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As he was exiting the court after practice early last week, University of Toledo men's basketball coach Tod Kowalczyk turned toward junior guard Curtis Dennis and hollered, "Eleven more days, Curtis!"
An exasperated Dennis replied, "Seems like it's taking forever."
That countdown for Dennis is down to just one day. Saturday night, he'll take the floor with the Rockets for the first time when they take on Youngstown State at 7 p.m. at Savage Arena.
Dennis joined the Rockets last January after transferring from New Mexico and per NCAA rules had to sit out until the conclusion of the fall semester this season. So with final examinations wrapping up at UT on Friday, Dennis is now eligible to play.
"It means a lot to me," Dennis said Thursday. "I've been waiting for a whole year. I can finally get on the court with my teammates and help them out."
Kowalczyk said he plans to have Dennis come off the bench against Youngstown State and provide some much-needed depth for a team that's been primarily using a seven-man rotation.
"We probably have played certain guys too many minutes in the course of a game," Kowalczyk said. "Now we can limit guys' [minutes], which I think will help us play better down the stretch of games."
Dennis (6-5, 195) is known as one of the Rockets' best shooters, evidenced by his 40 percent 3-point shooting average in prep school.
It's also a part of his game Dennis is constantly working on. Last summer, Dennis said he put up an average of 500 shots per day and during the season he still gets up about 150 per day.
"It's about rhythm and repetition," Dennis said, "and you have to concentrate on shooting the same shot every time."
At the same time, Kowalczyk said he sees other parts of Dennis' game that he believes can benefit the Rockets (6-3), who have lost two straight.
"I think he's a guy that isn't just a shooter," Kowalczyk said. "He's a good basketball player. He's a guy that can play off the dribble, he can make plays for others, he's a smart player, and defensively, I give him credit because he's gotten an awful lot better since he's gotten here."
A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Dennis played in 10 games for New Mexico last season, averaging 2.9 points and 0.7 assists in 9.4 minutes per game before leaving to pursue other opportunities.
Although Dennis acknowledged the last year away from basketball was difficult, he already went through a similar experience as a redshirt his freshman year with the Lobos.
"It's tougher, though, when you see your team lose because you feel like you could help them out," said Dennis, who is studying criminal justice at UT.
"I'm just hoping to come in and hit some shots, play defense, and help my team win games."
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @ZachSilka.