Soon after becoming George Mason University's basketball coach last spring, Rick Barnes called 5-foot-10 point guard Anthony (Amp) Davis into his office to discuss the upcoming season. Davis was about as round as a basketball and Barnes gave him an ultimatum: lose 30 pounds or sit out his senior year.

After running 15 miles a day this summer through the streets of Norfolk, his home town, Davis returned to Fairfax at a svelte 160 pounds. "When he came back, I couldn't believe it myself," said Kenny Sanders, the Patriots' all-Colonial Athletic Association forward.

With Barnes installing a fast-paced game -- "We're going to go after people for 40 minutes, offensively and defensively" -- there is no room on his team for overweight players. "Davis is a senior," said Barnes, who resigned as an assistant to Ohio State Coach Gary Williams after Joe Harrington left Mason for Long Beach State in March. "For me to really come in here and get things going, the seniors had to make a real commitment to me."

Davis, whose 53 percent accuracy from three-point range was third-best in Division I last season, recalled carrying 195 pounds a year ago. "My legs would get tired quickly," he said. "I wanted to play more zone than man-to-man because you get a lot more rest. I didn't want to play point guard, I wanted to play the off-guard. It was a problem."

Now, he wants to be the point guard and that pleases Barnes. "The point guard's the guy that makes good decisions for you," Barnes said. "He's very important to our style, {doing} what we want to get done."

With Davis at the point, Earl Moore, who was misplaced at point guard for most of his first three years at Mason, can move to the off-guard spot and take advantage of his ability in a fast-paced game. The decision to play a wide-open game also means Brian Miller, the team's best pure shooter, likely will play mostly at small forward and Sanders won't have to score most of his points by posting up against taller players.

Thus, Mason should better utilize its best players this season. The Patriots have depth with guards Steve Smith and Darren Satterwaite, redshirt freshman Harold Westbrook and forward/center Kevin McNamara. All figure to play regularly as Barnes shuttles players in and out.

The unproven area is at center. Six-foot-11 sophomore Henri Abrams, who has gained two inches, 20 pounds and inside offensive moves since last season, may be redshirted. That would leave the bulk of playing time to two freshmen -- 6-6 Robert Dykes, a 23-year-old Navy veteran, and 6-9 Joe Lucas from Herndon High School. Barnes is especially impressed with Lucas, whom he described as "the hardest-working freshman I've seen."

"He's real versatile," said Sanders. "He's 6-9. He can shoot jump shots. He can go by you. He can rebound and he can play defense."

Barnes projects Lucas as his starting center by midseason, and his development likely will determine whether the Patriots can improve on last season's 15-13 record. If hard work is any indication of success, the Patriots should be better. Barnes is a taskmaster, according to Sanders.

"It's harder, it's more challenging," he said. "We have a more demanding schedule in workouts." For the first three weeks of practice, Barnes had four-a-day workouts.

"I just want to win the league and go on to the {NCAA} tournament," Sanders said. "But I can't make predictions. We have to get out there and apply what we've worked on in game situations." SCHEDULE

November: 20, vs. Seton Hall at Rutgers in first round of Big Apple Tournament, 8; 23-24, in second round of Big Apple Tournament, tba; 27-28, semifinals and final of Big Apple Tournament, tba.

December: 3, UNC-Greensboro, 8; 5, Wichita State, 8; 8, at George Washington, 7:30; 12, at Radford, 4; 14, Central Florida, 8; 21, at Long Island University, 7:30; 28, at St. Bonaventure, 8; 30, at West Virginia, 8.

January: 6, at Bucknell, 7:30; 9, East Carolina, 8; 11, UNC-Wilmington, 8; 16, at Richmond, 7:30; 18, Liberty, 8; 20, William and Mary, 8; 23, at Navy, 7:30; 27, American, 8; 30, at James Madison, 7:30.

February: 1, Virginia Commonwealth, 8; 6, at East Carolina, 7:30; 8, at UNC-Wilmington, 7:30; 11, Maryland-Baltimore County, 8; 13, Richmond, 8; 17, at William and Mary, 7:30; 20, James Madison, 1; 24, at American, 7:30.

March: 1, Navy, 8; 5-7, at CAA Tournament in Hampton, Va., tba.