New Charlotte 49ers’ head basketball coach Mark Price grabbed a microphone near center court at the end of his team’s preseason scrimmage Thursday night and told the crowd, “I promise you. We’ll play hard. We’ll get after it.”
The crowd of 1,500 or so fans at Halton Arena had just seen Price’s promise delivered.
The 49ers ran, scrambled and shot the basketball during their 30-minute Green-White Scrimmage, rarely holding the ball more than 15 or 20 seconds. Price, in his first collegiate head coaching job, has promised uptempo basketball. His team delivered it Thursday night.
“It was fun,” Price, a former NBA all-star who came to the 49ers after serving as assistant with the Charlotte Hornets, said after the scrimmage. “I’m pleased with where we are. We still have a long ways to go. We’re trying to figure out who we are.”
Price expects freshmen to get key minutes this season, and there are several other newcomers on the roster. But a few things were obvious in Thursday’s scrimmage:
▪ 7-foot redshirt sophomore Benas Griciunas, a Lithuanian native and a transfer from Auburn, gives Charlotte a strong inside game. During the scrimmage, he scored three times on dunks, including an alley-oop pass from Ridell Camidge; grabbed several rebounds; but also showed athleticism by scoring on a 3-pointer and bringing the ball upcourt several times.
“Benas is a very skilled player,” Price said. “He has to get a little tougher inside, but he’s very skilled. We’re excited about him.”
▪ Redshirt junior Braxton Ogbueze, who played at Vance High and United Faith Academy locally, appears in midseason form. Price said he is counting on Ogbueze for leadership, and he responded Thursday 15 points for the Green team, which won 62-44.
“At this point of the season, we’re still learning,” Ogbueze said. “But we’re showing a lot of effort. We have a lot of new faces, we’re still learning each others’ games, and we’re building chemistry. But the talent is definitely there.”
▪ Another newcomer, junior-college transfer forward Anthony Vanhook, could be a bright spot. Vanhook scored 18 points for the Green squad, on dunks, slashing drives to the basket, and jump shots.
The 49ers are home against Methodist in a Nov. 9 exhibition, then open their regular season Nov. 13 against Elon.