The Rodney Terry Era begins with newcomers and new faces


Gaby Velasquez

Rodney Terry was named UTEP’s head men’s basketball coach on Monday, March 12.

Adrian Broaddus, Web Editor

It was a dreary night and the Miners had just lost a dreadful game to Lamar University (66-52) at home. Tim Floyd and the Miners had just lost their fifth straight game and looked as underwhelming as ever.

Floyd took a step into the press room to speak to the media and announced his immediate retirement six games into the season.

Exit the Tim Floyd regime, enter the Rodney Terry era.

Upon his hiring in March as the program’s 19th head coach, Terry stormed through the program by snatching highly regarded recruits, while losing some returners along the way, and transformed this program into a completely different team.

Terry, 50, carries a new swagger as the Miners’ head coach. He’s calm and collected when he’s coaching players one-on-one and barks at his team to bring up the intensity when they are in team drills. His trust in his coaching staff radiates the minute you walk into a practice and the foundations are what he is trying to build upon.

Dial it back a notch, Terry simply wants to develop a winning program at UTEP.

And with the team’s home opener on Tuesday against UT Permian Basin, Terry is fine-tuning the team’s final product to put on the court and display it for fans.

“I think the thing we’ve tried to instill in this group is they have to play extremely hard,” Terry said. “We’ve got four freshmen, two sophomores and one senior scholarship players—they have to play extremely hard. You have to lay out the foundation in terms of identity. We have to be a scrappy team this year and really learn to compete to do it at a high level. Then we can start to learn how to execute on both ends of the floor.”

Although the roster has 18 players, 12 are eligible for this season and Terry will likely rely on an eight-man rotation for the season. UTEP returns senior forward Paul Thomas and sophomore guards Kobe Magee and Evan Gilyard. Freshmen forwards Efe Odigie and Kaosi Ezeagu and freshmen guards Nigel Hawkins and Jordan Lathon will chip in with significant minutes. Walk-on’s Garrett Sullivan, Jakobe Dill and Gilles Dekoninck will fight for minutes this season as well.

“We don’t have a lot of bench this season,” Terry said. “We’re thin. With seven scholarship guys, down one of our better players, we have six guys right now for scholarship players and we need our walk-on’s to come in. Right now our young guys got to play. That’s the beauty of this year. They’re going to get a chance to play, play through mistakes, learn to play hard and learn to play at this level.”

For a lone senior like Thomas, the mentorship role has been significant for him, to which he says the newcomers have made significant, positive strides.

“Pros to having young guys is we always have a lot of energy,” Thomas said. “Young guys are eager to learn and eager to get on the court. Cons is just with any young team, adjusting to the speed, the physicality, and just picking and choosing wiser spots.”

For the most part of the season, UTEP will rely on their four scholarship freshmen to play meaningful minutes. Having to play UTPB and then travel to NMSU (Nov. 10) and Arizona (Nov. 14) in just a week of action means that it will be about maturing quickly for the Miners.

“This team lacks experience and the only way they’re going to get it is if they get thrown in the fire,” Terry said. “They’re going to have to compete against a really good non-conference schedule. We’ll get a chance to compete at this level and what it takes on both ends of the floor.”

The probable lineup for Tuesday’s game will be having three guards in Gilyard, Magee and Lathon, while relying on Thomas and Odigie down low. Hawkins will come in to sub for the guard spots, while Ezeagu will take more of a role as a reserve down low.

“You have to really coach the details and do a lot of coaching,” Terry said. “Right now we’re coaching guys on how to play hard, how to have tremendous effort on both ends of the floor, then we have to get the execution and fundamentals. It’s a challenge.”

Although next year looks bright for the Miners, with the likes of getting six transfers that had to sit out this season, Thomas has high expectations for his senior season.

“I feel good,” he said. “The guys have been working hard, we’ve all been working hard at practice. The schedule we have is an exciting schedule and I’m looking forward to going out with a bang.”

For Terry, he appreciates where his team stands going into the season and embraces the new challenge.

“I like it for our first year,” Terry said. “We are starting from ground zero here, just like where we started in the first year at Fresno State. No knock against our youth or our players. We have done it differently than we did it at Fresno State. We had some junior college players come with us at Fresno State when we started, but they didn’t really fit our culture, so I didn’t want to make that same mistake here. We went the transfer route. We’re going to sit some really good players out that will be good contributors here in the future. We’re going to play with our young guys this year and this year will be very valuable to them.”

The Miners will tip-off against UTPB at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening in the Don Haskins Center.

Adrian Broaddus  may be reached at [email protected]