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New coach, new offense, new expectations

Contributing Writer

Published: Sunday, August 22, 2010

Updated: Sunday, August 22, 2010 19:08

Central Florida Future

CFF Archive

Men's basketball may be a couple months from tip-off, but for the Knights, the work never stops.

In an offseason full of changes, the Knights can look forward to the results of those changes, including higher expectations: Expectations of a new coaching staff, a new class of recruits and transfers, and the ongoing belief that the program is on the brink of something big. And all of this is rooted in the hiring of a new head coach in Donnie Jones.

"[The coaching staff] has high expectations," senior guard Taylor Young said. "I think it'll be a great fit."

Fans will have to hope that the pairing of Jones' fast-paced offense and the Knights roster will also be a great a fit.

As head coach of Marshall last season, Jones led the Herd to a 24-10 season and developed the offense into one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation.

Senior forward A.J. Tyler hopes the fast-paced, offensive-minded brand of basketball will make a smooth transition to UCF.

"I'm looking forward to it, it's more fun for the fans and players," Tyler said.

Tyler is quick to point out that such a brand of basketball isn't something to take lightly as a player.

"It takes a lot of hard work," he said. "We can't just go out there and say we're going to push it and have it look like street ball. I think a big part of every player wants to play in this type of style and free yourself up, but we have to pay the price and get ourselves in the best shapes of our lives to be able to do so."

This offseason, a lot of that hard work has been in the gym. To fit into the new system, there has been an emphasis on getting leaner and faster. Fresh out of impressive freshmen seasons, guard Marcus Jordan and forward Keith Clanton have each dropped at least 10 pounds.

"Our strength coach has done a great job of putting us through some tough workouts every day, pushing on getting stronger and more physical," Tyler said.

Young said there has also been an added emphasis on "explosiveness."

Jones also brings experience and a strong work ethic that has garnered him prestige in the college basketball world.

At Florida under head coach Billy Donovan, he helped the Gators win two national championships.

In addition, he brought on former NBA assistant coach Brendan Suhr to the UCF staff, serving as director of program development in more of a consultant role. Suhr brings three decades of professional experience, including work with the Detroit Pistons when they won back-to-back NBA Titles in 1989 and 1990 and a role with the original Dream Team.

Jones also brings with him a passion for recruiting, a passion which the Knights have already began reaping rewards from.

Guard Jarvis Davis signed with the Knights the day after Jones took over.

Since then, Jones has added transfer center from Michigan State Tom Herzog, 7-foot-tall JuCo-transfer power forward Dwight McCombs, guard Isaiah Sykes and forward Josh Crittle.

After a season in which they were often overmatched in height, returning Knights are happy to see the roster add some size with this class of recruits.

"I'm excited about the players coach Jones added. They give us an opportunity to have a few true centers and big guys down low," said Tyler, who will have the added help of Crittle, McCombs and Herzog in holding down the paint.

Though the schedule isn't finalized yet, the Knights gained some attention by inking a game with the Gators on Dec. 1 in the new Amway Center.

"It's a great opportunity any time you can play a national program, against one of the game's great coaches, and to do that in Orlando and have that kind of excitement," Jones said.

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