Up and down the court the Cougars ran – sometimes with the ball, sometimes without. They ran length-wise and width-wise. There was no limit to where the players would run. Except maybe the Marriott Center's stairs (which I'm sure they run somewhat regularly).
The team was split into two teams, Blue and White. They competed non-stop against one another during every drill. Shooting drills: losing team has to sprint the court. Free-throw drills: losing team has to do push-ups. Defensive drills: the team that gives up the most baskets gets to run some more.
This was the second practice I attended this week and the improvement in conditioning is already noticeable. On Monday, many of the shots that the team was putting up were hitting the front part of the rim—a sign of tired legs. But today, there were not nearly as many clangers. This team is working hard at being able to play at the same level with two minutes to go as they do two minutes in.
The attitude on the team is also very different. They want to play hard and they want to win. During one drill when they were working on defensive sets, Austin Ainge was overheard to say, "Coach, do you want me to run the offense, or just attack?"
The response was simple and can sum up the new mind-set of the team: Attack.
The Cougars are going to look to attack all game long – on offense and defense. For 40 minutes BYU players will be hounding their opponents to create transition opportunities. Scoring baskets will not necessarily rule out the transition game. One of the most frequently repeated words was, "Sprint!"
There are plenty of able-bodied players, too. A fact not lost on those players. They know that if they're not running and running hard, there is someone on the other side of the court playing the same position that is. Unless they want to have all their running get them to the end of the bench, they push even harder.
The team is still three weeks from their first game and no position has a set starter. Everyone is fighting for playing time. And even after a starter has been named, he better not let up or he will quickly find himself next to the coaches.
- Jackson Emery can flat out play. He does not do one thing particularly well. He just does everything wonderfully. The phrase "Jack-of-All-Trades, Master-of-None" does not apply. His ball handling is much improved from his high school days. It seems that he has raised his game to the level of his teammates.
- Fernando Malaman can shoot and hit any shot from 20-feet in and make it look effortless. He also passes very well.
- Derek Dawes needs to shoot when he gets the ball down low. There were several possessions when he got the ball in good position and did not shoot. The coaches got after him every time that when he is "that low" he needs to make a move to the basket and shoot.
- Immediately after Ainge was told to attack, he took the inbound, put a move on Sam Burgess that had Burgess on the floor and Ainge open to sink a jumper.
- Two local high school coaches were in attendance to pick up a few pointers on drills.
- Most practices are open to fans. They need to sit at Portal X. Practices are from 3-5 p.m.