JACKSONVILLE — All the pomp and circumstance is gone.
The rings have come in and been distributed.
There’s an addition to the signage regarding men’s basketball in Pete Matthews Coliseum.
And yet the first week of preseason basketball practice is the same now as it was a year ago.
There have only been a few changes.
Jacksonville State is defending Ohio Valley Conference Tournament champions, and it is no longer looking for its first ever berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The Gamecocks likely will become the hunted instead of the hunters like they were last season when they were picked to finish dead last in the conference.
“Last year is last year. It’s about what you’ve done today,” said coach Ray Harper led JSU to the NCAA Tournament in his first year there and finished with a 20-win season. “We’ve got to be ready, because (a new season) will be here before we know it."
The Gamecocks open the regular season in a month when they play host to Tennessee Wesleyan on Nov. 10. JSU will host Division II Delta State in an exhibition game Nov. 2.
Even with three starters returning from last season, Harper said this year’s Gamecock squad is going to have a new look.
Those key returning players include senior 7-foot center Norbertas Giga, who averaged 10.1 points and 8.6 rebounds a game, senior guard Malcolm Drumwright, who averaged 12.2 points a game and senior forward Christian Cunningham, who averaged 8.5 points and 9.6 rebounds a game.
Harper and his staff brought in eight players to add to the remaining OVC Tournament championship squad.
Some of the notable new faces include 6-7 JUCO transfer Jason Burnell, who averaged 20.1 points and 10.9 rebounds a game at St. Petersburg College and 6-9 freshman Cam Martin, who averaged nearly a double-double each night in his senior year at Yukon (Okla.) High.
“Yea we’ve got a few more bigs this year, so we can have some more big bodies inside,” Giga said.
Now, Harper has something he didn’t have last season — depth.
“We do have depth. We feel like we helped ourselves inside and the perimeter, but we’ll just have to wait and see how that translates into wins and losses,” he said.