Stan Heath was back in town, and allowed the media to watch Friday's basketball workouts. He worked with Dionisio Gomez, Blake Eddins, Jamar Blackmon and Carl Baker in the first session. Larry Satchell,
Mike Jones and Alonzo Lane worked in the second session.
It appears Berry Jordan's future with the Hogs is clouded at this point. He came to the workouts, but didn't participate.
"Berry didn't work today, but it's not his fault," Heath said. "I told him last week he couldn't be in the workouts until we met one-on-one, and I've been out of town. So he hasn't been in the workouts this week. As soon as I'm through (with the media), I'm going to sit down with him. I'll find out if he wants to be a part of what we are doing. If he does, then he'll be with us. If not, we'll find out that, too."
Heath said the workouts have been proceding in grand style. He had nothing but positives about the way the players have taken to the routine.
"We have worked hard and I think everyone has done well," he said. "I wouldn't single out anyone because they are all doing well. If you asked me who has come the furthest, it's Larry Satchell. It's more of an attitude thing. I'm not sure he understood what we were trying to do at first. Once he understood, he began to have fun. I think he sees these are things that are going to help him in games.
"The guys have bought into what we want and are doing a great job. I think you can see from the first to the last day that they have learned what we want in the drills and are doing well. It's a matter of taking baby steps. I like what all of them are doing. You could see that Blake (Eddins) and Carl (Baker) bought in the very first day and had a lot of enthusiasm. The rest joined in pretty fast.
"I think they understand that these are drills, but they are drills that are part of the offense. They see that we've cut out things that are in the offense and we are able to give them some things that they can work on all summer.
"Where are we? It's too early to tell. I don't want to talk about goals because we don't even know who is going to be a part of this team. If you compare where we were when I took over at Kent State, it's totally different. That team was guard oriented. We had six or seven guards and we were good at handling the ball. We weren't as good inside. This team has more inside players and is better athletically. But, we need some more guards. We'll know when we have the guards in place and see the decision making and ball handling.
"I'm pleased with the work ethic and the way the players are going about things. It looks to me that they are having fun. I see them smile. That's what I want to see."
Indeed, that was evident in Friday's workout. Heath corrected the players when they did not execute a play in the fundamental way, usually with a good demeanor on the first mistake. If it happened again, he was firm. Sometimes when he made the correction a second time he added, "If you can't listen, you can't play."
One of the things he worked hard with the big men in the second workout was how to keep the ball at chest level or higher when they caught a pass on the blocks. He demonstrated twice how guards can strip the ball if the ball drops below the chest level after the catch.
"We've worked hard on footwork," Mike Jones said. "We may have thought we understood footwork, and we may have heard these things before, but we didn't do them in games. At least, we weren't doing them when we started. We are learning moves, footwork and positioning. That goes for inside and on the wing.
"Coach Heath is hard, but we all like him. All the players like him and understand him. He's spent a lot of time with us teaching us fundamentals. He's also taken time to talk to us about other stuff, away from basketball. I've had at least two talks with him like that. He wants us to learn about a lot of things."
Dionisio Gomez said it's drill after drill.
"Some of them I've done before, but a lot are new," Gomez said. "I think what I've learned most is how to handle myself as a wing player. I don't know if that's where I'll play, but I'm geting the fundamentals on what he expects if I do play there."
Blake Eddins said it's been great fun.
"What you see first is that it's positive reinforcement, and not as much criticism (as before)," Eddins said. "We've worked hard, but it hasn't been so tough we couldn't do it."
Jones said it's obvious that the offseason workouts are much different than in past springs. He spent last spring trying to add weight so that he could play inside. This spring, that weight has melted from his body.
"We go to the outdoor track two days a week at 6:15 a.m.," Jones said. "We've been doing two mile runs. And, then we do the indian run. We did that before, but it was laps around the court. Coach Heath does the indian run, but it's 400 yards. I've lost to 208, and I'm still losing. We are working hard. I'm going to do the running all summer so I'll be in shape when we start back in the fall."
In the indian run, the entire squad jobs at a slow rate single file. The front runner then sprints until he catches the back of the pack. When that happens, the next front runner takes off until he becomes the trail runner.
"When you are running around the basketball court, it doesn't take much sprinting to catch up to the back of the pack," Jones said. "When you are doing the track, it'll kill you to catch the back of the pack. It's so much tougher."
The afternoons are reserved for the individual workouts. They are cut into 30-minute slices and can be held four times a week. They consist of shooting drills and some one-one-one situations, and some two-on-one situations. During one big-man drill, a manager slugged the players with a hand-held blocking dummy as they tried to finish layups. Heath encouraged the mangaer to "hit them harder" throughout the drill.
"You can see what we are doing is going to pay off next season," Jones said. "There is a purpose for everything. There is much structure to what we are doing. We are learning the system piece by piece. It's a lot of fun to see things start to come together."
Stan Heath works with players in individual drills Friday.
Dionisio Gomez puts in a layup on Friday.
Photos by Tom Ewart