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Dominican trip gives basketball Red Wolves head start


A- State playing a series of exhibition games ahead of next hoops season

Paxton News Bureau JONESBORO — While Mike Balado wants to win next week’s exhibition games in the Dominican Republic, he wants to experiment quite a bit, too.

Arkansas State is getting an early start on preparations for the 2022-23 men’s basketball season, Balado’s sixth as head coach, with its first trip out of the country since the 2013-14 team traveled to Canada. The Red Wolves will play three games during a nine-day trip to the Dominican Republic.

ASU lost four of the five starters from last year’s 18-11 team, including Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Norchad Omier.

The roster includes nine newcomers.

“Last year obviously with Omier in the middle we did a lot of throwing the ball inside and kind of watching him go to work a little bit.

This team is a lot more strength in numbers,” Balado said Wednesday.

“I’ve toyed with platooning. I’ve toyed with pressing more with certain lineups and not others, playing two completely different styles of basketball depending on who’s in there.

“That’s stuff we’re going to look at over the next week.

We’re going to try it all. I want to win every game, don’t get me wrong. I’m going in there competing, but at the same time it’s really for us to get better and for me to look at different stuff leading into November.”

The Red Wolves will play the Dominican Republic National Team on Sunday at 2 p.m. Central, a Dominican Republic Select Team on Monday at 5 p.m., and the Dominican Republic U-22 team on Wednesday, Aug. 10, at 5 p.m. As part of the trip, ASU players and staff are scheduled to conduct a clinic for kids on Saturday.

NCAA rules permit 10 days of practice prior to departure for a foreign trip, which Balado described as the biggest benefit. The Red Wolves have practiced against zone and press defenses, something Balado said they’ve never done in the summer, in addition to covering lategame and other specific situations.

ASU’s roster has length with six players standing 6-foot-6 or taller, including four newcomers.

“I’ve played so many different lineups over the past seven weeks, different guys playing together,” said Balado, who was able to work with the team on a limited basis before the Red Wolves started their trip preparations. “Some look better than others, but I’d like to see them against outside competition and how much can they have retained over the last six and half, seven weeks doing stuff, live play against somebody they don’t know.

“Now we have to guard actions that we’ve gone over, that we haven’t seen live. Hopefully we’re effi-

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Photo courtesy of A-State RED WOLVES (cont.)

cient in those areas, but mostly efficient in guys retaining information and how hard they play, just to see if the conditioning is there.” unior point guard Caleb Fields, ASU’s lone returning starter, said he’s been impressed with the Red Wolves’ versatility, length and shooting ability.

“I think it’s good to go out and play somebody else besides ourselves to see where we match up with different lineups and different teams,” Fields said. ields has made 74 career starts at ASU, including all 29 games last season. He averaged 7.3 points, 4.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds for the 2021-22 Red Wolves.

Senior guard/forward Markise Davis averaged 6.2 points while seeing action in 25 games, with seven starts. Sophomore guards Malcolm Farrington and Avery Felts were also part of the rotation along with junior forward Antwon Jackson. Redshirt freshman guard Caleb London is back after sitting out last season with an injury.

“Caleb Fields and Markise will have the most experience as far as minutes played over the last two and a half years, especially Fields, who has started since he walked through the door. I know those guys, I feel comfortable,” Balado said. “The returners right now know the system, they feel comfortable. You can tell at times they make adjustments on their own because they know what they’re doing. Malcolm and Avery are guys who are going to play a lot.

“To tell you who starts, I don’t know. I plan to start a different lineup every game. I plan to play different guys together, so it’s not even about who’s ready. It’s more so getting

“He said he’s not going down there to lose, so play as hard as you can,” Fields said. “No matter who we’re playing, we’re going down there to win, but it’s kind of hard because we have new guys and the zone, or different stuff, he’ll put in later. I think we’ll figure it out.”

ASU’s backcourt additions include junior college transfers Mak Manciel and Detrick Reeves along with freshman Terrance Ford Jr.

Newcomers on the front line include 6-8 graduate transfer Omar El-Sheikh, 7-2 Florida State transfer Alaaeddine Boutayeb, 6-6 junior college transfer Julian Lual and 6-10 freshman Izaiyah Nelson.

Balado said El-Sheikh, who has previous Division I experience at Fairfield, has caught on quickly as a graduate transfer. Ford has made the biggest jump from day one because he’s facing Fields every day in practice, Balado said, while Nelson has had the most consistent summer and Manciel plays with confidence.

“The things I’m looking for are effort, enthusiasm and execution,” Balado said.

“Whatever the outcome of the game, and we obviously want to win, I want to see those three things on a consistent basis by everybody. Then we’ll figure out what the best lineups are playing with each other.”

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