OXFORD -- Although Oxford College students were off earlier this week for their annual fall break, the two-day respite from the classroom didn't mean a vacation from the court for the men's basketball team.
The Eagles -- who open the season at 2 p.m. Saturday, hosting South Carolina-based Fundamentals 4 Success in an exhibition game -- spent fall break with two-a-day practices and team-building exercises. But lest anyone think it was all basketball, the Oxford players also watched "Monday Night Football" together and planned a bowling outing.
"We started on Oct. 1 and have had about 11 practices," Oxford coach Roderick Stubbs said Monday evening. "It's going very well. We're putting in new material every day and the guys are working hard and doing well. We've had a whole lot of teaching to do with 10 new players, so we've spent a lot of time breaking things down for the freshmen."
Entering the season ranked No. 1 in the Georgia Junior College Athletic Association's inaugural Division III poll, Oxford won't bring great size when they come to play, so Stubbs said he's planning to employ a host of four- and even five-guard strategies.
"We emphasize defense first," he said. "We want to make stops on the defensive end of the floor, and with our team of guards, we'll play up-tempo in the open court. We want to shoot more, and better, than our opponents. Because we're not very big, we've been working hard on not allowing the defense more than one shot."
The Eagles return a pair of standout players in 6-foot-5 guard/forward Evan Dunwoodie (West Forsyth) and 6-0 guard Stephen Simmons, from Tampa. Simmons averaged 16 points and 3.4 rebounds per game and Dunwoodie added 10 points and four rebounds last season. Both Dunwoodie and Simmons were named preseason All-Conference competitors.
Stubbs said that of the new recruits, Newton High School's Alex Ordu, Zach Lynn of Buford and Kevin Tolbert of Jenkins High in Savannah have been particularly impressive in early practices.
"Alex has done extremely well," said Stubbs, now in his seventh season at Oxford. "He's a very heady player and has great experience moving a team. Zach Lynn is a 6-foot shooting guard who's a great outside shooter and Tolbert, who will play both power forward and small forward, has done very well in practice ... We haven't decided on a starting unit yet, but we'll probably have two or three newcomers in the lineup."
After Saturday's exhibition against Fundamentals 4 Success, the Eagles will host a final exhibition -- on Saturday, Oct. 22 against Central Georgia Tech College at Williams Gymnasium -- but not before the team's annual Midnight Madness on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
Oxford's regular season opener is set for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, against Truett-McConnell's junior varsity. The Eagles' GJCAA conference opener is Friday, Dec. 12, at Southern Crescent Technical College in Griffin.
"We're looking forward to Saturday," Stubbs said. "We want to see how some of our new things work out against competition other than ourselves."
For more information on the Oxford men's basketball team, visit www.oxford.emory.edu/athletics.