Just a few days into practicing with his team, Stockton University men’s basketball coach Scott Bittner couldn’t help but notice something special: It’s a very passionate bunch.

“We had more conflict in the first three days of practice than we did in the last three years,” Bittner said. “When I say conflict, I mean it in a good way. Guys care so much that it’s chippy, it’s competitive.

“Those guys have brought a real chippyness to practice, which is just really exciting.”

Stockton begins its season against Salisbury at 7 p.m. Tuesday at home. The two-day Stockton Tip-Off Tournament begins Friday, with the Ospreys set to take on St. Joseph’s College of Brooklyn at 6 p.m.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Bittner said. “I think we answered and addressed some of our deficiencies the last two years. We got a lot tougher. I think we’ve got guys that have more of my DNA. Guys that don’t love it as much as I do, I haven’t been able to get through to.”

The Ospreys finished last season 10-15 (8-10 New Jersey Athletic Conference). Local talent is all over the roster, including senior forward Steve Ferebee (Absegami H.S.), sophomore guard Kyion Flanders (Wildwood), junior guard Luciano Lubrano (Ocean City) and junior guard Zy’are Griffin (ACIT).

Several 2019 Press All-Stars will join them this season. Freshmen D.J. Campbell (Vineland), Rynell Lawrence (Millville) and Angelo Barron (Mainland Regional) will look to make an immediate impact.

“Practice has been really intense and competitive.” Campbell said. “Me coming in as a freshman, I’m trying to prove a point. (The older guys) are pushing me, (and) I’m pushing them. It’s going to make every one of us better.

“The new freshman group coming in with me and Rynell, we’re just trying to change the culture and bring a toughness to the group so when people play Stockton, they know they have a competitive team.”

For Campbell, it’s been a great experience getting to team up with former opponents.

“I played against Kyion and Angelo in high school,” Campbell said, “so it’s crazy to think they’re my teammates now.”

The 6-foot, 3-inch Vineland native was a first-team Press All-Star after his senior season. His 29.4 points-per-game average led the state, and he finished his high school career with a school-record 1,485 points.

Campbell played AAU basketball with Lawrence, and he said they’re already clicking at the college level.

“We already have that bond on an off the court,” Campbell said. “We have that brotherhood and friendship, so it’s easy for us to get on each other (when we make mistakes).

“We talked about (playing together in college) during the season. We wanted to play together. Whenever I went, he was going to go, and he had committed first, so it was an easy decision for me to come play with him.”

With Campbell and the 6-foot, 2-inch Lawrence on the floor at the same time, Bittner could have the advantage of two big, skilled guards in the backcourt for his rotations.

“(Lawrence) and DJ are better than I thought they were,” Bittner said. “And I’m not sure we missed five of their high school games all year. We were really high on them to begin with.”