One rules change that has been praised by college basketball coaches is that they’re now allowed to work with their returning players.
Provided the players are enrolled in summer school, coaching staffs are allowed two hours of instruction per week with each player.
Not allowing coaches to work out their current players during the off-season made no sense, and it’s good that the NCAA saw the error in that and made the change.
It can be argued that those who benefit the most are programs that undergo head coaching changes, even if the new man in charge was simply promoted. That’s the case with new Wagner head coach Bashir Mason.
Mason decided on three 45-minute workouts each week as the best way to use the time allotted. One session is purely a shooting exercise, with the goal the same for every player: To get up 210 shots.
“We chart them and keep stats on makes and misses,” Mason said.
The second 45-minute segment is a heavy dose of ball-handling and 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 drills.
“It’s about competition and improving skills,” said Mason, the youngest head coach in Division I basketball.
The third workout is Mason’s favorite.
“We get all 13 guys together and work them out like a regular practice,” he said. “It gives me a chance to get more comfortable at actually coaching the entire team.”
The Seahawks went 25-6 last season under Dan Hurley, who moved on to take over at Rhode Island shortly after the end of the season.
But while Mason is a familiar voice in the ears of the players, being so from a new position means that there are adjustments to be made by both the players and the coaches.
Three of Wagner’s top five scorers from last season are due back, led by junior guards Kenneth Ortiz (8.1 ppg, 4.3 apg) and Latif Rivers (14.6 ppg) and senior forward Jonathon Williams (13.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
Defending NEC champion LIU Brooklyn returns a wealth of talent as well, but with the returnees at Mason’s disposal Wagner will certainly be a worthy challenger for the top spot.
Would that be the case if Mason didn’t have this off-season time to work with his players? Possibly, but it’s certainly a benefit to the first-year head coach that he does have this luxury.
Photo credit: Wagner Athletics