Blazers Return to Bartow for First Official Day of Practice

BIRMINGHAM – The Blazers are “officially” back in Bartow.
After practicing together for the first time in June, the 2021-22 UAB men’s basketball team completed its first day of official practice on Wednesday. While some new faces filled the hardwood, the goal remains the same: win championships and pack Bartow Arena to the brim.
“I’d like to create an atmosphere like I remember from days gone past in Bartow Arena,” head coach Andy Kennedy said. “We have a team people will be excited about.
“We return six key contributors off last year’s team, and then you add eight newcomers, six of which came from Division I institutions and they played significant roles. With that there’s going to be a growth process to figure out what’s in our best interest as it relates to our path to success. Even though it’s our kickoff day of fall camp so to speak, we’ve been doing this for 13 weeks in a limited capacity. I think we have a pretty good feel of who we are and what need to do in order to be successful.”
UAB’s eight newcomers – Justin Brown, KJ Buffen, AD Diedhiou, Jamal Johnson, Josh LeBlanc, Sr., Tyreke Locure, Elijah Tate and Jordan Walker – look to add both offensive and defensive depth to a roster that returns four starters from this past year’s team. The Blazers went 22-7 in Kennedy’s first season as UAB’s head coach, posting the program’s best start in school history with seven straight wins to open the season.
Returners from this past year’s team include junior guard Tavin Lovan and graduate guard Quan Jackson. Junior center Trey Jemison and graduate guard Michael Ertel complete the group of four starters from this past year’s team ready to play once again in Bartow.
 “Right now there’s just a lot of excitement with a bunch of different types of players on this team,” said Jackson, a C-USA All-Defensive Team honoree. “There’s a lot of excitement in the air, and we’re ready to get out there.”
Lovan, who earned Second Team All-Conference USA honors this past season, led the Blazers with 66 assists and finished just behind Ertel with 12.2 points per game. The junior also recently earned Preseason First Team All-Conference USA honors from Blue Ribbon Yearbook on Sept. 23.
In his fourth year with the program, Lovan welcomes the mix of new playmakers on the offensive side of the ball with a defense that ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense a year ago.
“Everybody is different, but I feel like we’re going to have a lot of shooters this year and a lot more playmakers,” Lovan said. “Everybody has taken a step up and is becoming better in their game.
“Last year I had trust in my teammates in making shots, and this year I have the same trust if not more. It’s still about just making plays and being there for my team.”
With the regular season just 41 days away, Kennedy strives to revive Blazer men’s basketball to the Bartow Standard.
“When I think of Blazer Basketball, I think first and foremost about a man whose name is on this building and what he was able to do as we enter into one of the most historic weekends in UAB Athletics with the opening of Protective Stadium on Saturday night,” Kennedy said. “It’s his vision coming to fruition.
“My goal is to get this basketball program back to the Gene Bartow Standard, a program that’s been to the Elite Eight and multiple Sweet Sixteen’s. This team has promise, and I’m looking forward to putting these pieces together.”

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