Panthers kick off practice today

Eager to put their 2014-15 APR ban behind them, the Milwaukee Panthers begin practice today hungrier perhaps than they’ve ever been before. Banned from the postseason by the NCAA, assistant coach Duffy Conroy (departed for Louisiana Tech) put together a very tough non-conference schedule to give the Panthers something to play for. Milwaukee saw potential victories against high-majors go up in smoke as the injury bug hit the Panthers.

Akeem Springs played two months with a broken hand suffered near the end of the season opener at Auburn, which left the Panthers’ best scoring guard playing hampered for the full non-conference season. His injury limited him to 6.1 points per game before January 2nd and 14.2 ppg after. Austin Arians suffered an ankle injury in the preseason, and decided to redshirt when it was clear he wouldn’t be back on the court until Christmas. The Panthers lost a player who averages 11.1 ppg from his sophomore NCAA Tournament campaign. Those two injuries forced Milwaukee’s other wings to step up, but the learning curve ensured Jeter’s squad would finish 5-9 in non-conference play on their way to a 14-16 season.

As they take the court for the first official practice of the 2015-16 season, the Milwaukee Panthers are healthy. Because of their ban, it’s been 19 months since they played a game of full meaning. Nineteen months makes a lot of hungry players.

For senior Matt Tiby, it’s his last go-round. He’s not mincing words. “The only people who can stop us are ourselves.” He has reason to be confident. As a junior, Tiby was second on the team with 13.3 ppg and led the Panthers with 7.8 rebounds per contest. As a senior and the best front court player for the Panthers since perhaps Anthony Hill, he’s looking to fill the stat sheet a lot more as a featured option.

Adding five legitimate players to last year’s core returnees, Jeter will be putting together a very different look for opponents in the 2015-16 season. Tiby says the new pieces fit well. “Everyone is coming together nicely. Things are looking up from here. The new guys are fitting in real well. They’re just getting adjusted to the offense and how we play overall.”

Along with Tiby, Rob Jeter returns J.J. Panoske and the twins Prahl, Brett and Alex, in the front court. They’ll be joined by Scotty Tyler, a transfer who sat out last season.

The back court is loaded. Springs will start at off guard, joined by Justin Jordan, Cody Wichmann and J.R. Lyle. These four returnees are joined by a stellar class that includes Jordan Johnson, JayQuan McCloud, Jeremy Johnson and Brock Stull. Jeremy Johnson and Stull are both freshmen, with Jeremy a redshirt candidate and Stull coming off his own. Jeter will have plenty of options to tinker with as practice gets underway today.

Milwaukee gets its season started in just over a month. As for right now, it’s all about getting better one day at a time.

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