MORAGA, Calif. -- A busy offseason has finally come to a close for the Saint Mary's men's basketball team as the Gaels now look to get the 2013-14 season started on a good note with Friday's 8:30 p.m. game against Louisiana Tech.
Friday's game will not be televised, but live streaming video will be available on SMCGaels.com. Voice of the Gaels Alex Jensen returns to call all the action this season, with live audio for each Saint Mary's game available on SMCGaels.com. Live statistics will also be available throughout the game and can be accessed through the website as well.
Saint Mary's opens the new season looking to replicate and surpass the success enjoyed over the past decade-plus under head coach Randy Bennett.
The Gaels return eight lettermen from a 2012-13 team that went 28-7 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Two starters -- guard Stephen Holt and center Brad Waldow -- return and each earned a spot on the All-West Coast Conference preseason team.
This year's squad is a senior-laden group, with five talented and tough upperclassmen looking to make their impact both on and off the court. Holt, Beau Levesque, James Walker III, Matt Hodgson and Paul McCoy all return for their final campaign in a SMC uniform, and each will bring a unique style to this year's team.
Friday's contest is just the start of what promises to be a challenging non-conference slate for Bennett's squad. The Gaels play their first seven games in McKeon Pavilion, welcoming in accomplished teams in Louisiana Tech, Akron, North Dakota State, Alcorn State, Murray State and Eastern Washington.
That march begins Friday with SMC's visitors from Ruston, La. The Bulldogs are in the midst of a conference switch this season, as last season's Western Athletic Conference (WAC) regular season champs make the move this year to Conference USA.
And, even with the switch, many pundits believe that head coach Michael White's group should fare quite well its new surroundings. Blue Ribbon Yearbook, Athlon Magazine and USA Today all predicted Louisiana Tech to win its new conference, with Southern Miss and UTEP the most commonly mentioned challengers for the crown.
Guard Raheem Appleby, a junior from Jacksonville, Ark., returns as the Bulldogs' leading scorer after averaging 14.9 points per game last season. Appleby was a first-team All-WAC selection one season ago.
Appleby isn't the only All-WAC performer returning for Louisiana Tech this season. Junior guard Kenneth Smith earned that distinction as well after averaging 6.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists last year. Smith and forward Michale Kyser were All-WAC defensive team selections, and guard Alex Hamilton was a member of the All-WAC Newcomer team.
After Friday's game, Saint Mary's will take the weekend to practice before returning to the court on Tuesday morning at midnight to face Akron as part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. That game will be televised live on ESPN2. Tickets to that game, as well as the Louisiana Tech game and all other Saint Mary's home contests, are available by clicking the Tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.