23.5, 21, 73.7, 21, 19. What are these? These are team numbers that jumped out to me and the rest of our coaching staff immediately after last night’s game. We were pleased that we held Brevard to 23.5 FG% (Team goal is 40% or below), had 21 assists and shot 73.7% (Team Goal is 70% or higher) from the free throw line but disappointed we only had 21 (Team Goal is 26) deflections and gave up 19 (Team Goal is under 9) offensive rebounds. In addition, we were pleased with our team’s effort and specifically some individual performances. Most importantly though our team got experience playing together in their new roles, they got the initial nerves out of them that comes from playing in front of 17,000 and plays were made that will enable Coaches to do a lot of teaching from watching this tape.
Typically the day after a game, Coach Pearl will put the team through a very light shooting and fundamental enhancement practice after we watch a TON of tape with the entire team. As we watch the tape today, our staff will focus heavily on sprinting the floor, making the extra pass and proper spacing offensively. On the other end of the court, Coach will focus on our defensive rebounding, help positioning and ball screen coverage. There will be some guys who come into today’s film session feeling good because of their statistical performance last night but will leave film realizing they didn’t play that well. The tape doesn’t lie. If you are resting away from the ball defensively, not sprinting your lane in transition, leaking out, not communicating ball screen coverage, making poor decisions offensively, etc, you’re hurting our team. I say that now with the understanding that because exhibition games are set up for us to learn from that although these mistakes are not acceptable they are understandable.
On the other hand I thought we showed glimpses of how explosive we could be offensively and how problematic we could be for our opponent defensively. Our overall ability to guard the basketball one on one should be greatly improved from last year. Pair that with a front line of Brian Williams, Tobias Harris, Steven Pearl, Kenny Hall and John Fields willing to lay their body on the line as they take charges and block shots we have some ingredients to be a really good defensive team. The next step will be getting our players to communicate early, loud and continuous on the court. This will come as they gain more game experience, get in better condition and fully understand our defensive game plan so that they are not thinking on the court.
Lastly, I think last night gave us an early indication of how guys handle the elevated intensity and pressure that comes with a game atmosphere. Our players care so much about winning, their performance and each other that they often are their own toughest critic. Therefore, when a coach gets on them after a mistake it can add to their frustration. At this level you are going to face really good competition. Because of this, there are going to be tons of ups and downs throughout a game. We can’t let one play (good or bad) affect the next play. The easiest way to do that is to focus on the little things. This can be done by staying engaged and focused on the little things such as effort, communication, spacing and rebounding. No matter your role on this team, every play of every game your actions either add something positive to our team or they impede us from achieving our goals. Whatever happens in a game, learn from it quickly and then log it away. During the game is not the time to thoroughly evaluate a tough play. But there is today.
P.S I would like to send out a heartfelt THANK YOU to all the Vol Fans that showed up to last night’s game and to those of you that were there in spirit! Over 17,000 there for an exhibition game vs. Brevard, are you kidding?!!? That’s awesome!! Thank you and hopefully we will see you again on Monday at 7:30pm.