FAIRBANKS-The Alaska men's basketball team won't surprise anyone this year, last year they finished 4th in the GNAC with 10 conference wins, 8 more than 2011. They we're picked 5th in the preseason polls, head coach Mick Durham is coming off a coach of the year campaign and he believes this team can build off of last year.
"I think we can be very good defensively, you know, and I'm hoping to star out that way. Last year we had to kind of build that up and so we're hoping to start at a certain level and build from there," Durham said.
He added, "same thing offensively, you know, be a little more unselfish and you know we've been together and so it kinda started a certain level and build from there and not definitely from square one where we were last year."
Senior center Sergej Pucar was preseason on GNAC after averaging 10.8 points per game and grabbing 6.6 rebounds per. But he feels that's all just talk.
"It's nice to have recognition, it's always nice when people talk about you but basically pretty much it doesn't mean anything because it's just the offseason, it's just opinion. We have to prove it in season," Pucar said.
There are seven returners like seniors Ronnie Baker and Stefan Tica and six new players like Rashaad Allen and Joe Slocumb who are transfers. There are six seniors on the team, most ever for coach Durham and its helped freshman like Dimond's Damon Cikanek to transition smoothly.
"Coach Durham's style is kind of similar to my high school coach's style so it's been a pretty easy transition but I'm still picking up [things]," Cikanek said. "But luckily I have a group of older guys that always know what they're doing so they're giving me good advice."
One of the seniors on the team is forward Dallen Bills. The gelling process he says has been interesting since there are so many leaders on the team.
"It's been easy to help those guys kind of fit into the program a little bit because we have so many guys on the court right now that kind of know what's going on with drills plays, stuff like that," Bills said.
Bills went on to say, "really we have seven or eight coaches out there so it's been a kind of fun process and helping everyone get where they need to be. We're not there yet but that's why we're in here."
The Nanooks get their first action of the year with a pair of exhibition games against Northwest Indian College at the Patty Center on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m.