Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Walker, UIS basketball team have new rules to learn

Dunking in pregame and halftime warm-ups is now allowed by the NCAA, but University of Illinois Springfield coach Bill Walker doesn’t know if his players have the green light to go above the rim while loosening up.

“I don’t want to take the joy out of the game,” Walker said. “But any coach would get mad if one of the assistants says, ‘Hey, coach, so and so can’t play tonight because he is in the training room and he got hurt when he was trying to dunk.”

Walker has until the Prairie Stars’ exhibition game Nov. 8 against the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign at the Prairie Capital Convention Center to decide.

Dunking in warm-ups is not an earth-shattering rule change, but it is one of many set forth by the NCAA in the offseason.

First day of practice Thursday is the first official day of basketball practice at UIS. After facing Illinois, UIS heads to the Division II Las Vegas Showdown Nov. 13-14 against Lake Superior State and Findlay. The trip west is a notable addition. “I think as you go through your career it’s nice to get on an airplane once in a while and go play a game,” Walker said. “We’d like to do something every year or every other year when we can afford it to take advantage of it.”

The Stars have a monster schedule out of the gate with road games in December against Bellarmine, Southern Indiana, Kentucky Wesleyan and NCAA Division I Indiana State. Lake Superior State and Bellarmine were ranked in last season’s final national poll.

Improved talent UIS will attack the schedule with a mix of seven returning players and six newcomers. “We took a baby step last year,” Walker said. “We made the playoffs. We finished strong. "We were playing well at the end, but it’s time for us as a program to take the next step. It’s hard to gain ground in this league, but that’s our challenge.”

This story appeared online in The State Journal-Register on October 13, 2015.

Read the entire article here.