By Rob Senderoff
For a number of reasons this weekend is a really exciting time for college basketball coaches and players.
As opposed to having a Midnight Madness-type day of Oct. 15 being the first day of practice, under new NCAA rules coaches are now allowed to practice 30 days out of 42 prior to their first games. With our first game being Nov. 15 at Youngstown State, that allows us to start practicing today. Some teams were allowed to start practicing on Friday because their first game was Nov. 14, which will be the first day of college basketball this year.
We have really been looking forward to today’s practice. Our kids have been excited. Thursday was our last conditioning day. For our five seniors it was their last conditioning day of their college careers, so I know they were very excited about that. With today’s practice, we are looking forward to getting an even better feel for what is in store for our team. We are especially looking forward to seeing how we build as a group.
We are also very excited to have Kellon Thomas rejoining us. He was cleared to do some things this week, including a workout for the first time all year on Thursday. He should be good to go for at least part of today’s practice. That’s a good step for him coming back from injury. We’ll take our time with him getting back. We plan on having a full practice today. We met as a staff on Friday to go over responsibilities in practice for the year.
For a coach or a player, this is just the best time of the year. This is my 20th year as a coach and my fourth as a head coach, but you still always get excited about the first day. During our meeting with the team this morning at 11:30 a.m., we will talk about what we will accomplish on the floor from 12 to about 2:30 p.m.
Our focus for the most part on Saturday will be a few of our staple drills. We have a 1-on-1 approach drill that we call block-to-elbow. It’s blue vs. gold trying to get the most stops in a three-minute period. Sometimes there are mismatches with a guard matched up with a forward. Sometimes you have a forward trying to guard a center. It’s a competitive drill and it ramps up the intensity level.
We’ll do that drill daily. If you watch us practice 100 times you will see us do block-to-elbow probably 80 times.
Another drill that is a staple for us is our O-D-O, meaning offense-defense-offense in three trips. You get to work on transition defense, half-court execution, and sometimes you get to work on special situations.
On Sunday, we will have Mid-American Conference officials in for practice. I think it is important to practice with officials so that you eliminate fouls and you reinforce early on what you can and can’t do defensively.
The officials like to come in, too, because it is their preseason as well and it is good for them to get in those reps.
Again, we can’t wait to get started this weekend and then get into full swing next week.