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WEST LONG BRANCH – When last seen, Monmouth was absorbing an emotional loss to Saint Peter’s in the MAAC Tournament championship game in Atlantic City, before the Peacocks went on their groundbreaking run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.

Now, with practices underway for the 2022-23 season at OceanFirst Bank Center, everything’s changed, including a younger roster after the departure of six seniors, and a new league with the Hawks shifting to the Colonial Athletic Association. And former Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway is now in charge at Seton Hall, having invited Monmouth to be his first opponent in the Nov. 9 season-opener at the Prudential Center.

Here’s our preseason Q&A with head coach King Rice:

Q. Anyone or anything surprised you so far in practice?

A. I wouldn’t say surprised, but our young guys are pretty good. Jaret (Valencia) brings a level of athleticism, Jack Collins a level of toughness, Amaan (Sandhu) is so big, Andrew Ball is as talented as anyone. But they’re all just freshmen.

Monmouth freshman Jaret Valencia (background) works with his teammates at a recent practice, along with head coach King Rice (foreground).

I would say the freshman class is way ahead of schedule. They’re just some really talented kids, and it lifts your level of play.

Q. Jaret Valencia had some offers from big-time programs. How did Monmouth get him?

Jaret is from a big-time place. I know that Rutgers talked to him. I talked to UConn’s Danny Hurley about him and a friend, Frank Martin at UMass, who was recruiting him when he was at South Carolina. Frank’s assistant, Chuck Martin, who played here, and who was the Marist coach when I got here, is my man. Chuck calls and says, ‘you’ve got a scholarship?’ I said, ‘yeah, I got a scholarship, why?’ He said he’s got a kid we were going to take and we’re not taking him. I said ‘you know I don’t do that.’ And he said, ‘no, King, this is different.’ Then (assistant coach) Rick Callahan talks to Chuck, he talks to Frank, he talked to Danny, we do our research.

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