Courtesy: Spencer Farrin (Moscow, Idaho)
Idaho men's basketball opened its season on Friday.
Vandals get started
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 10/12/2012
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MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho men’s basketball officially opened its 2012-13 season on Friday evening with its first practice of the year and head coach Don Verlin said he was pleased with the team’s first step of the year.

“It was a good first day,” Verlin said. “I thought we played extremely hard, I thought our concentration was pretty good. The guys carried over what we did in our preseason individual workouts onto the floor, and I thought the pace of practice was good.

“I was happy with the first practice – but it is just the first day.”

Verlin said the team still has plenty to do before Idaho’s first exhibition game in two weeks against Seattle Pacific, but that the key will be to simply continue getting better each day.

“We’ve got to play hard every day,” the fifth-year head coach said. “We’ve got to get a little better every day. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s the truth, especially with as many new guys as we have.”

The Vandal men have plenty of returners in seniors Kyle Barone, Wendell Faines, Mansa Habeeb and Mike McChristian, juniors Joe Kammerer and Stephen Madison and sophomores Matt Borton and Connor Hill. Verlin said they’re “maybe not guys who have logged a thousand-plus minutes or anything like that, but we’ve got some guys who know what they’re doing.”

The development of that group, plus the addition of junior-college signees Marcus Bell, Robert Harris and Antwan Scott, along with freshman forward Ty Egbert, will be key in replacing the production lost from three senior starters who graduated last season in Djim Bandoumel, Deremy Geiger and Landon Tatum.

Verlin stressed that while some returners have the experience advantage, no starting role is being handed out and that it’s open competition for those five slots, especially in the backcourt for the departed Geiger and Tatum.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Verlin said. “As we play our two-and-a-half intrasquad scrimmages and our two exhibition games, the guys who grade out the best will get those positions.”

Vandal fans will get their first chance to see one of those intrasquad scrimmages in one week on Friday, Oct. 19, at the Black and Gold Blowout at Memorial Gym at 7 p.m. (PT). The team will also scrimmage on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at North Idaho College’s Christianson Gym at 6 p.m.

Practice Notes:
- Senior Kyle Barone was not present while serving his indefinite suspension for a team rules violation. Verlin said Barone has steps to complete off the court before he can return to team activities. “What Kyle is having to do is between him and I,” Verlin said. “Obviously, I’m very, very disappointed in Kyle. That kind of behavior is unacceptable in our program, but he is one of our family members and we love him and we’re going to do everything we can to get him back on the court as quickly as we can, when he does the things that I think are necessary, for him to come back.”

- Verlin believes that JC transfer Marcus Bell could play a very big role for Idaho this season. He said the junior forward will need to adjust to the Division I game and work on his consistency to take the next big step. “I’ll be shocked if Marcus doesn’t lead us in rebounding,” he said. “He’s a very good rebounder and a very good athlete. I know that as he picks up the system and learns to play at this level, he’ll be very good for us.

- Idaho has added four walk-ons to the 2012-13 roster: sophomore Max Salesky (Priest River, Idaho), sophomore Westin Hill (Bakersfield, Calif.), junior Mac Stannard (Moscow, Idaho) and junior Allen Jiles IV (Los Angeles, Calif.).

- Sophomore walk-on Westin Hill is the cousin of fellow sophomore Connor Hill. Stannard is from Moscow, but comes to Idaho after transferring from Walla Walla Community College. Jiles IV is a transfer from Cal State Northridge and will sit out this season according to NCAA rules.
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