FAIRFAX, Va. (DC News Now) — The George Mason men’s basketball team held their first official practice of the preseason, as they are about six weeks away from their first game of the 2022-2023 season.

“This is the moment we’ve been waiting on,” said Freshman guard Justyn Fernandez. For me, since January when I first got up here.”

It’s the program’s second season with Kim English at the helm for the Patriots, and the team is coming into this season with a lot of veteran players.

In his first season as head coach, English brought in a handful of transfers who saw plenty of minutes of playing time, such as D’Shawn Schwartz, DeVon Cooper, and Davonte Gaines.

The same goes for this season, with graduate transfers Victor Bailey Jr. (Tennessee), Ginika Ojiako (Virginia Tech), and Saquan Singleton (New Mexico) among the players suiting up for George Mason this year.

“I take it as a blessing having older guys,” said Bailey Jr. “I think the fact that we have been around and been in so many places, that we just really know hw to gel. It’s not hard to pick up on guys’ tendencies and learn how to play with different guys.”

The Patriots also return a good portion of their key players from a season ago, led by their all-conference forward Josh Oduro. Gaines, Cooper, Ronald Polite, Malik Henry, and Blake Buchanan are among the players who played substantial minutes for George Mason a year ago.

“One of the great things about our roster is that we have a lot of great players coming in who are ready to be leaders and ready to take vocal positions on the court,” said Oduro. “Just do whatever we can to bring the young guys along.”

Speaking of young guys, the Patriots will have four freshman on their roster: guards Justyn Fernandez and Devin Dinkins, and forwards Peter Oduro and Elvis Nnaji. Overall, the team is coming in looking to build off of coach English’s inaugural season.

A championship and an NCAA tournament appearance is our goal every single season,” said English. Focusing on that right now does us no good. We have to get ready for, what we think, is a really good and challenging non-conference schedule. Right now, it’s us implementing our system, getting in the best shape as possible, so we are ready to go in the non-league.”

The 2022-2023 season for George Mason men’s basketball kicks off on November 7 on the road against the Auburn Tigers.