Today's practice was electric. Full of energy and passion. You could literally see this team getting better. Much of the impetus today came from the youngsters. It's kind of amazing... here we are two days from season opener and I can honestly tell you that three positions are up for grabs. Now, I imagine Coach Heath will start the same five he did in the last exhibition, butv believe me, guys are breathing down the necks of Lane, Baker and Davis... and not becasue they are playing badly, but because guys like Blake Eddins, Rashard Sullivan, Mike Jones and Wenbos Mukubu are coming on. Mukubu looked like Superman out there today, hitting threes, corner shots, driving dunks and coming from out on the court for rebound slams. He also grabbed a bunch of boards, and played tough defense. He continues to be plagued a bit by turnovers... the only thing that may keep him from cracking the rotation.
But if a guy can go from 10th or 11th man to 7th or 8th with one day's practice Wen would have done it today. And Shard Sullivan was a tiger on defense, having Gomez and Lane talking to themselves. After a rough start Modica also finished pretty strong and Blake Eddins continues to show that he is regaining confidence in his three-point shot.
It was a very interesting practice. There was a segment where they were working on the interior defense... getting instruction on when and how to switch on low post screens. There was a segment where the white team was pressing and the red team was playing zone. And there was something I don't think I ever saw in a NR practice. Oronde Taliaferro took Satchell, Mukubu, Pharis, Blackmon and Eddins and taught them 3 or 4 offensive sets that they expect Jackson State to use. Then the top 7 players walked through defensive maneuvers agains the JS plays. Then they scrimmaged half-court with the top 7 getting some playing time going against the JS offense. At the press conference before the practice Coach Heath said they'd had some trouble getting tape of the current JS team, as they apparently had an agreement with the teams they played not to tape the exhibitions. But they apparently had done some phoning and were using tape of last year's JS team to get a handle on what they like to do.
In the full-court scrimmage session the Red team actually beat the White by about 7 points, but more because of Mukubu and Sullivan's outstanding play than because the first teamers were ineffective. Mukubu must have rung up about 20 points in a 15 or 20-minute scrimmage.
Another press conference item: Asked about the post players Coach Heath had some praise for Sullivan. Then he said "Don't be surprised if at some point you see Nichy in the post and Mike Jones playing the 4."
At one point today he had a five of Gomez, Jones, Eddins, Davis and Ferguson.
I know it's kind of fooolish to get hyped when we haven't even played an official game yet, but I can't help but think that we are going to be better than most folks expect, especially if they can somehow maintain the pace of improvement they have demonstrated in the past couple of weeks. They still aren't working the offense the way Stan wants it, but they are getting there. And he seems to feel that the defense and rebounding are coming along very well.