In the game of life, most lessons are learned by building off other experiences, ideas or methods. Sports are no different. For the men's basketball team, it's a task looking forward to undertaking with this group.
The pieces of the puzzle are in place and the Knights are ready to assemble the building blocks. However, with their sights set on the top of the mountain, the hike will consist of both highs and lows.
"We've got a lot of guys going through a lot of things for the first time," head coach Donnie Jones said. "Every game is an opportunity for us to grow and improve."
Before this season, eight out of 15 players had never seen the court while wearing a UCF uniform. Five out of eight newcomers are freshmen who will have the opportunity to stick together and build bonds for years to come.
The final picture of the puzzle portrays triumph, but the individual pieces display a far more telling story — one of growth, adversity and teamwork.
"The biggest thing I'm looking for is [for] our team to grow," Jones said. "The only way to learn our team is to go through adversity."
Junior and East Florida College transfer Shaheed Davis said that the more they grow and build a stronger chemistry, they'll really reap the benefits of the journey.
"All we have to do is keep getting better and learning each other. We've got all the tools to get it done," Davis said.
Getting the younger and newer guys adjusted is a priority, but the returners have others goals for the squad, too. Sophomore Brandon Goodwin already sees, through four games together, what kind of team this group wants to be and what it needs to do to get there.
"We want to be a team that can press 94 feet," sophomore Brandon Goodwin said. "We're working on getting guys better shots … keep[ing] everybody involved in the offense instead of the ball being stagnant."
Success in life, or on the court, does not come quickly or easily. Jones acknowledged that this team may not have as much talent as his 2013 bunch but he likes the potential and dedication to be team players that each guy has. They're going to have to work hard to build that puzzle into a masterpiece, but Jones believes they're on the right track.
"You've just got to continue to build on good things you do. And the things you don't do so well, you've got to build on as well," Jones said. "I think that's our job as teachers and coaches, to make sure we point out what they did do well and what we've got to improve on."
The Knights' 2-0 start and two blowout victories aren't anything to become complacent over. Jones said they'll continue to work to reach the goal.
"There are no trophies handed out in October or November," Jones said. "We're just looking to progress."