With Midnight Madness kicking off this week, the Charlotte 49ers men's basketball team is officially back on the court and ready for Alan Major's second season as head coach.
Charlotte returns four starters and has added a talented freshman class that will be looking to compete in the Atlantic 10 conference.
Last year was a struggle despite defeating Tennessee, which was ranked seventh in the country at the time. That win led off a four-game winning streak that concluded with a double-overtime victory at ACC foe Georgia Tech.
The 49ers struggled the rest of the way, however, losing their last eight games and 14 of their final 16. Charlotte finished 2-14 in the conference and 10-20 overall.
There is reason for optimism, though, as all four leading scorers return.
Senior guard Derrio Green started 27 games, averaging a team-high 13 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. Green struggled from the field last year and shot just 33 percent from the floor and 27 percent behind the arc. Those numbers have to improve.
Junior guard Jamar Briscoe (12.5 points per game), junior forward Chris Braswell (11.1 points, 6.9 rebounds) and senior guard Javarris Barnett (8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds) each started at least 25 games and will be asked to step into larger roles this year.
Of the returning starters, only Braswell shot better than 41 percent for the year.
Two of last year's big men, forward An'Juan Wilderness and center Phil Jones, combined for 14 points and nine rebounds per game. They are both gone and will be missed on the inside.
Junior guard K.J. Sherrill (6.5 points, 3.7 rebounds), University of Georgia transfer DeMario Mayfield and a host of talented freshman will look to fill the void.
Pierria Henry, a 6-3 guard, is a two-time all-state performer from West Virginia who should contribute immediately.
E. Victor Nickerson, a 6-7 guard/forward from Atlanta; Terrance Williams, a 6-4 guard from West Mecklenburg; and Luka Voncina, a 6-4 sophomore point guard who had to sit out last year, should compete for playing time.
The backcourt is crowded: 10 of 15 players on the roster are listed as guards. But the 49ers will use some three- and four-guard sets at times.
The 49ers can be better this year, but they're still picked to finish near the bottom of the conference on the A-10's website.
With only three seniors on the roster, Charlotte is building for the future. This could be a down year, but Major is building the 49ers the right way.