FULLERTON, Calif. -- The 2013-14 men's basketball season is officially underway as Cal State Fullerton took to the court for the first time as a team Saturday afternoon, gathering for their inaugural practice under first-year head coach Dedrique Taylor.
"I thought our team had good energy, high attention to detail, and solid pace today," Taylor said. "We still have a long way to go and a lot to learn and get better at, but I was pleased with our time together today. We wanted to set the tone today by emphasizing that we have to defend, rebound, and be fundamentally sound, and we are far from that, but I think our guys got the message. We have to do all those things to give ourselves a chance at any type of success."
Saturday's practice was a long time in coming for Taylor, a native of nearby Pomona, Calif., who takes the reins as a head coach for the first time in his career. Taylor was hired as the 11th coach in the history of the Cal State Fullerton program back on April 3 after spending 13 years as an assistant -- the last seven at Pacific-12 Conference power Arizona State.
"It did feel official today," Taylor said. "I didn't sleep much last night because I was so excited about today and what it means for our program. We have looked forward to this day for a long time and for it to be here it was surreal."
Thanks to new NCAA legislation that moved the start date for the first official practice up by more than two weeks, the entire 16-member Fullerton squad ran through drills over a two-and-a-half hour span, working together under the watch of their first-year coaching staff -- which includes Associate Head Coach John Smith and Assistant Coaches Danny Sprinkle and Rob Spence -- for the first time.
"It was a lot of fun to be with this group for extended amount of time today," Taylor said. "Right now being on the floor with this group is the best part of my day. They seem to have carried over some of the fundamental concepts we have introduced up to this point fairly well. We had some encouraging moments today but the film will give us the greatest feedback."
The student-athletes also did their part in creating the kind of chemistry needed to be successful, something that wasn't lost on Taylor.
"I was surprised and excited at how together we seem to be at this early stage," Taylor said. "Guys were trying to hold each other accountable, coaching each other, and encouraging one another, which is awesome to see."
However, Saturday was only "day one" and, although the first day provided some bright spots, it's a long road through a difficult 2013-14 schedule to the Big West and postseason tournaments in March.
"Starting with today and over the course of the next five days, I want to see where we are as a team with our talent, our toughness, our athleticism, our understanding of the concepts we've introduced and where we are conditioning," Taylor said. "Conceptually we were solid, but I think we are pretty deficient in all the other areas. I want to find out how we deal with adversity so we'll take the next few days to put ourselves in some adverse situations and see where we stand."
Cal State Fullerton, which finished 14-18 overall and 6-12 in Big West play a season ago, returns two starters and six players overall for the 2013-14 campaign while welcoming eight new faces to the roster. The Titans open the season with an exhibition at home on Nov. 2 at against Redlands at 6 p.m., before starting the regular season with four of its first five on the road, beginning on Nov. 9 at Montana State. Fullerton will host Santa Clara in their home opener on Nov. 16 at 3 p.m.