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Former Catholic High of Baton Rouge standout Kentrell Garnett (2) is a walk-on member of the UL Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team.

You can hear it in his voice.

UL men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin just can’t wait until practice starts Oct. 14.

His hopes for the 2020-21 college basketball season are as high as they have been in the past four seasons.

“We’ve got more depth now than we’ve had in years — back to the 17-18 team,” Marlin said. “We’ve got guys that put the team first and care about winning. They really support each other, they love the game and it’s exciting to visit with these guys and go to practice each day to watch them work.”

Marlin’s juices likely got flowing even more Thursday with the release of the Sun Belt Conference schedule. UL opens on the road at South Alabama on New Year’s Eve and plays four of its first six on the road, before a five-game homestand to close.

“January will be a very important month for us,” Marlin said.

The entire schedule hasn’t been released. It was supposed to begin Nov. 10 with a road game against Texas, but UL lost four games between Nov. 10 and 25. As of now, the new season opener will be Nov. 25 but details are still not finalized.

“We’re still trying to make sure the teams that we are playing adhere to the Sun Belt protocol for testing,” Marlin explained.

The biggest reason for Marlin’s anticipation is a recruiting class that provides more size and rebounding, thanks largely to 6-foot-11 junior transfer Theo Akwuba and 6-10 freshman signee Isaiah Richards.

“The influx of talent is very crucial,” Marlin said. “We have a really good recruiting class. We got a couple of guys that were able to receive waivers — one is 6-11 and one is 6-10. Those guys can do some things for us on the frontline … just the shooting and the length on the wings, plus to add Durey (Cadwell) and Kobe (Julien) back into the mix.”

Cadwell missed all last season with an injury, and Julien was lost to another knee injury in early November. Marlin said the Cajuns found out last week that Julien got a sixth-year waiver, so he’s still a freshman.

In other news, UL is still awaiting word from the NCAA on a potential waiver on Jacobi Gordon.

The reason for optimism is the injury report.

Julien will be officially cleared Tuesday, and Cadwell will be ready by Oct. 14. Brayan Au had some “floating cartilage behind his knee taken out a week and a half ago and he’s doing tremendous.” He also should be ready by Oct. 14.

The biggest remaining issue is junior guard Trajan Wesley with his lingering foot pain.

“He hasn’t been able to practice consistently yet,” Marlin said of Wesley.

Wesley is a valuable floor leader  on a team that Marlin foresees enjoying great team chemistry.

“We’ve got a team that really believes in each other,” Marlin said. “We’ve got a true team this year that I feel like us is going to be entertaining and going to be exciting and is going to have a great opportunity to win the conference.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure we get to the court.”

If the injury bug stays away this season, Marlin envisions a more balanced attack.

“I think we’ll play better defense, we’ll be a better rebounding team and I think we’ll share the ball more,” Marlin said. “We were short-handed last year and had a couple of guys dominate the ball and that’s not going to happen this season.”

Marlin is also excited about two in-state guards. One is signee Michael Thomas from Hamilton Christian in Lake Charles.

“Mike Thomas really came on and has really had a great summer,” Marlin said. “He’s been impressive. He’s got to get stronger, but he definitely got better. He committed to us as a junior, and he got better as a senior. He’s shooting the ball a lot better than I remember. That’s been a pleasant surprise.”

The other is Kentrell Garnett, a walk-on from Catholic-Baton Rouge.

“He’s doing extremely well,” Marlin said. “He’s really done a nice job defensively for us and shooting the basketball.

“Fine young man. We feel confident that he can step in and help us if he’s ready when the time comes.”

Marlin isn’t shy about saying he feels this year’s squad could compete for a league crown.

“Looking forward to having a good season, a healthy season, and the opportunity to get to Pensacola and compete for the NCAA bid,” he said.

UL's Sun Belt schedule

December

31 at South Alabama.

January

2 at Troy; 7 Georgia State; 9 Georgia Southern; 14 at UTA; 16 at Texas State' 19 ULM; 21 Appalachian State; 23 Coastal Carolina; 28 Arkansas State; 30 Little Rock.

February

4 at Georgia State; 6 at Georgia Southern; 13 at ULM; 18 UTA; 20 Texas State; 25 at Arkansas State; 27 at Little Rock.


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.