Hansen, Mavs ready to get season rolling

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October 15th, 2013

Omaha, NE – With game day less than a month away, the University of Nebraska at Omaha men’s basketball team has a lot to improve on, according to head coach Derrin Hansen.

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He would like the team to place in the upper half of the Summit League, which would be an improvement from last year. But he said his team has come a long way in the offseason. Specifically he said junior guard CJ Carter has improved his physique from last year.

“I think like everybody on our team we’ve all developed over the season,” Hansen said. “But CJ has really gotten bigger, he has added some weight. He has always been quick he has been able to score the basketball but to be able to take the nightly grind and the physicality of the league so to speak, I think that weight will really help CJ.”

Darrin Hansen enters his ninth season as UNO's head coach. (Photo courtesy KVNO News)

Darrin Hansen enters his ninth season as UNO’s head coach. (Photo courtesy KVNO News)

UNO is not eligible for the NCAA or NIT tournaments until 2015-2016. But the Mavericks are eligible to play in the College Basketball Invitational – a 16 team postseason tournament and the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, if they qualify. Hansen said his team’s goal is to win them all, but he did point out a few games that stood out to him.

“Right now there (are) 30 of them,’ Hansen said. “To be politically correct you don’t categorize opponents. But there are some, when you look at being able to play in Big Ten venues, to be able to play at Minnesota at Williams Arena, to be able to play at Carver-Hawkeye (Arena), to be able to play in Vegas at UNLV. Those are all great games for us, and I understand that, but when you have to play South Carolina State home-and-home those are equally if not maybe more important.”

Since the move by UNO to Division-I in March of 2011, Hansen has always referenced the ‘process’ as the cornerstone of what it takes to succeed. The process represents the everyday inner workings that are not necessarily seen by the public, like lifting weights and team practices. Senior guard Caleb Steffensmeier has been a key contributor to the team’s evolvement to D-I basketball. Steffensmeier said he sees this season as a defining moment for UNO basketball.

Senior guard Caleb Steffensmeier (right) yields to questions at UNO Basketball Media Day Tuesday. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

Senior guard Caleb Steffensmeier (right) yields to questions at UNO Basketball Media Day Tuesday. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

“(It is the) last go around, got to live it up,” Steffensmeier said. “We are really excited about this season a lot of returners a lot of experience. I think that will definitely help. Our news guys as well they have brought a lot of competitiveness in practice they have worked very hard. We are really quick off the bench, we can get up and pressure. Coach has the ability to play now to play either, nine maybe 10 guys even, instead of six or seven. We definitely have a lot of depth and I think that will transition to fun basketball.”

Hansen knows the competition from Summit League teams will be non-stop, but he sees North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Denver as the league’s biggest threats.

“We understand those three teams are probably better than everyone else, at least on paper,” Hansen said. “But that’s why we play the games. We are going to see where we stack up at the end.”

UNO returns four starters from last season so the core of last year’s team is back. On the other hand, the Mavs welcome four newcomers, three are college transfers. Hansen said his team is a work in progress and he is excited to start the season. UNO’s first game is November 8th in Dekalb, Ill. at 7pm against Northern Illinois.

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