On Sunday, North Carolina will welcome three teams into the Smith Center for a fun event with a good cause. The team with the least amount of travel will trek just under an hour down Interstate 40. The Spartans of UNC-Greensboro, led by Head Coach and former UNC guard Wes Miller, look to continue to have the same success they found last season.
During the 2016 preseason, the Spartans were picked to finish tied for fifth in the Southern Conference. Instead, they went 14-4, tying both East Tennessee State and Furman for the best SoCon record. This was a team that took Wake Forest to the wire. At one point late in the season, UNCG went on a nine-game winning streak to propel their record from 16-8 to 25-8 (earning the conference tournament top seed in the process) before ultimately losing in the SoCon championship game. All of this garnered them an invitation to the National Invitational Tournament with a match up against Syracuse. Four players were named to an All-Conference team.
The Spartans enter this season with lofty expectations of themselves. It seems, however, that faith doesn’t extend far outside of Greensboro as they were pegged, again, to finish 5th in the Southern Conference.
This team, though, brings veteran leadership back to the court. Losing only two scholarship players (All-SoCon Second-Teamer Diante Baldwin and Third-Teamer R.J. White) means that the preseason normally reserved for bringing the newcomers up to speed can be used on fine-tuning last season’s seemingly well-oiled machine. In fact, the team spent time in Spain over the summer playing in a few exhibition teams and building team chemistry.
Team captain Jordy Kuiper, along with veterans Marvin Smith and preseason All-Southern Conference First Team selection Francis Alonso, join talented freshmen Kaleb Hunter and Isaiah Miller on one of Coach Miller’s deepest teams. He expects this team to easily go at least 10 players deep, with up to 12 seeing the floor during any given game. James Dickey returns a presence to the paint while Malik Massey and Demetrius Troy look to run the point.
Coach Miller and his team know that there’s work to be done. He still keeps the Southern Conference Tournament Runner-Up Trophy on his desk. It serves as a reminder that they didn’t reach the ultimate goal that they had set for themselves.
“We feel there’s a responsibility to represent UNCG in the way that it deserves to be represented.” Coach Miller said in an interview with UNCG media. “There’s a tremendous amount of pride in our locker room to be students and members of the UNCG community. We understand that we have the ability to help get the word out about how special UNCG is. We take that responsibility very seriously.”
This season could be the season that changes it all.