I could be on staff here for 20 years traveling to collegiate and professional arenas throughout the country and never find a basketball stadium as awesome as Thompson-Boling Arena. The black seats and luxury boxes, the noise of 21,678 Vol fans ringing in my head and the memories of so many unbelievable wins gets my blood pumpin and enthusiastic juices bustin through my pores every time I walk in the gym.
Yesterday was the first time we were able to practice in the arena since March. The energy and effort was good, however, as is normal for a Monday, our execution was a little off. Coach divided our team into three teams of four and then placed them in a continuous 4-on-4 drill with the emphasis on defense. The winner of this drill would be the first to 5 stops (a stop=1pt). To emphasize the vital parts to a team’s success, Coach always takes away a point from the defense if they give up a made 3 pointer or an offensive rebound while awarding them two points if they take a charge.
Coach Pearl tracks who wins all of our drills throughout the preseason and in the long run the guys who win the most are often the ones who find themselves in the regular playing rotation. Well yesterday, the practice was dominated by the 4-on-4 team of Melvin, Jordan, Jerrone and John Fields and then the 5-on-5 team of those four guys and Cameron. The toughness and emotion that they played with together was the determining factor. The other teams had certain guys play well but it just wasn’t enough to compete with the above team on this day.
After practice our staff stressed to our players the importance of finishing up strong in the classroom before fall break begins Thursday. With many professors administering tests before their students leave for a four day weekend in which they will probably spend more time watching Jersey Shore or college football then studying, this is a tough three days for our players. To help our players succeed in the classroom they have a mandatory 6-8 hours of study hall and tutoring in the Thorton Athletics Student Life Center each week. This is on top of the regular classroom, basketball and weight training demands placed on our guys. Our staff deeply cares about the academic success of our players. In fact, Coach Pearl has always stated that their academic performance will directly affect their playing time. If a starting position is too hard to determine because both guys are playing so well then Coach will make his final decision based on who is performing better in the classroom. Preseason ends in 10 days as official practice begins October 15th. Which players will have put themselves in position to be in the regular rotation? Who will start? These are questions we are still seeking the answers of from our student athletes. With challenging tests in the classroom and on the court, this week is another great opportunity for our players to compete and begin to define their roles for the upcoming season.