt Conference title.

It was that core of senior leaders that Felton harped on in his comments to the media attending Saturday’s practice.

“Every year we’ve seen an increased level of leadership in our program, which is the way it ought to be. That makes many things much easier,” Felton said. “In our first practice today, I was very impressed with our level of leadership. I came into this year with high expectations for our leadership, and today didn’t do anything to diminish it.”

Western enters the preseason with five seniors on the roster: David Boyden, Nate Williams, Filip Videnov, Mike Wells and Chris Marcus.

This is also junior Todor Pandov’s fourth year in the program after redshirting following his freshman season.

Of those players, Boyden along with Marcus – still recovering from his foot ailment – could be the players looked to the most to provide outright leadership.? Boyden may be called on even more so than Marcus, having been a team captain as a sophomore.

Though, having already received his undergraduate degree, Marcus’ focus is on basketball more than ever before, and he says he plans to use that to his advantage this season.

“Everything went well when I had it (his foot) checked out in Birmingham and things are going well for me right now as I try to get ready to get back into the swing,” Marcus said.? “There is no timetable right now for me. I’m just taking it a day at a time. We’ll just see what happens.”

Marcus was fairly light in his activities Saturday as he rode an exercise bike and stretched during sessions.

Several new additions to the Hilltoppers this season also got their first taste of a collegiate practice.? The new players are freshmen Danny Rumph, Anthony Winchester, Jamaal Brown and Kevin Massiah and Florida State transfer Nigel Dixon.

“Whenever you have rookies, they bring more of a challenge when it comes to teaching them the game and getting them to understand how to play,” Felton said. “There’s more work involved there and it certainly seems to slow you down.”

While Diddle renovations continue, Western will conduct all of its practices in October at old Bowling Green Junior High School.? Felton said that while it’s a distraction, it’s something his team will have to work through.

Reach Kyle Hightower at [email protected]