Notes From Practice, June 10th
By far the best aspect of practice was just being there. At least I remembered how to find the Davalos Center. There were a few more people watching than normal--Ken S., some of the local, radio & TV people, and a couple cameramen. SO were several members of Mackenzie Curtis' family. There was a general sense among the spectators--both spoken and body language--that it was good to get a little closer to normal.
I was surprised that the full team was out on the court, but apparently the NCAA rules for June practices has changed--it was no longer a "workout" limited to a few players at a time.
Practice itself was not complex. Several different sets to screen, cut, and reverse the ball to get it to a player for an open three--everyone was taking threes, and in a non-contested environment most were hitting theirs. Shai's outside shot looked better, LaTora & LaTascya were both hitting most of theirs, and Viane--at least from straight away--was shooting better from the outside that expected. But really everyone was making them.
Two of the worst shooting performances were actually our 5th year seniors, but they had excuses. Jayden was doing everything left handed, as her right hand is still not ready to use. At one stretch she hit 4 of 10 from three point range lefthanded. AT hit a few, but this was her first day cleared to shoot, so some rust was both evident and expected. I was very surprised to see her on the court at all since her surgery was only a month ago. She was excited to be out there, but at this stage it is baby steps--only some set shots.
After 15 months of essentially not seeing them live the memory plays tricks at times, but here are things I noticed different from when I last saw them:
--No surprise, with AT not really participating Shai was without question the prime athlete. In rebounding drills she was leaping well and making everyone else look like they were in quicksand. The thing that was different was how she would attack the basket when she got a rebound; there was not the momentary hesitation she often had in previous seasons. She also ended the practice with a beyond-half-court three that swished. When I asked if she plans on taking two or three of those a game this season she responded in all seriousness, "If that's what the team needs, I'll take them".
--Neither of the two freshmen, Viane nor Mackenzie, looked like freshmen. No hesitation, and physically more developed than many FR we have had. That might all change when they start playing defense, but at least for today both looked like they can be helpful early on. Viane did most of her work outside, usually straight away. Mackenzie didn't dribble the ball much, but several times made some quick, good passes into the lane to a cutter in stride. Both went to the basked strong, though again the "defense" was minimal.
Besides just being there, and seeing AT farther along than I expected (and apparently farther along than the coached expected), the third bit of news was confirmation that the staff will be filled out soon. Mike has typically not been vocal about filling the video coordinator spot, but seemed to think this will be a very positive addition.
Comments from Mike forthcoming when I get the time to type them up.
Thanks for the reporting 2x53 - it is greatly appreciated!
You are very welcome. I have definitely missed going to practices and getting a better idea of the team and players.
They are NOT open to the general fan base yet, but Mike's intent as it has been since he arrived is to open them as soon as UNM lets him. All the coaches are glad to have fans there and they know it is part of what makes this fan base different. They are usually available after practice and enjoy meeting us. The players range from the exceedingly interactive (people like AT, Emily, Jayden, Alex, etc.) to some who are just quieter personalities.
Next media open practice is next week, and Dr appointment allowing, I expect to be there again.
Usually I don't know much about our newcomers until after the exhibition games, but for the first time I've seen all six of our freshmen in game video.
I would agree that defense is the biggest concern, as it almost always is with freshmen. Aniyah and Zeyno have the quickness to defend, but we've had several players at UNM in the past few years who had the quickness but didn't have the cornerback mentality that Ahlise had to blanket players. Hopefully, with coaching help, all of our players will develop that attitude.
Viane and MacKenzie are different from the guards Mike has recruited in the past when speed seemed to be a more desired quality than height and strength. It will be interesting to see if that changes the way we play at all. The only player I can think of that compares with them is a slightly taller Tesha Buck. Like Tesha, Viane loves to launch the long 3 from beyond the top of the key if you don't pick her up at half court. Since she often played the point at Sandia, her game often starts there. If we don't sign another post, MacKenzie seems more likely to be that 4th guard/forward than the other guards. I don't know if she IS taller, but she plays taller IMO. A bigger wingspan, maybe? Or maybe just an optical illusion.
Way too early to tell, but looking only at physicality, both FR as well as Kat seem similar. Mackenzie and Kat might have more of the "fight inside" mentality/ They were bumping into some significantly bigger bodies and not backing off or falling down (Kabrina).
It was a very pleasant surprise to see Nike at practice. I didn't mention it because it is not official yet, but she very much wants a job back here to work with the team. And I am sure Mike would love to find a way to get her for another season! Add Nike to this roster and one can start to dream big things.
With Nike's personality she would make a great recruiter.
With Nike's personality she would make a great recruiter.
Of posts I would hope!!!
Glad to see it didn't take long to become official.
Have to think this is as important a non-player move as we could ask for. A few months ago I hinted that a familiar face might be returning--I wish I could say "I knew Nike was coming back", but not true. Right position, different name. But I am quite happy with this one.
She has already made a good impression with several new people in the department, and it only took a couple days. One of the goals she already mentioned is "toughening up the posts", and getting Shai to add some good weight. 🙂
"toughening up the posts", and getting Shai to add some good weight. 🙂
I like the first part. As far as the 2nd part, ss long as Shai doesn't lose what makes her special, which is speed, quickness and vertical. Don't want to slow Shai down in any way. Her quickness off the floor to get the ball in airspace is also pretty special.
I suspect that is what Nike meant be "good" weight. She still had the ball ripped away some times.
There are limits on what Nike can do as a video coordinator. She can't recruit off-campus, but can assist in on-campus visits.
She also cannot give "technical and tactical instruction" to players. I suspect that is a hard rule to interpret and enforce, but the NCAA has punished some schools for violating the rule. Since I rarely attend practices, I don't know how much previous non-coaches have been involved (if any) as "props" by coaches who are doing the instructing.
I don't know the interpretations either, but I suspect technical and tactical is reasonably defined to the coaches. I suspect much of what she will do will be the mental aspect of playing the post. I remember Nike saying she did a lot of film specifically looking at opposing players: how they shot, where they liked to shoot, where they released the shot. That those (and obviously her length and athleticism) were what let her block so many shots. That, and just taking personal pride in shutting down her player. I suspect that is a lot of it.
Amy did those kinds of things before she became a coach for Yvonne, only more of it with Bryce talking PG things and letting the game slow down in the mind.
The practice I saw Nike was not on the court much--fed balls into the coach (Symone typically) who ran the drill, and did vocal encouragement from the sidelines. She did talk with the posts when they came off court.
Here is a summary of what is permissible and impermissible for non-coaching staff members at UGA (probably the same everywhere). It pretty much says "words of encouragement" are the only interaction allowed between non-coaches and players.
Thanks. I am curious how that would be interpreted. A trainer can obviously talk to players about things that happen on the court, as in how to jump/land, etc. But not basketball tactics, shooting mechanics, etc. But certainly dietary, weight loss/gain, etc. And I don't know where words of encouragement stop and some of the mental aspects of the game begin. It will be interesting to watch.