The McNeese men’s basketball team has undergone a lot of change since the buzzer sounded to end its season in early March.
Since then, the Cowboy roster has experienced a major overhaul; only four players who touched the floor for McNeese last season are on the 2019-20 roster (Roydell Brown, Sha’Markus Kennedy, Trey Johnson, and Myles Hutchinson). Add the two transfers who had to sit out the 2018-19 season (A.J. Lawson and Jeremy Harrell) and head coach Heath Schroyer only has six of the 14 players on the current roster who were on campus last season.
One of the challenges for Schroyer and his coaching staff will be to integrate a group of college transfers and high school graduates with players who were already here, whether they played or not.
“It’s been a different vibe and a different energy,” Schroyer said of this off-season. “These are all guys that we spent an entire year tracking and recruiting. I’m excited about our group. I think that all of them seem to really get along well. They work extremely hard, that’s the thing that I’m most impressed with. The work capacity that these guys have is refreshing.”
After finishing his first season at McNeese with a 9-22 overall record, Schroyer knew from before the season’s end that his team needed to get bigger and stronger throughout the off-season in order to capably compete with the physicality that the Southland Conference offers.
Enter strength and conditioning coach Jimmie Bunting, who – along with men’s basketball – works with the football and volleyball teams. Schroyer is impressed by the work that Bunting has done with the Cowboys so far.
“He’s made a huge difference with our guys,” Schroyer said of Bunting.
In addition to strength and conditioning, the coaches are allowed four hours per week with the players. Schroyer says that they use those four hours to work on fundamentals and skill work; they haven’t put time into plays as of yet.
But the Cowboys will need plays for the start of August, when they will travel to the Bahamas. The trip is from Aug. 3-8 and is the foreign tour that teams are allowed to participate in once every four years. McNeese will play three games, one against the Bahamian National Team and two against professional teams from the Bahamas.
McNeese will get 10 practices at the end of July prior to heading to the Bahamas. Schroyer believes that this will be good to not only see where the team is at from a basketball standpoint, but also to help break up the monotony of summer workouts with the start of regular season practice still months away.
“Right now, plenty of guys are chomping at the bit to have those 10 days of practice,” Schroyer said. “I know as coaches, we are too. I think that this trip we allow us to really know a lot about ourselves.”
After the Bahamas trip, the team will get a little break to end the summer before classes start back on Aug. 19.
Schroyer also had a bit of an update on the non-conference schedule, saying that he hopes it’s completed by the end of July. Four non-conference games have already been confirmed – all in November – with the Cowboys scheduled for road games at Wisconsin, New Mexico, Richmond, and Texas. It is a challenging slate that Schroyer believes will prepare the team for grind of the 20-game Southland Conference schedule.
McNeese is looking for its first winning season since 2011-12.