The University of New Orleans men’s basketball team will begin practice a little bit later in the year than they usually would, but coach Mark Slessinger plans on using all the time he can to prepare his young team for the upcoming season.

With a roster comprised of nine players classified as either freshmen or sophomores, Slessinger knows that it will take time before the team can truly play as one unit. But utilizing an extended offseason program can be the first step in building the team they are striving to become.

“We’ve got a very exciting, young group,” Slessinger said. “They’re growing at a quicker rate than I expected ... We’ll be able to play a little differently than we have in the past.”

While veterans like junior forward Kevin Hill and UL-Lafayette transfer Kevin Brown will make their presence felt, Slessinger hasn’t been shy about the fact that he plans on putting a lot of responsibility in the hands of his young players. He likens it to the experience he had during one season while coaching at Northwestern State.

“We had a group where we were the youngest team in the country at that point, so learning from that experience will help us a lot this year,” Slessinger said. “We can get rid of some of the things we got wrong that year and focus more on the things we got right.”

Slessinger may be able to use his experiences to help his players, but they will have to go through their own experiences during the season before they can truly grow as individuals and as a team.

“They’re going to be thrown in the fire and they’re going to have to learn on the job,” Slessinger said.

“The team we’ll see in November and December will be much different from the team we see in February.”

UNO begins practicing for the 2014-15 season on October 21 and they will begin the season on Nov. 18 at the Lakefront Arena against Pensacola Christian College.