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Sellers can't wait to get CCSU men's basketball back on track

New Britain — The first time Patrick Sellers stepped on the Central Connecticut State University campus, he was an 18-year-old high school basketball recruit from South Carolina.

Bill Detrick was the head coach. CCSU joined the Division I ranks a few years earlier.

Back then, Sellers never imagined he'd eventually become head coach of the Blue Devils.

Hired in May, Sellers is just months into his new job at a place that he considers home. He called the chance to coach at his alma mater a dream come true.

"You go to a school, you get a four-year scholarship, but it's a lifetime," Sellers said. "You get friends and family. I'm living here. I'm in a group text with all the guys I played with. Since I got the job, we have reconnected. So, it's been good."

Sellers, who replaced Donyell Marshall, is a first-time head coach after 21 years as an assistant.

A 1991 graduate and former CCSU assistant, Sellers, 53, has a deep and strong connection to the school.

He understands the challenges ahead. The Blue Devils haven't had a winning season since 2010-11.

He also knows what the program is capable of from his experience as an assistant on Howie Dickenman's staff from 1999-2003 during which the Blue Devils won two Northeast Conference regular season and tournament titles and earned two NCAA tournament berths.

Prior to taking the job, Sellers already had good relationships with several members of the athletic department, including athletic director Tom Pincince.

"It's a familiarity with everybody because I was here," Sellers said. "I know the inner workings of the place. It's good to be around people you know. So, you're always juiced up and energized. We know what some of the shortcomings are and what we have to work on and get better at as a group."

His upbeat, positive personality is another huge plus when taking over a struggling program.

Sellers absolutely loves what he does.

He enjoys the daily grind of a season, whether it be running practice or hitting the recruiting trail. He turned down other job offers to work in NBA front offices because he wanted to be on the court.

He wants his players to have the same joy and passion for the game as he does.

"I want to recruit really good, high-energy kids," Sellers said. "You've got to coach them hard. You've got to want to play hard. You've got to want to work. If you're committed and you work hard, we can turn it around really quick. We tell the guys every day, it starts with defense, toughness, sharing the ball and playing together."

Sellers has picked up a wealth of knowledge and information during his coaching journey. He served as an assistant at UMass, UConn, Hofstra, Creighton, DePaul, Fairleigh Dickinson and most recently Fairfield from 2019-2021.

A Sellers practice plan might include a defensive drill from Fairfield and a play run at Creighton. He's also working on instilling toughness and heart into his players the way Dickenman and Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun did during their careers. Dickenman occasionally attends CCSU practices and offers advice.

"I've been fortunate enough to be at eight different places with a lot of different coaches," Sellers said. "I'm taking something from every place I've been and implementing it into our system at Central Connecticut. I have so many different guys to lean on."

"Coach D and coach Calhoun, you can't put your finger on it, the intangibles they have. They have the ability to put their heart into a guy and make him play like that. I'm trying to get that and that's hard to get and grasp, making them play hard and tough and physical."

There's so much on Sellers' to-do-list these days. Good thing he has two top-notch assistants to help out in Lamar Chapman and Ben Wood, a former UConn basketball student manager (2007-2011). Wood previously worked as an assistant at Arizona State.

With 10 new players, the Blue Devils are basically starting over.

Sellers is relying on returning players Nigel Scantlebury, a junior guard, and sophomore center Ola Olamuyiwa, junior guard Ian Krishnan to take on leadership roles.

CCSU is facing a long, hard climb just to be consistently competitive again.

The Blue Devils have a difficult non-conference schedule, opening at UConn on Nov. 9, playing on the road against Providence and Rutgers, and facing North Carolina State at the Mohegan Sun on Nov. 16.

"I tell the guys, we're probably going to be picked last (in the NEC). We are coming off being the last three or four years, defensively we were really bad. We lost a lot of players. We've got 10 news guys. Then we have a crazy schedule. ... That's what we're up against.

"But, if we compete, we bring it every day, we compete on the defensive end and we rebound, we'll have a chance because if we play hard, we'll give ourselves a shot. That's what we've got to do. We'll have a chance to be a good team."

g.keefe@theday.com

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