Fleser: It will take practice for freshmen to grasp practice

Dan Fleser

During preseason workouts, Tennessee's six women's basketball freshmen have been dangling their toes in the practice waters, getting accustomed to the feeling.

Come Friday night, they will take a deep breath and dive in head-first.

With the start of official practice, they're bound for deeper water. If anything, the presence of so many new faces ought to enhance the experience.

Enhance? Hmmmm. "Intensify" might be a better word choice.

"It's a lot more teaching, that's the biggest thing,'' Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said. "Any time you bring in young players, it's difficult to speed up the action of what you want to cover and accomplish in practice."

More teaching usually means more practice.

All the more reason to ensure the freshmen are fully aware of the situation.

Redshirt sophomore guard Cait McMahan said a team meeting was in the works. The returnees were planning to brief the rookies on what to expect beginning Friday.

"I know when I was a freshman I had jitters,'' McMahan said. "No matter what, you're going to have jitters. But they were recruited here for a reason and that reason was not to back down."

Yours truly has watched enough workouts in 20 years - and I am watching, not daydreaming - to offer a few suggestions as well. Getting from drill to drill and day to day is more about attitude than anything:

n Play through it: During one preseason scrimmage at Thompson-Boling Arena, some freshmen were hanging their heads over missed shots or errant passes.

Bad idea. Not the misses or the turnovers, those are bound to happen. The head-hanging, no matter how brief, is the big no-no.

Moments of frustration are common, particularly with eager-to-please new players who were the primary providers for their high school teams.

The circumstances have changed, however. The roster is full of providers.

When in despair, heading up the floor and on to the next possession is a better plan.

n Sounds worse than it is: Sooner or later, a freshman will get an earful from Summitt.

Hearing from her in a loud and forceful manner is a given. Hearing from one of your more experienced teammates is not.

The veteran players must be vigilant in making the rounds, explaining and encouraging. Some helpful reminders about proper etiquette also are worthwhile. At the sound of Summitt thunder, look her in the eye and don't argue.

She has the floor. Why else would they name the arena court after her. Wonder if you could sell a freshman on that logic?

n Little things are big: Over the years, I occasionally have offered a one-word bit of practice advice to incoming players: Talk.

The returning blank stares have discouraged this practice. What's the use. Better they hear it from one of their own.

Freshman point guard Briana Bass did. Former point guard Shannon Bobbitt left her with these pearls of wisdom:

"She told me to always ask questions if I'm unsure of stuff and be a leader on the court."

Doesn't sound like much. But those suggestions are priceless. They're basic, like a good pass or a solid screen.

My point about talking conveyed the same message. Communication enhances teamwork and is an essential of good defense.

OK, what I really was thinking is that Summitt loves the chatter, so you'll score points with her.

Hey, that's big, too.

n You're not alone: A freshman ought to write these words on her basketball shoes or tape them to the inside of her locker.

There will be bad days. They happen to everyone. The sooner a player realizes it, the better.

Turn to teammates and, likewise, be accessible to others.

Don't make this a lonely experience. You're in good company.

Dan Fleser covers Lady Vols basketball. He can be reached at fleserd@knoxnews.com.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2008, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2008 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 14

xvolx writes:

dont let fulmer near them.

nola_vol writes:

Dan, your columns really enhance the fans' experience, rooting for the Lady Vols. I think I would enjoy observing a Lady Vols practice even more than watching a game (saw my first game at TBA last year).

Your columns let us peek through that door.

Thank you.

johnlg00 writes:

Great article, Dan! Excellent advice to the young players and an intriguing glimpse into the less-public aspects of the Lady Vols experience! It will be fun to watch this team create their own part of the Lady Vols legacy.

packie56 writes:

xvolx:

This was a basketball article. Please vent elsewhere.

donpatb#210889 writes:

I wonder if Pat would consider playing two teams this year and just run the opponents into the floor. One team could be made up of the more esperienced (altho linited) players and another team of the freshmen. This would make for an exciting year and give the young players a quick dose of experience. By the end of the year we would be ready to take on the world.

ladivolfan writes:

Will the first game EVER get here?!! Seems like it's taking forever.

silvertr6 writes:

Give us more basketball, and why even write about football?

MillisaAnn writes:

Forget football I want basketball.

xvolx writes:

in response to packie56:

xvolx:

This was a basketball article. Please vent elsewhere.

ok. I predict strickland to be cream of crop. Manning will win pt.guard spot. she is a ball handling wizard. excellent passer. Pat will show fulmer how to coach. sorry, had to say that.

nola_vol writes:

CPS has the advantage of being her own offensive and defensive coordinator, and she can immediately recruit the right players to run a new system when she makes changes.

In basketball, if you get called for blocking more than four times you'll spend the rest of the game on the bench. Maybe CPS has been coaching the offensive line... (!)

Seriously though, one of our most effective recruiting advantages that players cite is "the family-like relationships" between coaches, programs, players, etc. You don't hear that often at this level, so let's don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Until you can credibly explain why CPF is the problem and that his removal will "fix" everything, you're just pulling your dress up over your head. So stop. Your panties aren't that clean anyway.

(Please accept my apology for addressing football and panties in our basketball commentarium.)

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to nola_vol:

CPS has the advantage of being her own offensive and defensive coordinator, and she can immediately recruit the right players to run a new system when she makes changes.

In basketball, if you get called for blocking more than four times you'll spend the rest of the game on the bench. Maybe CPS has been coaching the offensive line... (!)

Seriously though, one of our most effective recruiting advantages that players cite is "the family-like relationships" between coaches, programs, players, etc. You don't hear that often at this level, so let's don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Until you can credibly explain why CPF is the problem and that his removal will "fix" everything, you're just pulling your dress up over your head. So stop. Your panties aren't that clean anyway.

(Please accept my apology for addressing football and panties in our basketball commentarium.)

Phil's problem's are two-fold:

-lack of team discipline
-Phil is tto conservative as he gets older, is completely averse to risk (4th and short punts instead of trying to win, does not PLAY TO WIN, is PLAYING NOT TO LOSE).

I guess I'd add that years of messing up on the margins, such as poor special teams play, stubbornness about personnel, and so forth have finally snowballed and is bringing his program down.

There are many ocaches whose players love them: Richt and Meyer come to mind quickly, and Saban. Players want two things from a coach on a personal level: consistancy and respect.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

My guess is that with so many freshmen coming in this year and next that the LV's will have to adjust expectations for practice. Dan is right, many of these girls have been the stars of their HS team, and have gotten away with a lot of things because they are the best athletes on the court.

Now, college ball is here. The girl facing you is just as tough, just as athletic. Now, it comes down to what you run, how you rebound and play D, and how you limit your mistakes. for a lot of these girls, you could be out of position on D and still make the play; no longer!!!

Pat, Lockwood, and Holly are all smart coaches, my bet is they have already planned on how to get these girls back into fundamentals.

jorido writes:

Over the years I enjoyed going to the early practices and watching coaching at its best. The head coach and the assistant coaches see everything. One expectation is that the volunteer managers - manage each minute of practice, each drill, each record on foul shots made. I once saw the head coach "ensure a volunteer manager that her position required an increased level of performance." A former freshman-who graduated last year and went to Detroit and a teammate who later transferred to Maryland were asked by coach on the first day of open practice why they were talking to each other when she was instructing. Both are added to illustrate the organization of practice and the expectations of the staff.

Wonder what will be the early emphasis - offense or defense

ps11824 writes:

[Pat, Lockwood, and Holly are all smart coaches, my bet is they have already planned on how to get these girls back into fundamentals]

Hey let's not forget Coach Daedra. She's a Lady Vol who can tell it like it is, when Pat made 'em run til they puked, after a lackluster performance. I think she will have a wealth of knowledge to bring to the court. We will soon see her influence on the team. Especially the freshmen.

She was an outstanding athlete as an incoming freshman (which she missed as a Prop 48 student); outstanding because she came back and accomplished so much: She was a 2-Time Kodak All American, '91 Woman Athlete of the Year, Wade Trophy winner. She had outstanding stats in scoring, rebounding & blocked shots. She helped Pat win her 3rd National Title in 5 years. All this and she graduated in 4 years with her degree. I'm a huge Daedra Charles fan, as you can see.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features