Bill Hass on the ACC: Mom's Sunday Cooking, Running at 6 A.M. and Harnessing Passion
Oct. 30, 2008
By Bill Hass
ATLANTA – Miami got a taste of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years last season.
So what was it like?
“It tastes like mom’s cooking on Sunday after church,” said Hurricanes guard Jack McClinton. “It's great, man.”
The ‘Canes were picked to finish last in the 2007-08 Operation Basketball poll. Instead, they tied for fifth, made the NCAA field and beat Saint Mary’s in the first round before bowing to Texas by three points. They finished 23-11 overall.
Miami is no longer flying under the radar. It was picked fourth in the 2008-09 Operation Basketball poll on Oct. 26, and is expected to make another NCAA appearance.
“Having gotten a taste of that tournament we’re going to do everything in our power to get back,” McClinton said. “It’s a great feeling to get there, to be with your team knowing you’re playing against the top 65 teams in the country.
“We have to stay humble, not let last year get to our head. We have to go out and play every game like it’s our last, and I think we’ll be successful. We don’t have (the underdog role) on paper, but every day we still go out there with that chip on our shoulder. You can’t knock that chip off just because you get a little more recognition.”
McClinton said this team is deep and he might not have to be counted on to average 17.7 points; instead, he might be making the extra pass to set someone else for the shot if necessary. One thing that won’t change in his senior year is his “gym rat” mentality.
“I can’t stop doing what got me here,” he said, “staying in the gym after practice, before practice, at night, in the morning. Sometimes they have to turn the lights off on me but it’s definitely worth it.”
Georgia Tech senior guard Lewis Clinch didn’t hesitate when asked what to expect of coach Paul Hewitt’s Yellow Jackets this season.
“Run, run, run,” he said. “We did track work in preseason (conditioning drills). He wants us to be an up-and-down team, getting it out in transition and pushing, being very active on defense and getting steals and getting in transition.”
Clinch said the drills went something like this: “We started with four 400s, five 200s, six 100s and six 50s. It went up every week. It was basically a mental test for us. Everybody did pretty well with it. The guards would go and then the bigs, and you would get your rest while the (big men) were going.
“All five big men ran it pretty well and that will help us with them being able to get rebounds and then sprinting down the floor to get dunks. They’ve been showing that in practice.”
The running drills began at 6 a.m. Clinch said he arose about 5:10, ate a light breakfast and went to get some heat on his knees and back before stretching. Big man Zack Peacock said he had to get up around 5 o’clock, which wasn’t a problem.
“I’m a morning guy and I can go to bed at 2 o’clock and still get up at 5,” Peacock said. “It’s no difference at all. It doesn’t hit me until later on in the day.”
Getting in excellent condition wasn’t really the primary purpose of the drills. The idea was for the players to test their limits and find out how deep they can dig as the season wears on.
“It’s going to help us be mentally tough when things appear to be hard,” Peacock said. “That something you can think back on and get motivated off of. It can’t be as bad as what we went through. I don’t think anything could be as bad as that.”
The Olympics influence
Coaching Team USA to the gold medal in the Beijing Olympics seems to have rejuvenated Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“He’s just more confident, he has another notch in his belt, he walks around with a little more swagger,” said Blue Devil senior Gerald Henderson. “It’s a great thing to be able to coach the best players in the world in an Olympic setting, and win a gold medal on top of that, it’s something pretty unique. If I was a coach I’d be pretty happy about myself. He’s a little more excited about coaching us.”
Krzyzewski doesn’t expect Duke’s players to run things at the same level as the NBA players. But the Olympics influence will be present in the way the Blue Devils play.
“We do a lot of the stuff that they do in terms of plays, in terms of their defense,” Henderson said. “We watch a lot of tape of how they run plays, how they execute things, because they do it the best. We can definitely learn a lot from their team. There will be a lot of similarities.”
An even better Rice?
Boston College senior Tyrese Rice was a unanimous pick for All-ACC on the 40 ballots. How much better can he get than averaging 21 points and five assists per game?
“I just want to be more efficient and more solid on the defensive end,” Rice said. “I figure I can pretty much score and get my teammates involved, but I would rather bring my percentages up, my assist numbers up, my turnovers down and just be more solid in what I do on the offensive end and defensive end.”
What does better efficiency mean to Rice?
“Maybe instead of shooting 47 percent, you shoot like 53 or 54,” he said. “Maybe instead of shooting 35 from the three, shoot 40. Instead of the (assists to turnover) ratio being 1.8-to-1, it’s 2-to-1. “I will do whatever it takes for us to win games, but I would love for my average to come down and my assists to go up and see somebody else take the spotlight. I have more fun watching other people go to work and carrying games than me doing it myself.”
Harnessing his passion
Some might call him flamboyant, others might say he’s over-emotional, but no one can deny the obvious passion of Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez.
“Ever since I came to this country (from Venezuela) I’ve had to prove people wrong, so it’s going to be fun to prove people wrong,” Vasquez said of the seventh-place prediction for the Terps. “I’m passionate about my team, my coach. If we all get on the same page we can win games. We all know anything can happen in the ACC. I’m not worried about what people are saying about us, I’ve got to make sure my guys are ready to play, ready to practice, ready to bring their ‘A’ game every night.
“I’m thankful for basketball; if it wasn’t for basketball I wouldn’t be here talking to you. I’m really passionate and try to do my best and the way I do it is showing my emotions. It’s really hard for me to control it.”
But Vasquez knows one way to get his emotions under control.
“I want to cut my turnovers down (from 149 last year),” he said. “If I do that I’ll be all right. I’m more mature and more confident. I’ve got to let the game come to me and play hard. It was hard for me last year because I like to pass. Some of my passes were questionable and some were good passes but some people couldn’t catch it. So I take responsibility now and I probably won’t make those passes anymore.”
The 3-point line
In a column posted earlier, you heard from some coaches about the effect that moving the 3-point line from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20-9 might have on the game. Here are reactions from some players.
Trevor Booker, Clemson post player: “It gives you more room to work inside. The defender has to back off you more, so it gives you more room to create for yourself. The defense has a long way to go if it tries to dig down, so that really helps the big man out. And I’m trying to expand my game outside.”
Toney Douglas, Florida State guard: “It’s good for me. I like to stay in the gym and it’s like it never changed. It’s just about repetitions. I just know that if you’re a good shooter and you’re a gym rat and you work on your game, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
A.D. Vasallo, Virginia Tech swing man: “It shouldn’t be a problem to the real shooters. I don’t think anybody on our team will have a problem. With the line back you’ve got a little more space and that should help the post guys have a little extra second or two to post up and work a little bit inside. It should help the dribble-drive, too.”
North Carolina’s Danny Green on how a team with so much experience can still improve: “Work the freshmen in, become better leaders, become more experienced, become better defensively by communicating on the floor, holding teams to a low percentage shooting. And working with the chemistry offensively. I don’t think we have any problems, but we have a couple guys that are hurt (Marcus Ginyard and Mike Copeland) and Bob (Frasor) is coming back from an ACL. Bob hasn’t played in awhile so we’ll see how he does but I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s a great leader, smart, knows how to control the team.”
Wake Forest’s L.D. Williams, one of the ACC’s shut-down defenders, on his toughest opponent to guard: “To be honest with, the guy who gives me the hardest time is on my own team, Jeff Teague. He’s so quick and he’s athletic; he’s only 6-1 but he’s so good with the ball. With all due respect to all these guys in the ACC that are good scorers, there’s just something about Jeff that always gives me trouble in practice and open gym.”
NC State’s Ben McCauley is excited about returning to his natural position in the post: “The post is where I played a lot in high school and even my sophomore year (at State) I played strictly in the post and that’s where I’m more comfortable. The good thing about that is my teammates know that, so they feed off that. They realize if I get the ball in the post I’m not just going to go one-on-one, I’m going to look to pass and I think they really utilize that well.”
Virginia’s soft-spoken Mamadi Diane on becoming a team leader: “It’s been a challenge, it’s something you kind of get used to. It started with me trying to apply myself, and over this last week or so it’s become more natural. Every day it’s been getting better. From day one they looked at me for that role because I’ve been here so long and I was one of the ones who was battle-tested, so that has made it easier.”
Clemson’s K.C. Rivers wears an orthodontic wax strip to cover his braces during games. “I’ve been hit a couple of times but (his lips) don’t get cut. I got hit one time and my tongue got caught up in it, but that wasn’t too bad. The only time I really get them cut is when I get them tightened.”
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March, 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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