|Being able to practice in August was a major plus for a Charlotte team with six newcomers. (Charlotte Athletics)|
The Atlantic 10 has not been kind to Alan Major during his first two years at Charlotte. The 49ers are 7-25 in conference play over the past two seasons, and the league is only getting more difficult.
The additions of Butler and VCU make the league a threat to compete for up to six NCAA tournament every season.
“It ups the ante,” Major said. “It's like when you have two pretty good poker players step in and throw their chips in. Two teams that have set a standard in their conference.”
Does it make Major's job tougher? Likely. Does that mean he's disappointed by the additions? Absolutely not.
“I'm excited about it,” he said. “It gives you a great road map of how good you are at that moment, and how good you can be in the future. We got two measuring sticks.”
Between the end of summer school and the beginning of fall classes, Major snuck in a team trip to Bahamas to play two games in an attempt to get everyone on the same page heading into a big year for the Atlantic 10 conference.
“We treated it as our Olympics,” he said.
What Major learned: “You learn how your guys learn, especially the new guys. You got to see, in terms of coaching, how they respond. I was impressed by that. It gives your older guys a chance to teach a little bit. We tried to keep it simple in terms of things we threw at them. Our guys got a chance to practice how we practice. They got a little dose of how hard you have to play. We'll have a little more depth than I anticipated. I've got a gut feeling we'll play nine or 10 guys.”
Who stood out: “They all showed flashes. We kind of knew what we were getting. DeMario Mayfield drove the ball well, rebounded; Perria Henry got the ball to different guys; Terrence Williams did a really nice job. Terrence has had really consistent summer. He's improved as much as any guy we've had. I'm impressed. Since our last game in the spring, he's been on a pretty good stride.”
Biggest concern: “We have a lot of young guys. How fast can they grow, and develop confidence, and be game-ready by November 9. You're talking about four true freshmen and Mike Thorne, a redshirt freshman. Six guys that are new to the program. How fast can they pick up everything we're doing to where our whole team can be in a rhythm.”
- Leading scorer and rebounder Chris Braswell didn't play on the trip as he continues to recover from the broken foot he suffered in July. It can take anywhere from four-to-eight weeks to recover, and Major said Braswell will be ready to go before practice begins.
- Virginia Tech transfer J.T. Thompson is a newcomer to the program, but he's one of the most experienced players on the team. “He brings a calmness,” Major said. “He's been through a lot of wars.” Thompson was cleared to play midway through the summer, so he's been catching up.
- E. Victor Nickerson was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, and many people are expecting him to take the next step this season. Count Major among that group. “He had a very good summer,” Major said. “He took care of the basketball. His shooting has improved. He's gotten stronger.”
- Major brought in a very solid recruiting class, headlined by forwards Willie Clayton and Darion Clark. Both players had high-major interest from ACC and SEC schools. “They bring an extra level of toughness,” Major said. “I love the way they play.” Both players had plenty of team success in high school, so Major is hoping their winning ways rub off on the rest of the 49ers.
- One recruit who didn't make it academically was Shawn Lester, an athletic guard who can make plays. The NCAA ruled him ineligible as he didn't meet the minimum requirements coming out of high school. He will enroll at Charlotte, but won't be allowed to practice with the team. “This could be a blessing in disguise,” Major said. “We get to teach him how to be successful at Charlotte. He gets to be one of us.”