WARRENSBURG — Each practice for the UCM Mules basketball team is a little different.
With 12 newcomers joining the Mules this season, the players never know who’ll they’ll be playing with during the five-on-five portion of practice.
“You could see a lot of different lineups and you could see several different guys be our high scorer, kind of like last year,” said second-year coach Doug Karleskint.
Last season’s Mules had seven players average at least five points per game, but six of those players aren’t with the Mules this season.
The Mules lost five players to graduation, but also won’t have Jordan Epps, Donte Adams or Taylor Johnson after they transferred.
Junior Kyle Wolf is one of four returners after averaging nearly nine points and five rebounds per game last season. He was the Mules’ main threat from beyond the arc last season, knocking down 55-of-119 from three-point range.
“It’s going to be a little work in progress,” Wolf said. “We’re going to have a couple of growing pains.”
Half of the newcomers are transfers, including four from Division I programs.
Senior guards D’Marnier Cunningham and Roosevelt Scott came over from Memphis and Arizona State, respectively.
“It’s a lot different,” Cunningham said. “Just game style and players and things like that, but there’s a lot of good players on this team.”
Junior forward Marquiez Lawrence was at Kent State before joining the Mules.
Forward Williams Gabriel played at New Hampshire last season.
“They are kind of like freshmen except they are a couple years older,” Karleskint said. “They are still trying to figure out what we want. They’ve been coached a different way at the previous schools and everybody’s philosophies and terminologies are different. We’re trying to mold those guys into exactly what we want. It’s going to take a lot of time.”
Guard Brett O’Neil transferred in from Dodge City Community College and guard Spencer Reaves spent his freshman season at Division II North Greenville.
“As a whole we’re still learning how to play with each other, learn each other’s tendencies,” Reaves said. “… We might look a little rough at the beginning of the year, but it should come all together because we have the guys to win a lot of games.”
The Mules are making a change in their style of play because of the types of players they brought in.
Last season’s team was able to feed a pair of 240-pound post players for a lot of their points, but most of their current post players aren’t the big, physical guys Dillon Deck and Brennen Hughes were.
“We’re very fast, have a lot of knock down shooters, we’ve got some big guys that can run the court really well,” Wolf said. “I can see us being really good if we can come together and run some offense, not too fast and just see all the options.”
The Mules want to run up and down the floor more than last season, but Karleskint said the turnovers situation is “not good.”
“We’re turning the ball over way too much right now,” he said. “That’s just been a point of emphasis this week.”
Karleskint added that it comes down to the players not trying to be too flashy.
“I don’t think we are short on talent,” he said. “I told the guys (Wednesday), ‘I think that one thing stopping ourselves right now is ourselves, whether its trying to hit home runs instead of making the simple play.”
The Mules start their season at 6 p.m. Nov. 13 against Minnesota-Duluth at home. UCM will also host Concordia-St. Paul at 2 p.m. Nov. 14.
Jason Strickland can be reached at 660-530-0147 or on Twitter @J_Strick_Sports.