Energy was high and competitive juices were flowing at yesterday’s second hour long “Team Individual.” With the time limitations that Coach Pearl is allowed to spend coaching our guys on a weekly basis it is difficult to move quickly from the basic building block team drills conducted at last week’s workout. Therefore, the objectives of yesterday were similar to last week as he continued to refresh our veterans and teach our new guys the principles of our half court defense and transition offense.
As you may expect, our defense is WAY behind our offense right now. Whether they work out on their own, play at open gyms or join leagues such as Rocky Top, I’m sure our guys work on their games a lot in the off season. However, watching guys struggle defensively yesterday reminded me of how different practice is than the basketball guys play in the off season. At this level the game is so fast and the players are unbelievably talented. In addition, most guys are returning from a five-month off season in which their primary focus was improving their offensive abilities. Therefore, guys aren’t used to playing with the defensive mindset Coach Pearl was stressing yesterday. If I had a penny for every time I heard Coach scream defensive terms such as “communicate,” “high hands,” “play lower,” “sprint to help,” or “no middle” I’d have made more money yesterday then I do with my yearly salary.
However, the awesome thing about yesterday was the willingness of our guys to listen and then the effort with which they tried to fulfill Coach Pearl’s demands. After a few times through the defensive drills that were repeated from last week, I could tell the defensive principles of our veterans were starting to come out.
The best part of yesterday was seeing our leaders continue to put their fingerprints on this team. Melvin Goins continues to lead by example, dominate certain drills and talk to his teammates. Other guys, such as Cameron Tatum are also making their presence known in more important ways then just making a few shots or great defensive plays. For example, Jordan McRae, one of the most talented freshmen we have had walk through our doors, was struggling a little bit with a 2-on-2 defensive drill yesterday. Although he was giving great effort, Jordan continued to be out of position because he had never done the drill. Upon seeing this, coach stopped the drill and was beginning to help him when Cam jumped in to walk through the necessary positioning with Jordan. When Cam was done, Coach Pearl got the intense drill going again and you could see a difference in Jordan’s focus.
Having a veteran help a freshman who plays the same position as him is an example of a big-picture goal we are trying to achieve throughout this intense preseason. Everyone on our schedule is talented. Shoot, the SEC is LOADED this year! However, talent only takes you so far. Teams that win championships give great effort, are tough, trust their teammates and have strong principles that they can rely on in adverse situations. We have the talent to be successful this year, but will we develop the other aspects of our team necessary to be a champion? I think we took a step forward yesterday and can’t wait to build on it at next week’s team individual.
PS- ONLY 3 WEEKS TILL OUR SEASON OFFICIALLY BEGINS!!!!