The UC Davis menÕs basketball team officially opened the 2010-11 season, practicing for the first time on Friday.
The Aggies begin their regular season competition in four weeks (Nov. 12 in Portland), after finishing with a 14-18 overall record and an 8-8 mark in the Big West a year ago.
UCD has improved in both total wins and conference wins every season, since joining the Division I ranks as a full-time member during the 2007-08 school year. After earning a No. 4 seed in the Big West tournament and advancing to the semifinals in 2009-10, head coach Gary Stewart is excited about his team this year.
ÒThis is truly a special time of year,Ó Stewart said. ÒWe have been building toward this day since our semifinal game of the 2010 Big West Tournament. I am excited about the off-season progress we have made as a program and I firmly believe it will translate into a successful 2010-11 season.Ó
The Aggies return an experienced group, including five players that started 10 or more games a season ago. Among the returners are seniors Joe Harden, Mark Payne and Todd Lowenthal. Last season, Harden was awarded Second Team All-Big West honors for the second consecutive year
after averaging 14.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Payne and Lowenthal each missed games due to injury, but Payne contributed 15.6 points, 4.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game in 24 contests. Lowenthal saw action in 21 games,
starting 15, and chipped in with 3.9 points and 4.5 boards per game.
Other notable returners include All-Big West Freshman Team member Ryan Sypkens and redshirt sophomore Ryan Howley, who was one of four Aggies to play in all 32 games. The 12-man roster is rounded out by returners Ryan Silva and Eddie Miller Ñ a redshirt last season Ñ along with newcomers
Harrison Dupont, Alex Tiffin, Josh Ritchart, Tyler Les and Mike Kurtz.
While there is excitement that comes with the start of a new season, Stewart is also focused on the task at hand.
ÒObviously, there is significant work to be done prior to our first contest and beyond,Ó Stewart said. Ò(Friday) begins another chapter of our programÕs development. We are meeting this
challenge with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.Ó
Fans will have their first chance to see the Aggies in action when they host Menlo College on Nov. 3 in an exhibition. UCD begins its regular season on Nov. 12 against Florida Atlantic at the Athletes in Action Classic in Portland, Ore. The Aggies will take on host Portland the next day before concluding the tournament Nov. 14 against Wisc.-Milwaukee.