When freshmen Tacko Fall, Chad Brown and Chance McSpadden step onto the hardwood for practice next week, they will be free to work with head coach Donnie Jones, his coaching staff and the rest of their teammates on the basketball court for as long as they want.
The NCAA allows just two hours on the court with the coaching staff per week during the summer. But because the Knights are participating in a foreign tour in the Bahamas Aug. 9 through Aug. 11, the team is allowed to practice with no restrictions for 10 days leading up to the tournament.
“Team bonding, team building, we have a chance to be together. All those factor into what we’re trying to do,” Jones said. “We’re really going to try to focus on the benefits of using this experience to hopefully factor in toward the end of the year.”
It’s not as if the trio didn’t have time to get acquainted with each other, though. With the exception of Fall, who spent the last two years in Tavares, Florida, after being raised in Dakar, Senegal, Brown and McSpadden are Central Florida natives.
“Any time kids can play in front of their fans, friends and family, one: They’re happier. And two: It gives them a sense of pride to go out and play,” Jones said. “Hopefully we’re going to bring all their friends and family to come out to our games.”
The trio got even more experience with each other April 11 when the three converged in Orlando to compete on the same team. They played against the top players in America as team Florida in the USA versus Florida Hardwood Classic at the Amway Center, falling 95-86.
“We already have a lot of chemistry, which we started building way before I got here since I live pretty close,” Fall said.
Each player had a different experience his first time coming to UCF, seeing the campus, basketball facilities and meeting coaches, but each is looking forward to getting an education while playing ball at the Division I level.
“I always wanted to just get on the court and play with them, but I couldn’t. Going down there and watching those guys play every season was awesome,” Brown said. “To finally be here, that’s a blessing.”
Said McSpadden: “It’s like a dream come true. I dreamed of Division I basketball [and] can’t wait to start playing. It feels good just to have the practice jersey on.”
Aside from chemistry, residing in Central Florida prior to college and the UCF logo they now proudly display across their chest, all three seem to have the same mindset coming into UCF: play their role to help the team and learn as much as they can from coaches and current players, especially Orlando native sophomores B.J. Taylor and Adonys Henriquez.
“I’m just going to try to gain their leadership. They came in immediately and made a difference,” McSpadden said. “I’m just going to follow that same role and make a difference.”
Although Fall was the tallest recruit in the nation and is the tallest on the team at 7-foot-6, he has the most to learn because he has only been playing basketball for about three years.
“He’s a very smart young man, picks things up quick. He doesn’t have bad habits, so everything he’s learning is a new habit,” Jones said. “I think the biggest thing for him is just learning the concepts and the terminology of what we expect from him here in the program.”
Eyes from around the nation will likely be on UCF this season, especially with Fall’s presence around the rim, but Jones knows his team will be ready to show the world what they’ve got when the time comes.
“They’ve got great work ethic, great focus, great energy and those guys come in with a humility trying to fit in, but also bring in a great team spirit, which our team really needed,” he said. “Those guys want to be a part, they’re excited, they’re going to follow a good leadership and our culture’s really growing.”
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JHeil11 or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.