Fall is upon us.

Believe it or not, so is the beginning of basketball practice.

"Even though our guys are very experienced, you gotta start from the very beginning," said Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman. "It's basically basketball camp right here as we get started."

Mercer's men's team is loaded with seven seniors. The group earned the regular season A-SUN championship, and upset Tennessee in the NIT. Bud Thomas wants more than that in 2013.

"In our eyes, we feel like we kind of had a disappointing year," said Thomas, a senior forward. "Our goal was to win the tournament and make an appearance in the NCAA tournament."

The Bears lost to Florida Gulf Coast University in the ASUN Championship game. They want to erase that memory.

"Dunk city this, dunk city that. That easily could have been us. It's pretty painful to watch to tell you the truth," said senior forward Daniel Coursey.

Coursey led the team in blocks last year. Like Thomas, he's ready for one last season in the orange and black.

"We want to do what FGCU did last year and more, if we can."

These seniors have big dreams - 51 wins in two seasons will do that.

"The CIT, the NIT, we're all hoping now that the next step will be the NCAA [tournament]."

For all of Mercer's experience, it will miss two players from last year's run. Travis Smith, the team's leading scorer, and Chris Smith, a shot in the arm off the bench, both graduated. Guards Ike Nwamu and Philip Leonard will have to step up in 2013.

"They have a physical presence about them," said Hoffman. "If they continue to develop as they have so far, it's going to give us an element we haven't had in a while."

The Bears are putting the pieces together.

"I'm really fired up to see what happens in the days ahead," said Hoffman.

They've got six weeks to get ready for Texas.

Follow 13WMAZ's Wes Blankenship on twitter: @Wes_nship

Read or Share this story: