With new league on the horizon, ODU gets ready for college hoops season

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NORFOLK (WAVY) — When Old Dominion hits the floor on Tuesday for it’s season opener against Virginia Wesleyan, expect a few familiar faces and few new ones, too.

Kalu Ezikpe, A.J. Oliver, Austin Trice and Jaylin Hunter are back, but with 1,500 players in the transfer portal this off season, fans are going to have to get acclimated to some new players.

“I think C.J. Keyser (NC Central) and Charles Smith (SMU), our two starting wings, being transfers, they are coming into the season a little bit as unknown,” coach Jeff Jones said. “I think they give us a shooting-scoring punch.”

“But the one I would really single out is (guard) Mekhi Long. Not many people last year got a chance to see him, he’s a transfer from Rhode Island and he does a little bit of everything.”

Jones says Conference USA should come down to a five team race between ODU, Western Kentucky, UAB, Marshall and Louisiana Tech.

“I think it’s hard to predict those kinds of things, you never know, just like us a lot of those teams have new faces,” Jones said. “Any of those five teams could be cutting down the nets in Conference USA.”

Old Dominion will be leaving C-USA for the Sun Belt Conference as early as July with ODU aligned in an East Division with JMU, Marshall, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State and Georgia Southern.

“When the time comes to make that jump to the Sun Belt we’ll be ready for it and looking forward to that challenge,” Jones said. “Right now the big thing for us is maintain our focus and be as good in Conference USA as we can.”

And the long grind of a college basketball season begins on Tuesday with actual fans in the stands.

“I think there’s a high level of excitement that we all feel.”

After Tuesday’s game against Virginia Wesleyan, ODU plays at future fellow Sun Belt member James Madison on Saturday.

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