“Welcome Back….Now let’s get to work!”

Being a member of a college basketball team for the last 10 years, there are very few things I look forward to more than the 1st team meeting of the year as guys report back to campus. It’s great seeing our players again—hearing their stories from the summer and feeling their excitement for a fresh new season—but more importantly, it’s about being back around the coaches and players I’ve missed and consider family. 

Like every team throughout the country, our team is about to embark on a new nine month journey that will be filled with trials and tribulations on a daily basis. Whether it’s fighting through a grueling conditioning workout, attempting one last bench press rep or forcing yourself to not give up in an intense basketball workout these moments are designed to test our players will. What are they willing to put on the line in order to help our basketball team be as successful as possible?

How these moments are handled often become the difference between the teams still playing in April and the teams that are home watching the NCAA Tourney asking themselves, “What if?” The teams that accomplish great things are often those that push themselves through the finish line, attempt that last rep and not only work throughout the entire basketball workout but come on their own for extra work.

Hungry to find a way to overcome the loss of 3 All-SEC caliber players off of last year’s team, our guys started their first full week of training Monday morning at 6:30 a.m. with “The Hill.” Whether they were eager to get started or just extremely scared of over sleeping, the three freshman were the first to arrive at Gate 10. After eleven times sprinting up and jogging down the hill, it was clear who came back in the best shape and who is going to have a rude awakening this week. Two guys that stuck out in my mind were Cameron Tatum and John Fields. John won the most in his group while Cam had his best performance on The Hill since he’s been here.

Upon the completion of The Hill, our guys embarked on five days of classes, intense individual workouts, agility training and weight lifting sessions. With each player only being allowed to have 2 hours a week on the court with a coach we broke our team up into four groups of four (PG’s, Wings, ¾’s and Posts) for three 40 minute workouts a week. Assistant Coach Jason Shay who structures the workouts says “My two main objectives are to improve our guys fundamental skills and help them learn advanced basketball concepts. I’m confident our guys work hard on their games in the summer but part of my job is to teach them individual techniques and team concepts that will help them have personal success and our team win basketball games.” This was definitely apparent the way Coach Shay’s fast paced, high energized workout covered things such as defensive close outs, help defense and ball screen offense.

Each week, will be capped off with a grueling 6:30am agility workout with Strength and Conditioning Coach Troy Wills. Troy, who is one of the only coaches in his profession with a basketball specific agility training DVD, definitely knows how to push our guys. “This time of year it is important our guys continue to build on the strength gains they made over the summer but also I am really focused on improving their defensive footwork, stance and mental toughness. Guys better come in here ready to work as soon as that whistle blows.”

After week one of training, there wasn’t one Coach dissatisfied with the effort, focus and enthusiasm our players attacked each day with. No matter the workout or the drill, I watched our guys give great effort. As Senior point guard and team leader says prior to or after every workout “Hard Work: Every day and in every way” was on display throughout the week.

 In addition, unlike some of our teams in years past, the friendship and camaraderie that these guys demonstrated by picking each other up during tough drills, “celebrating” each other’s good moments and hanging out with one another in the locker room  during their down town was refreshing. The character of our players and family atmosphere around our program right now is awesome. I can’t wait for next week.

Quote of the Week:

“Enthusiasm releases the drive to carry you over obstacles and adds significance to all that you do.”

-Norman Vincent Peale

Author of “The Power of Positive Thinking”


About Mark Pancratz's Blog

A native of Schaumburg, Ill., Mark Pancratz played Division I basketball at UW-Milwaukee, earning his degree in marketing and finance. He joined Tennessee's staff in 2006 as a graduate assistant, earning his master's degree in sports management later that year. Serving as a G.A., director of video scouting and assistant to the head coach, Pancratz was an integral part of Tennessee's six-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. At 26, Pancratz boasts an impressive 18 games of NCAA Tournament experience as a player and/or administrative staff member. He is a member of the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and voted one of the 100 Legends of Illinois High School Basketball. Pancratz resides in Knoxville and is married to the former Brooke Waddell.
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One Response to “Welcome Back….Now let’s get to work!”

  1. Jerry Scott says:

    I am thrilled to have this at my disposal…you are bound for greatness Mark….can’t wait til Tip-Off

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