Texas basketball players will get an upgrade with the Moody Center

  • The Texas men’s basketball team practiced for the first week at their new Moody Center and can’t help but rave about it.
  • Second-year head coach Chris Beard raves about the new facility with its on-campus location and commitment to 1,250 seats in the lower bowl dedicated to students.
  • “I think it could become one of the best atmospheres in college basketball,” Beard said.

Music blared from the speakers as players rocked to The Beach Boys’ “Surfing USA” and Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care Of Business.”

Oh, there’s some business to take care of, okay.

But business is good right now.

Concert promoter Charles Attal attended Wednesday’s basketball practice at the Moody Center and is openly looking forward to the day the Texas men’s team will officially step onto the court in three months. “Between concerts and basketball,” said the C3Presents co-founder, who has already seen 10 concerts here, “I’m going to live here.”

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Second-year head coach Chris Beard saw his team go through their paces in his second practice at Moody’s and even tried to join the players in their mandatory push-ups after missing free throws. OK, so a few push-ups.

“As you get older, your body starts to break down a bit,” the 49-year-old coach explained. ” I have a problem. Something’s going on with my left wrist.

Do all of us.

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Jody Conradt sat in the stands amidst all the plush black seats bearing the burnt orange Longhorn logo – just like Longhorns icon and Beard ally TJ Ford – and noticed that newcomer Sir ‘ Jabari Rice “is a very good player”. She also noted that the Royal Moody Centre, which is just a punt from the Royal-Memorial Stadium, is a far cry from Gregory Gym, where she first whistled her UT. “I know it’s a lot cooler here,” the legendary former Texas women’s basketball coach said.

Workers settled in for the John Mayer concert moments after an official Moody Center groundbreaking ceremony on April 19.  Mayer's concert the following night was the first event held at the Texas multi-purpose arena.  Seating capacity for basketball games is expected to be around 10,000.

Slowly but surely, the Longhorns are bursting into their new dig, the lavish $385 million multi-purpose arena that opened in April with a John Mayer concert. Clothes might not do the men, and neither might the gym.

But it is an impressive building. Fittingly, there was an extra bounce in the stage for hugely grateful players, who were dazzled by the location and sprung onto an arena they will now call home, starting with a November 7 start. against UTEP, followed by a women’s match on 11 November. against Louisiana-Lafayette.

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It’s not hard to imagine that the venue, which will hold 10,000 people for basketball, will be sold out for Gonzaga on Nov. 16 and Creighton on Dec. 1.

“It’s crazy, and there are no fans here yet,” senior guard Marcus Carr said. “I think it could be intimidating, of course. For teams to come to this world-class facility and be somehow impressed… that will definitely help us.

Beard seems to think so too, but warns his players that a new home doesn’t guarantee a team squat without hard work. Including pumps.

“It’s a game-changer in a lot of ways,” said Beard, who will look to improve on a 22-12 season in which the Longhorns ended an embarrassing eight-year losing streak in the NCAA Tournament. with a first-round win over Virginia Tech. . “A lot of people have amazing facilities, but not on campus. The location is awesome. The commitment to put our students in the best places is a big step forward. A lot of people don’t do that. »

Texas coach Chris Beard talks to his team during a game in February.  He is thrilled with the impact the new Moody Center in Texas can have on the program.

With the 1,250 seats guaranteed for Texas students in the lower bowl and even behind both benches on a first-come, first-served basis and new men’s and women’s basketball tenants taking over this week, the The school shows its commitment to big-time hoops with an ease that’s equal to — and perhaps the envy of — any college program in the country. It screams opulence, but also commitment.

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Questions, of course, remain.

How long will it take to acclimatize to the new joint? How will depth perception change from the Erwin Center to the Moody Center? Will the team find dead spots in the ground? Could a noisy frame mean two or three more wins? Can it possibly become an intimidating place like, say, Phog Allen? I know, I know, but hey, you have to dream big.

“It takes time. It’s a process,” Beard said. “Change is difficult. But you have to make the 40 minutes of play more important than the event. one of the best atmospheres in college basketball.

It definitely should.

Its players are crazy about their new venue, with 44 suites and porch suites spanning 10 feet into the arena and three premium clubs. All said they noticed a decided buzz and extra electricity around practice, although Timmy Allen, the team’s top scorer, rebounder and spokesman last season, admitted the move “could backfire. him” if the Longhorns themselves were too impressed with the vibe at 2001 Robert Dedman Drive and not focus on the dirty work.

“It will be electric here,” said Allen, who did not dress Wednesday due to a minor foot injury. “But it could backfire if we don’t control our emotions.”

“It’s a college-level NBA arena,” marveled super senior Brock Cunningham. “It’s great to be here.”

So much for the bells and whistles. Let’s wait and see if they translate into points and rebounds.

The return of seven veterans, five of whom were part of the regular rotation, and an infusion of two high-profile transfers – Iowa State’s dynamic point guard Tyrese Hunter and Rice, a versatile scorer from New State -Mexico – plus four talented recruits should mean instant improvement.

“Those two transfers were our first two choices,” Beard said. “It’s like we’re in the lottery, and we got first and second choice.”

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The additions of rookies such as 6-foot-8 Dillon Mitchell and 6-foot-3 guard Arterio Morris – including out-of-court issues involving a former girlfriend are in the hands of the school’s Title IX office — could have an instant impact this season, too.

Hunter, still just 18, was last year’s Big 12 rookie and should take over playmaking duties and allow Carr to move to shooting guard and relieve some of the stress. of Carr. Carr showed some of that promise in the NCAA playoffs when he lit them for 38 points in two games and hit 54% of his 3s.

Texas had limited size last year and relied on the inside presence of 6-6 Allen, who plays bigger, and 6-foot-7 Christian Bishop, but a healthy, more springy 6-foot Dylan Disu 9 inches should help the Longhorns dramatically in the paint. “We didn’t see him at his peak last year. He has a lot more to give,” Allen said.

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Knee issues killed Disu’s offseason and crippled his effectiveness once on the pitch.

“I feel like I’m finally healthy,” he said. “Putting my legs back under me really helps.”

Texas will miss senior Andrew Jones (overseas) and lockout defender Courtney Ramey (Arizona) and never got much from Tre Mitchell (West Virginia), but all signs are pointing up.

“We were a good team last year,” Beard said. “I don’t think anyone can argue with that.”

Nobody should, but some of those long dry spells were painful to watch. None was more depressing than the 10-minute span without a bucket in the 81-71 loss to Purdue in the Round of 16 when a staggering disparity in free throws deeply troubled the Longhorns.

“Yeah, 46-12,” Carr said off the top of his head, remembering the Boilermakers advantage when trying to hit the free-throw line. “I will never forget that for the rest of my life.”

He doesn’t want to either, preferring to use that as another driver to motivate this team and make Texas a more nationally relevant program. That March moment was a very winnable game in which the Longhorns trailed by just three with 91 seconds left, but it ultimately went into the loss column.

More oil on the fire, hoping that the program will take a huge step forward this season. As the Longhorns get used to their new home with the training facility nearing completion and locker room finishes, they won’t worry about subtle issues that might need attention until November.

For one thing, it was noted that the lights in the Moet & Chandon Imperial Lounge, if turned on, could shine directly through the home team’s glass panel and blind a Texas free throw shooter. Do not worry.

Cunningham, Texas’ first free throw shooter, understandably shrugged and dismissed the hint of a negative from the so-called champagne room.

“What do you call yourself when you spray champagne?” said Cunningham. “I want this (scene) on every free throw. We have six bottles of champagne for each free throw. It will be the best place for college basketball.

Maybe. What is certain is that everything unblocks the first week of November and things will explode.

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