There is a lot of new around the Mercer basketball programs this season.
Both rosters have plenty of new faces as they prepare to open the season Friday. And both teams are entering Southern Conference play; the men make their conference debut in December and the women in January.
Players from both teams sound excited about their new conference.
“It’s going to be different, but I’m looking forward to it because I’ll get to play at home,” said Mercer junior Ike Nwamu, who is from Greensboro, which is home to conference member UNC Greensboro. “It’s exciting to get to play against these new teams and go to different places.”
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Bob Hoffman’s men’s team opens its season at 7 p.m. on Friday against Piedmont at Hawkins Arena. Susie Gardner’s women’s team opens on the road against Mississippi State at 9 p.m. on Friday.
The men play their first conference game Dec. 6 at home against VMI, while the women travel to Western Carolina on Jan. 10.
“We’re going into a new conference; the Southern Conference is going to be a little different for us,” Alicia Williams said. “I definitely want to win the SoCon championship; that’s the ultimate goal. And we think we have the team to do that.”
Both teams also have plenty of confidence despite the roster turnover.
Hoffman’s team lost seven seniors off last year’s team and will have a new look this season. Hoffman said the team will raise banners from last year’s A-Sun co-regular-season championship, A-Sun tournament championship and NCAA tournament berth.
“It’s a different feeling than where we were last year,” Hoffman said. “This year, we’re wearing the chemistry hat and trying to figure out little pieces to the puzzle and plays for us to get easy baskets with this group and their skills. Last year, the goal was get to the end and everybody be healthy and be playing the best we can play when we get to the tournament.”
Gardner’s team has four seniors who have experienced some success, but the rest of the roster is filled out by eight freshmen.
“This is a fun group,” Gardner said. “The seniors have been important to our program, and the freshmen are going to be exciting to be around. I like our mix.”