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Cedar City • A new era in Southern Utah men's basketball dawns this weekend.

The Thunderbirds have a new coach, Nick Robinson, and will play in the Big Sky Conference after 15 seasons in the Summit League.

SUU began preparation for the 2012-13 season with a closed practice Friday night. A pair of open sessions will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. in the Centrum Arena.

"We're extremely excited," said Robinson, who replaced Roger Reid after last season. "We've had a great fall preseason, but we're anxious to continue our preparation."

Robinson comes to Southern Utah from LSU, where he spent three seasons on the staff of head coach Trent Johnson.

Before coaching at LSU, Robinson spent one season at Williams Jewell College and two at Stanford.

As an assistant coach, Robinson's teams compiled a record of 87-47 and made postseasons appearances in two NCAA tournaments, one NIT and one NAIA national tournament.

The Thunderbirds return 10 letter-winners from last season, including starters Jackson Stevenett and Damon Heuir.

Stevenett, a forward, was a second-team All-Summit League selection. He led SUU in scoring (14.1) and rebounding (5.7) and shot 51.2 percent from the field.

Heuir averaged 10.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He averaged 16.5 points in two Summit League tournament games, including a 23-point performance against Oakland.

Four newcomers have joined the Thunderbirds, including center Jayson Cheesman, guard-forward A.J. Hess, guard Zach Ghormley and guard Drake Thomas.

Cheesman is a transfer from Salt Lake Community College, where he was an all-conference player last season. Ghormley and Thomas were teammates on back-to-back state champion teams at Grace Prep Academy in Texas.

Southern Utah opens the season Nov. 9 at Gonzaga. After a tournament at Nevada against Wisconsin-Green Bay, Cal State-Fullerton and the Wolf Pack, the Thunderbirds' home opener is Nov. 22 against Carroll College.

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