Notes from the East Region Open PracticePosted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2009
Because of the NCAA’s refusal to give us a media credential (or discuss the issue and our side of the case), we were forced to go to today’s open practice to get an up-close look at the teams. As an aside, if anybody has extra tickets for the games in Boston for the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8 (in case your team gets cheated by the refs), send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I might be able to take them off your hands.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. The East Region open practice might have been the most boring 5 hours of my life (not counting lectures). There’s a reason the NCAA makes this event free (outside of the fact that they more than make up for it through the $8 programs, $5 Cokes, and $23 baseball caps). The crowd was 95% white males in their mid-30s or above along with a handful of kids chasing autographs from players who they were looking up during the practices checking to see which ones had the best stats. My favorites were the old guys sitting behind me who kept on commenting on how good Gary McGhee and Brian Zoubek were (the tallest guys on the court) and what outstanding pros they were going to be. Anyways, here are my thoughts and pictures (some pictures are from my iPhone because I forgot to charge my digital camera) from each team’s “practice”.
- Looked fairly relaxed, which might be surprising for any other mid-major, but I guess when you make it to the Elite 8 last year and have consistently been a top 25 team in the past few years you aren’t a typical mid-major team.
- Sean Miller spent about 5 minutes talking to Bill Raftery and Verne Lundquist and then went back to watching his guys.
- It was a fairly boring shoot-around as most guys just threw up shots and went through the motions. The one exception was Brad Redford, a freshman who comes into the weekend shooting 47.3% from 3-point range on the season. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that he probably shot 70% from 3 during the session. Pittsburgh should be careful not to leave him open in a crucial situation because if they do, they might as well just mark down the 3 points.
- After the laidback Xavier session, Villanova seemed much more intense. After stretching and doing some jogging for about 5-10 minutes (I told you it was boring), Scottie Reynolds took the lead and directed his teammates through a series of drills.
- Where was Jay Wright while Reynolds was running the drills? Talking to Raftery and Lundquist of course. He spent almost 30 minutes talking to the CBS announcers. I certainly hope CBS got some amazing insights that they will share with us because they seemed to be talking up a storm.
- Out of all the coaches, Jamie Dixon spent the least time with Raftery and Lundquist. After briefly exchaning greetings with them, Dixon went straight into some drills.
- The Panthers seemed to be the loosest of the 4 teams. Despite being in drills, they were constantly playing around with DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, and Levance Fields being the ring leaders.
- At one point all 3 of those guys were on one side of the court during a free throw shooting drill, but they started an impromptu high jump contest to see who could touch the highest on the backboard. While Blair got up higher than I expected, Young was the clear winner including an attempt where he put his entire hand above the square. For me, the surprise of the contest was Jermaine Dixon who got up a lot higher than I expected (Fields opted not to compete– barely touching the net would have been embarrassing).
- Finally the crowd got to see the main event (for them anyways) when Coach K‘s squad took the court. You could tell the difference in practice styles right away. Without to sound too much like a typical media memeber, whereas the other teams practices were loosely organized the Duke practice was methodical and organized with a military precision (like you would expect from someone who played under Bobby Knight at Army).
- Duke was the only team with assistants that I immediately recognized (Chris Collins, Steve Wojciechowski, Nate James, and Chris Carawell). All of them seem to be pretty fit with the exception of Carawell who looks like he has put on a few pounds since his playing days.
- Coach K definitely played up to the crowd chatting with a few young Duke fans in the row in front of me asking them to watch and let him know if they saw anything the Blue Devils could work on. A guy 5-10 rows behind me called out saying that his friend (wearing a UNC cap) had a few suggestions for Duke. Coach K simply said that he appreciated anybody who supports their team so strongly. He didn’t respond to my comment that the UNC fan also voted for Obama.
- Like I said before, the Duke session was much more crisp than the other sessions with very little wasted time. I don’t think I saw any of the players in the other sessions sweating (with the exception of Redford), but every Duke player was sweating by the end of the session.
- I was surprised to see Duke run a couple of 5-on-5 full court drills.
- Surprisingly Duke was the only team to put on a dunking exhibition. As expected, Gerald Henderson threw down a couple of big dunks including a windmill and a 360, but the star of the exhibition was Olek Czyz. I wouldn’t expect to see Czyz in this weekend, but if he gets on the court don’t be surprised if he makes SportsCenter’s top 10 for a meaningless dunk.
- At the end of the session, Coach K and Blue Devils attempted to buy more drones into his army gave out free t-shirts to a handful of fans. Surprisingly Greg Paulus didn’t try to show off his arm.
- The media was largely absent (they know how boring this day is), but we did spot a few notable media personalities (Bob Ryan, John Feinstein, and Andy Katz). I was amazed to see kids clamoring for Katz’s autographs. I can’t imagine what they would do if they saw Bill Simmons.