Scrimmage Depth

3,000?? 4,000?? 5,000????? Either way, the fact that we had more than a few thousand people attend yesterday’s Orange vs. White Scrimmage is AWESOME! We are so thankful! I hope you not only enjoyed what you saw and that our players’ talents and efforts got you even more excited for the season!

For the scrimmage, Coach Pearl divided the guys up into two teams for three 12 minute games. After each game Coach Pearl would reassign teams to that by then end of the day he got a look of lineups consisting of guys playing different roles. For instance, in one scrimmage a player may start at the shooting guard position but then the next scrimmage be playing his other position with all new teammates. Each of these 12 minute games was divided into 6 minute halves to simulate late game situations. This was done to enable our coaching staff to watch, learn and then teach our players what outcomes we were looking for during these late-game decision-making moments. I strongly believe that a player’s ability to understand time and score isn’t something you just know because you play a lot of basketball. It’s a skill that is learned from tons and tons of experience and coaching.

Overall, our staff was very pleased with what we confirmed and learned about our team yesterday. Like any game, there were a few standout performers and there were a couple who didn’t have a great day. But that’s normal. As long as guys take yesterday’s performance (good or bad) and use it as fuel to drive them towards achieving their goals, yesterday was a success for everyone.

When looking at the combined stat sheet, there were many things that jumped out. One of which was our shooting percentage. As a team we shot 42% from 2FG and 38% from 3FG. As a staff we were not happy with our 2pt FG percentage but were happy with our 3pt FG percentage. When meeting this morning, Coach Pearl asked the team “Why do you think there are times a team shoots better from 3 than they do from 2?” After going around the room all the following answers were given– “We have good shooters; A lot of 3pt shots come out of play calls and are shots we practice as opposed to someone driving it and taking a tough 2pt shot that’s contested by help defenders; We got a lot of inside outs; Players are often more wide open on 3pt shots because we have unselfish teammates.” All of these were true. On the other hand, we didnt shoot a great 2pt FG percentage because we drove it into the defense and took too many tough shots, our defensive effort is still ahead of our offensive execution and we didn’t do a good job of sprinting the floor every possession to help us get easy baskets in transition.

Sprinting the floor and putting three guys on our opponent’s baseline quicker than anybody in the country led Coach Pearl to discuss our depth. Committing to our depth will become apparent by the way we run the floor, execute our offense, defend our opponent and strive to obtain every 50/50 ball. In order for us to be as good as possible we need our starters to give their maximum effort while on the floor knowing that their teammate has their back when its their turn to come out of the game. In addition, our players must seek and initiate contact. If they do so, chances are the games are going to be officiated tighter and more fouls will be called. This will be a huge benefit to us if we commit to our depth. Can every team in the league withstand foul trouble? Are they a talented team or a talented 1 or 2 guys? We not only think our starting 5 is pretty good, we have full confidence in our next 8. Regardless, we are putting a huge emphasis on guys attacking the basket and getting to that foul line (I promise you our guys have done TONS of free throw shooting). Coach Pearl told Scotty today he needs to be more aggressive and “get to the foul line 8, 9 or even 10 times a game.”

Although I’ve discussed our depth before, I strongly believe this aspect of our team could be the most valuable pillar to our success, or it could become the biggest hinderance to us achieving our team goals. The way our guys have been acting–the words they have been saying and the way they played yesterday– leads me to believe they currently are committed. However, this unselfish commitment ultimately can’t be measured until each guy faces a little adversity when the lights come on, the fans are in the seats, games are on TV, stats begin to count and national rankings are determined by wins and losses.

Weekly Recap Although Melvin had a GREAT day yesterday at point, Trae Golden impressed us all week. He is a really good transition decision-making point guard. In the half court he continues to learn the necessary timing and spacing of the offense. He is benefitting tons every day from the leadership and competitiveness of Melvin.

Jordan and Skylar capped off a solid week of practice with really good performances in yesterday’s scrimmage. Regardless of position, Skylar continues to show us that his shooting ability and toughness need to find a way on the court. To me, Jordan continues to be the biggest surprise. He has shot the ball really well and has made plays defensively because of his length. As is the case with most freshman, Jordan will continue to grow as he learns to not allow his frustrations caused by adversity to effect his next play.

Scotty, Renaldo and Tobias have shown a mean streak in them throughout the past week. Scotty has driven to the basket with determination much more consistently this year. He is making his presence known more often daily. Renaldo shot the ball much better this week. His athleticism is off the charts! As shown yesterday, Tobias has the ball skills of a guard. His better understanding of the offense is becoming apparent as he continues to be able to drive past his man into the lane. He will be a tough cover for any 4-man in the league.

Kenny, Steven, Jerrone, John and Brian definitely make up the toughest front court we have had since I’ve been here. Until yesterday’s scrimmage Brian hadn’t lost a live drill since the start of practice. As the anchor to his team’s defense, he is our team’s best communicator and leads the team in rebounding and charges drawn. However, in large part because of John Fields’ defense, energy and shot blocking ability, John’s teams did not lose yesterday. His effort and energy are going to be a valuable asset to our team.

Josh and Cam continue to battle back from their injuries. Although they were unable to run throughout the week, the most encouraging part of their rehab process was that they could often be seen doing stationary ball handling by themselves during practice.




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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