When talking with opposing coaches during Conference USA Basketball Media Day on Tuesday, one particular team continuously received high praise: UAB second-year head coach Jerod Haase and his Blazers finished 16-17 overall with a 7-9 conference record last season.
However, this season, he is doing something right to garner this praise.
Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall is one of those coaches lauding the Blazers.
“UAB returns four of their five starters and Jerod (Haase) does a great job,” said Tyndall. “They got better in the second half of last season. So, they’re going to be good.”
The Blazers defeated eight of their last 13 opponents they faced during the 2012-13 season. Haase has every reason to think his team can get off to a good start.
“We have five returning seniors that have all proven they can play and be effective at this level,” said Haase. “And then we’re adding in six new players, three junior college kids, three freshmen that I think all can contribute. So, the challenge early on is to mesh them all together and get everybody on the same page. I do think talent wise we’re in a better place.”
Speaking of Talent
Just glancing at the roster, UAB appears to have the inside track at the conference title. One of the questions always posed to coaches is: Who will be the expected leader or leaders of the team. Haase offers a preview.
“That’s a tough one,” said Haase. “Jordan Swing (6-foot-6 junior forward) has been a kid that’s really effective scoring the basketball, is a local kid and is a fan favorite. Rod Rucker (6-foot-5 senior forward was) second team all-conference last year and is a warrior on the court.”
Rucker averaged 14.5 points per game and was the only Blazer to start all 33 games. Rucker could be that guy by all accounts. However, there is room for others to step up to the challenge of leading.
“One thing that’s interesting is: Will there be one guy that comes out to be the leader of the team, or will it just be a group of guys that all buy-in to the system,” asked Haase. “That’ll be an interesting part of who kind of accepts the leadership role.”
New Coaching Leaders in C-USA
There is now an increased talent level of players and coaches, and it was evident on Tuesday said Haase.
“I’ve been in here a year now,” said Haase. “There’s a lot of great coaches and 16 teams, you see a lot of different styles of play. So, you have to be able to adjust your own style and adjust to different, whether it’s zone, whether it’s man, whether it’s fast, whether it’s slow, and you’re going to see everything. The coaches are doing it. It really is a big-time league in terms of coaches and philosophies and things like that.”