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Published: Sunday, 12/14/2008

New coaches at UT use breaks to recruit

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Gene Cross and Tricia Cullop have directed their University of Toledo basketball programs for a month s worth of games, and so far the results haven t sparkled.

As the Rockets men s and women s basketball teams break for final exams, each first-year coach has been able to step back and take a look at their teams, while also dispatching their assistants to recruit. Cross and Cullop will hit the road for a bit as well, as the teams don t play again until Friday (women) and Saturday (men).

Through nine games, the men s basketball team is 2-7 and the women s hoops team is 3-6. Each squad has played just one home game.

A lot of teams make a lot of adjustments this time of year, Cross said. We hope we can find our identity or establish one.

Each team s most recent loss was a tough one to sit on heading into a break. On Tues-day the men fell to previously winless Wright State 50-35. On Wednesday, the women were outrebounded 56-21 in a loss at Temple, 73-46. That rebounding edge was hard for Cullop to see.

Rebounding is effort, it s not a skill, Cullop said. Everyone can box out and sacrifice their body. I think people got frustrated and let that affect everything else we did. We are better than that, and my job is to demand that every day in practice.

To deal with some of the problems he saw in the Wright State game, Cross held a back-to-basics practice on Thursday. He plans to do some recruiting today and tomorrow, and his assistant coaches have been in and out the last few days.

It s a great time for our assistants to get on the road, Cross said. It gives an opportunity for some guys to get out and see some kids that we ve been involved with already or new kids for us to get involved with down the road.

It s a lot easier to assess what you have after going through a full spring, summer, fall and now the season. You really see what people are capable of, or not capable of for that matter. It becomes more and more evident what our needs are.

Cross said the Rockets know they need to sign a ball-handler. He has one available scholarship remaining for next fall as of right now after signing three players last month. Another scholarship that could be in question for next year is that of redshirt freshman Terrance Tubbs. Tubbs has missed seven games with a shoulder injury and was not with the team for several days last week.

We re in the evaluation process with Tubbs as it relates to his injury and as it relates to his status with this program and his status with the university, Cross said.

Cullop also has one scholarship remaining for the 2009 class, but said most of what she and her assistants are working on is for the classes of 2010 and 2011. Cullop planned to go recruiting yesterday.

We have one kid that we definitely want to have come visit, and if that doesn t work out we have some other kids in line, Cullop said. We ve already got offers for the next class out. You have to keep recruiting the next two classes or you re behind.

The four players Cullop signed last month all live within a two-hour radius of Toledo. But Cullop wants to continue recruiting overseas, which worked for her at Evansville and seems to have a positive effect so far at UT with freshman point guard Naama Shafir (14 points, 3.3 assists per game), a native of Israel.

We want to get the best talent we possibly can in here, Cullop said. That starts with the surrounding area. And we want to continue to hit the Michigan area harder.

When we can t find the player in our area that fits the mold of what we need at a specific position, we re going to look wherever it takes. It doesn t matter if they re from the United States or overseas or wherever. We have got to find the players we need to win championships.

As for this year, Cross doesn t want his team, or anyone else, to hang their head, for there are still a lot of games left to play. He hopes the Rockets can use this break to the fullest.

I ve got to make some adjustments with this team so I can bring out their strengths, Cross said. My job as a coach is to try to figure out how to make these guys productive. We have the proof we can play in spurts, but you have to put them together.

Contact Maureen Fulton at:mfulton@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.



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