Youth, injury give UTEP a new look

UTEP held an intrasquad scrimmage last week in front of fans who probably didn't recognize a majority of the team. That's because of all the players participating, only one on scholarship -- guard Michael Perez, he of the 1.5-points-per-game average -- appeared in a contest for the Miners last season.

Gabriel McCulley, the team's lone senior, is recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his leg. Sophomore John Bohannon was out with a tweaked hamstring. Kevin Perry is a tight end on the football team. Tyler Tafoya is a junior walk-on.

And that's all of the returning players for UTEP, which otherwise has eight freshmen on the roster, along with a junior-college transfer and Cal State Fullerton transfer Jacques Streeter.

"We're going to play different lineups, different rosters," coach Tim Floyd said in a statement. "We're going to try to sub a great deal based on mistakes. We didn't have to do that a lot last year with a veteran group, but these kids need to come out of the game, understand what they did wrong, go back into the game and try to do it better. I don't know if there's going to be a real flow to these games, but we're going to have a chance to look at a lot of players."

Consider all this to be a challenge for Floyd, who won't have much experience at all on his team coming off a 25-win season and NIT appearance with a senior-laden roster. Floyd isn't accustomed to losing — he hasn't led a team to an under-.500 record since he coached the Chicago Bulls. He'll be looking forward to brighter days ahead with this youthful group, he told The Prospector:

"We are trying to think long-term with what we are doing, so this year may be somewhat of a challenge because we are going to be the youngest team in the United States," Floyd said. "We like the core of what we are doing here, with the idea that in the next three, four, five years, we will continue to build and add on top of these young guys."