The start of the 2012-13 college basketball season is more than five months away, but practice begins today.
It's only two hours a week over an eight-week summer period, according to a new NCAA rule. Yet for local coaches, it's a chance to acclimate several new players and reinforce what they've taught to those returning.
"When you're bringing in seven new guys, and you have four returning scholarship players, this is huge for us," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said last week.
Under NCAA rules, players either have to be enrolled in summer school or be in good academic standing in order to practice if they are not in summer school.
The new rule has been in the works for "about five or six years," Turgeon said, but he can remember discussions starting as far back as 1988, when he was a young assistant at Kansas.
"I think it originally started when we lost in the  Olympics," Turgeon said of a team that was then made up strictly of college players. "We started fighting for more time, and we got two [extra] hours a week [then]. We just want to have more access to our kids."
Turgeon, who plans to run 16 one-hour practices, credits his assistant coaches with getting all the paperwork in place. Turgeon said Maryland's administration, which in the past moved slowly when it came to eligibility issues regarding prospective basketball players, "was great.
It was something we had to get done. It probably wouldn't have happened in the past."
Towson coach Pat Skerry said the recent push resulted, in part, after many college players used trainers or skills coaches over the summer when they couldn't be with their teams.
"I think what [the NCAA is] slowly realizing is that the kids are going to play and work out in the offseason," Skerry said. "Of course we want to work out with them."
For the Terps, it will be the first time Turgeon will be able to coach members of a much-talked-about freshman class and two transfers.
Of the freshmen, only small forward Jake Layman won't be there from the start. His high school class in Massachusetts doesn't graduate until sometime next week. Layman, a 6-foot-8 shooter considered by many to be the most skilled player in the recruiting class, will also be delayed by the fact that he was invited to the under-18 national team tryout in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"If Jake makes the [national] team, he'll only be here a couple of weeks. If he doesn't make the team, he'll be here six, seven weeks," Turgeon said.
Transfer Evan Smotrycz, who left Michigan after his sophomore year, will be available from the start, though Albany transfer Logan Aronhalt, who Turgeon announced Monday will join the Terps next season as a graduate student, will likely not have his paperwork finalized until late next week at the earliest.
"If we had not been able to get our freshmen in like we were able to do, it really would have been a disadvantage for us," Turgeon said.
Maryland, which finished 17-15 in Turgeon's first season in College Park, is hoping to do what Loyola accomplished last season -- make the NCAA tournament.
Loyola, which set a school record for wins and played in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994, will start practicing in early June, Greyhounds coach Jimmy Patsos said Friday.
Patsos said he will have five new players returning to a team that lost senior Shane Walker, who graduated, and sophomore guard Justin Drummond, who transferred, from its regular rotation.
"You really get to know your teammates when you're on the floor with the coach," Patsos said. "You can become more of a team. It's different than when you're playing pickup or lifting or whatever. This builds a little chemistry with the guys. I'm really excited about it."
Patsos said he will use the sessions to "teach our basic press and teach our basic offense."
Skerry will use the workouts at Towson to integrate several new players -- including Big East Conference transfers Jerrelle Benimon (Georgetown), Mike Burwell (South Florida) and Bilal Dixon (Providence) -- as well as helping those who survived last year's 1-31 disaster to take another step away from that season-long nightmare, which included the Tigers' 41st straight loss, an NCAA Division I record.
All but Dixon will be eligible next season.
Only about half of the team will be available for the first part of the summer workouts, Skerry said.
"The first session we'll concentrate on [individual] skill work," Skerry said. "And then the second session when we have just about our entire team, we'll spend it all on hand-to-hand combat and defensive stuff."
Notes: Turgeon said walk-on Jonathan Thomas of Frederick has decided not to return for his senior year after playing with the team last season. ... Damonte Dodd, a 6-10 forward from Queen Anne's County High School, is headed to prep school, a source close to the situation confirmed. Dodd had committed to the Terps back in February but had not signed his letter of intent.