A regular season Southern Conference title. The most wins in program history. And a trip to New York to compete against Syracuse in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
Last season was a historic one for the UNCG men’s basketball team. But for Head Coach Wes Miller and his players, there’s more work to be done.
The SoCon Tournament runner-up trophy, displayed prominently in Miller’s office, is a daily reminder of that.
“Every time one of us walks in his office, we’re reminded that we didn’t win the tournament,” said senior captain Jordy Kuiper. “It’s been great to get all of the support, but we’re still on a mission. We want to go to the NCAA Tournament.”
This year’s team has the talent to do just that. Kuiper and fellow veterans Marvin Smith and Francis Alonso return this year, alongside some exciting young talent in freshmen Kaleb Hunter and Isaiah Miller.
“This is by far the deepest team I’ve ever coached,” Miller said. “It’s also the most physically athletic team I’ve coached from top to bottom. We have great size at every position.”
Additionally, it’s a close-knit team – a group with good chemistry that was built over the summer. In August, the team traveled to Spain to compete in four exhibition games.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together, and I think that’s going to help us on the court,” said Smith, who serves as a captain alongside Kuiper.
The Spartans are preparing for a tough non-conference schedule, beginning with their season opener at Virginia on Friday, Nov. 10 – one of three road tests against ACC opponents this year.
It’s a challenging start to the season, but one that will prepare the team for SoCon play.
The squad has big goals. They want to make it back to the SoCon title game, and they want to compete in the NCAA Tournament. But it’s about more than just winning games. It’s about the UNCG community – on campus and beyond.
“We feel a responsibility to represent UNCG the way that it deserves to be represented,” Miller said. “There’s a tremendous amount of pride in our locker room to be students and members of the UNCG community. We understand that we have the ability to help get the word out about how special UNCG is. We take that responsibility very seriously.”
Their message to Spartan fans? Keep showing your support.
“We feed off the energy and excitement around our program,” Miller said. “In the past few years, we’ve felt a different level of support from the students and the university. It’s something we’ve embraced, and we want to push it forward.”
On Nov. 5, the Spartans will take part in a four-school exhibition at UNC Chapel Hill to raise money for the governor’s North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund. The team’s home opener is Wednesday, Nov. 15, against North Carolina Wesleyan at Fleming Gym.
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Tim Cowie, UNCG Athletics