December 13, 2013

Blazers Look to Get Better at Bartow Arena

The UAB Basketball team will return to the court Saturday at Bartow Arena to play Georgia Southern. It's one of two games following final exams and before Christmas as the Blazers seek to continue on a fast start and a 7-2 early season record. The team is, in fact, playing better than many people expected. There are several reasons for the fine play.

First, the Blazers have added a number of outstanding new players, individuals who have quickly contributed to a positive team atmosphere. Two junior college transfers, guard Chad Frazier and forward C. J. Washington, have added to the Blazers scoring capacity. Frazier, in fact, leads the team in scoring and was C-USA Player of the Week for two consecutive weeks. As senior forward Rod Rucker said, "We got a lot of guys who came in to help right away."

Second, those players allowed the returning stars to get more rest and meant that their scoring was not essential for a victory. Last year, for example, Rucker was pretty much banged up by the end of the season. That's less likely to happen this year. As he noted, "I don't have to play 30-plus minutes a night. This year it's multiple guys who can [contribute]."

Third, the Blazers are out-rebounding the opposition. The easily won the battle of the boards over North Carolina, for example, in that upset win. Much of that is due to the improved play of 6-10 center Fahro Alihodzic. Alihodzic attributed his improvement to his coaches and off-season work in the weight room. The result, he says, is that he's "getting stronger, bigger, more active and more explosive."

Coach Jerod Haase is pleased with what he's seen of the team so far. "[The coaches] have done a pretty good job of getting the message [to the players]," Haase said. "They've taken that message to heart."

Next up: The Blazers play host to Georgia Southern Saturday. Haase is looking for another win, but is cautious about the team's approaching game. "They're a good team and we'll have to play well to have a chance," he said.

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