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New season, new players: Freshmen Jenkins, Mann will vie for playing time

As the men’s basketball team tips off the 2010-2011 season, two freshmen will be called upon to step up and be contributors. Their names? Blake Jenkins and J.J. Mann.

Jenkins was redshirted last year. His main role was mimicking opponents during practice, but this year, he’s expected to contribute on the court. Head coach Rick Byrd said he thinks Jenkins is ready to compete, but expects a learning curve, as well.

Byrd described Jenkins, a 6-foot-7 forward, as a “shut-down defender,” and added that he is shooting the ball better than expected this early in his career. “He gives us a lot that no one else gives us on the team,” Byrd said.

His length and athleticism has impressed the coaching staff. Student assistant coach T.J. Saint said, “Jenkins will be instant help. He can change the dynamic of the team defensively.”

Mann, who starred at Marist high school in Smyrna, Ga., played at Hargrave Military Academy last year against some of the best competition in the country.

“He figures out a way to win, he competes,” Byrd said. The coach also described Mann’s will-to-win mentality as “infectious.”

Byrd said he sees Mann as a “heady, smart, tough, blue collar kind of guy.”

After tying for the regular season conference championship last year, the Bruins look for another successful season. “We want to put another banner up,” assistant coach Brian Ayers said.

No pressure for a freshman.

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