Head Coach Jerry Slocum and members of the Youngstown State men's basketball team hosted their annual media day at the Beeghly Center on Thursday afternoon.
After an opening statement and a question and answer session with Slocum, select players spoke with different media outlets in one-on-one interviews.
Slocum addressed that he is pleased with how his team has been working as a cohesive unit since the end of last season. He also mentioned that he was impressed by the team's dedication during the summer, whether it was in the weight room, conditioning or playing in the Pittsburgh Basketball Pro-Am Summer League.
"This is a group that has made a major, major commitment to the offseason, to our summer program and in to the fall," Slocum said. "We are very excited to get started."
A reason for the enthusiasm for the start of practice is the return of eight letterwinners and four starters from last year's team - a team that played in 16 games decided by 10 points or less.
"These guys know what Horizon League basketball is all about," Slocum said. "They know about the challenges ahead of them, physically, in a very, very good league.
"We've got guys that have paid their dues in terms of playing in a lot of really, really tight, close games. The next step for us is to finish all of those close games we were in during the second semester of last season."
Senior Ashen Ward (Cleveland, Ohio), who led the team with 50 3-pointers made last season, is one of two seniors on the team and expects to be a leader on this year's squad.
"I need to be vocal," Ward said. "I talk. I yell out. I'll do anything to get my guys going. I think my experience will help the guys know that you have to work hard in this league and we are going to do that."
Junior Damian Eargle (Youngstown, Ohio) led the Horizon League in blocked shots (91) and is the team's leading returning scorer with 11.3 points per game and said he is anxious for the season to begin.
"It's really exciting to get started," Eargle said. "We have a lot of younger faces but I think we are a better team with our experience."
Sophomore Kendrick Perry (Ocoee, Fla.), who starred in the Pittsburgh Basketball Summer Pro-Am League with 14.3 points per game, wants to use the summer success as a springboard into the 2011-12 campaign.
"We played against great competition in the summer league playing against teams like Pittsburgh and West Virginia and good mid-major schools like Duquesne and Robert Morris," Perry said. "We wanted to compete and not back down from those teams because teams in our league are competing against those Big East, high-level teams."
The Guins' first practice will be Saturday, Oct. 15. The season opener is Saturday, Nov. 12 at Samford in Birmingham, Ala.