Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Practice? You're Talking About Practice?

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Lenoir-Rhyne

After the women’s team opened their 2008-09 season with an exhibition win over Mars Hill on Sunday afternoon, the 20th-ranked men’s team did the same, getting an 87-54 exhibition win over Lenoir Rhyne Tuesday night at Belk Arena. Which means, both teams have played an exhibition. Which means, play time is over. Which means, basketball season is officially upon us.

Plenty of people asked me if I was going to resurrect this blog again. A few were sincere; a few I’m pretty confident were making fun of me, but nonetheless I am back, because well, I’m as superstitious as the rest of them, (except for maybe athletic trainer Ray Beltz.) And well, I wrote about last season, and that seemed to go pretty well.

It is because of last season that the excitement for this season is um, exciting? You know, you’ve read all the preseason hype. The projections. The expectations. It’s why you came to watch an exhibition. A glorified practice.

When I got to work Tuesday, SID Marc Gignac and statistician extraordinaire Gavin McFarlin are already busy getting the media room set up.

It’s 10 a.m.

You can feel the energy in the air. I abandon my bag and start helping to put chairs around the tables and soon SteVen Rossiter wanders in. He’s mumbling something about an early class getting canceled, but he jumps in to help.

“I was so excited I couldn’t sleep last night,” I tell him. “I took a Nyquil,” he answers back. I think we are both kidding, but you can never be sure.

He goes to class; we go to work(ish).

4 p.m. rolls around.

4-6 p.m. is the dead zone in athletics, when most of the day’s work is done, and you just wait for the evening’s event to come. Finally, it’s game time, and there are a lot of people in the seats to watch a game that really doesn’t matter much.

And that’s what you keep telling yourself as you look up for the better part of the first half and realize this is close. Too close. Closer than the players and coaching staff would like. But ultimately, you remember, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is the learning. The game-time atmosphere. The simulation of real-time situations against players not on your team.

And well, the score, which says we win. And we win big. Not pretty, but handily.

Sure, the coaching staff will have plenty of things to study this week before opening the season, for real, against Guilford at 9 p.m. Friday. But don’t worry; they love that. Imagine an exhibition that was perfect. What would be the point? It’s like decaf coffee.

No, we will all learn. The players will learn what worked and what didn’t. The coaching staff will learn who is ready and who maybe needs a little help.

Even that player who dropped in 41 (41?), but seemed (too) concerned about eight turnovers afterwards. (“Traveling shouldn’t be a turnover.”). He’ll learn something, too.

Exhibitions expose weaknesses and mistakes.

Expectations are because of last year’s success.

Last season, good as it was, is over.

Friday night, practice is over.


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