His predecessor’s high-flying act went viral, but don’t expect any trampoline dunks from new University of Rhode Island head coach David Cox at tonight’s Rhody Madness. The preseason event is more concert than basketball showcase this year.
For the new-look Rams, it’s fitting.
Two weeks into official practices and three weeks from the season opener, the madness of the daily grind is enough for now.
“Baby steps,” Cox said of his young group. “We’re kind of just taking it day by day – it’s like training camp right now. So a lot of the basics, a lot of the fundamentals. But it’s fun because they’re engaged, they’re giving us all that they have and we’re watching them grow day by day.”
URI’s new era officially dawns Nov. 6 when Bryant visits the Ryan Center. Fans can get a glimpse of the Rams at Rhody Madness and at next Thursday’s exhibition game against Pace, but for the players, the new chapter has already been in full swing. After Dan Hurley’s departure to Connecticut and Cox’s elevation to the top job, returning players settled in, the recruiting class was solidified and the new coaching staff was completed. Spring and summer workouts marked the start of the molding process for the team that will usher in the new beginning.
And it will be very new.
Hurley is gone. So is the winning-
est senior class in program history. It’s a shock to the system, especially given how much of a constant the foundational players of the previous era provided. It seemed the Rams had the same identity from the moment E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin walked onto campus five years ago.
“Losing those five seniors, it’s a little bit of a culture shock to me, taking for granted the last two years that those guys were experienced, they knew what we were doing, they knew what it was all about at this level,” Cox said.
Budding stars Jeff Dowtin, Cyril Langevine and Fatts Russell are taking the torch, along with veteran Christion Thompson, who redshirted last year.
“Looking for them to be loud and vocal and be leaders. Not only leaders with their voices, but leaders with their body language as well,” Cox said. “The freshmen look up to those guys. They’ve been through the fire. Everything that they do, everything that they say and the manner in which they do it and the manner in which they say it, goes a long way. Just giving these guys confidence. I think they’re starting to do that. They’re a cohesive unit, particularly those guys who have come back, and I think they’re enjoying a little bit of just being the older guys and having a voice. I’m allowing them to do it and it’s been good so far.”
The next generation of potential stars is hard to miss in workouts. The freshman class of Jermaine Harris, Tyrese Martin, Dana Tate and Omar Silveiro features size, length and talent. The Rams also have late addition Aris Tsourgiannis among the newcomers. And with such a blank canvas, they will be counted on.
“They’ve all had their flashes and they’ve all had days where I’m scratching my head,” Cox said. “And that’s just freshman basketball, in and of itself. I think it’s a very talented group. I do think that. But they have so much to learn. Right now, it’s almost like heavy minds, heavy feet. So they’re not moving at quite the pace we want them to. They’re doing a lot of thinking, a little bit overwhelmed with all the information we’ve given them in the first 15, 16 days of practice, but they’re adjusting pretty well. I’m pleased with where they’re at.”
There’s hope and potential to keep the bar high – competing at the top of the Atlantic 10, making a push for postseason play.
But that madness can also wait.
“Not one bit, actually,” Cox said of talking about expectations. “We’re just talking about getting better. We have to get better on a daily basis and that takes a lot. That takes you having the right mindset. It takes a good night’s sleep. It takes you eating properly. It takes you getting some maintenance with the trainer. And it takes you coming out here, listening, doing what we ask you to do and retaining a lot of information. That, in and of itself, is a lot. So we’re just talking about winning the day, coming out here and trying to get better each day. Then the expectations, the wins, will take care of themselves.”