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Fri, Nov. 15

Preview: NAZ Suns optimistic about 4th season in Prescott Valley; tip off Saturday
NBA G League

Northern Arizona Suns center Norense Odiase shoots a free throw at practice Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. (Brian M. Bergner Jr./Courier)

Northern Arizona Suns center Norense Odiase shoots a free throw at practice Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. (Brian M. Bergner Jr./Courier)

PRESCOTT VALLEY — Come Saturday, the Northern Arizona Suns will tipoff the 2019-2020 campaign, their fourth at Findlay Toyota Center, and it can’t come soon enough.

Second-year head coach Bret Burchard said players have made “progress” during training camp but after two weeks, they’re ready to play someone else besides themselves.

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2019-20 NAZ Suns Roster

“[They’ve been] beating up on each other. It’s a competitive group, a group that plays hard and they’re starting to play together,” Burchard said in an interview with the Courier on Nov. 6. “[I’m] excited to see … real competition, and see where we’re at.”

Aaron Epps and Daxter Miles Jr., two of four returning players who were on the roster a season ago, said they’re “anxious” and “excited” to get the season underway.

“It’s been fun. Coming in, I actually know stuff now, and I’m able to help the younger guys,” said Epps, who was taken with the sixth-overall pick in the first round of the 2018 NBA G League Draft by the Suns.

“Everyone likes each other, everyone is fun to be around. It’s different than I thought,” Epps added.

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Northern Arizona Suns General Manager Jeff Feld, left, and head coach Bret Burchard talk after practice Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, in Prescott Valley. The Suns open the 2019-2020 season Saturday at home against Agua Caliente. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. at the Findlay Toyota Center. (Brian M. Bergner Jr./Courier)

The 6-foot-10 forward out of LSU averaged 10.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in 49 games played during his rookie campaign.

“I’m anxious, I have to continue to grow as a player and a person. I need to keep working hard and thing will happen for me,” Epps said.

As for Miles, who also played in 49 games a season ago, averaging 10.3 points and 2.4 assists per contest, the West Virginia product said it’s going to “be a good year.”

“We got some ballers on the team, and it’s a good group of guys, like I said, we gel off the court, too, and that’s a big part of success in my eyes,” Miles said.

ShawnDre Jones (Richmond) and Tryvon Palmer (Chicago State) are the other two returners for Northern Arizona, which went 12-38 overall a season ago and missed the G League playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

NEWCOMERS

No. 1-overall pick Anthony Lawrence II (Miami) and 6-foot-6 guard Keljin Blevins (Montana State) made the roster, while affiliate players David Kramer (Slovakia), Norense Odiase (Texas Tech) and Tariq Owens (Texas Tech) also made the cut.

Rounding out the roster are Phoenix Suns assignee Jalen Lecque, and two-way contract guard Jared Harper (Auburn). Local tryout and 6-foot-7, 220-pound McNeese State product Stephen Ugochukwu also made the team.

UP NEXT

Northern Arizona (0-0) opens the 2019-2020 season with five of their first seven games at the Findlay Toyota Center in November, the first is Saturday, Nov. 9, as the Suns host Agua Caliente. Tipoff is at 5 p.m.

Texas (Nov. 13), Rio Grande Valley (Nov. 17) are the next two home games, and after a brief road trip to Santa Cruz on Nov. 21, the Suns return home to face the Lakeland Magic (Nov. 23) and Iowa on Nov. 26.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is news/sports editor for The Daily Courier of the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud at @TheEditorDesk. Email him at bbergner@prescottaz.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.

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