Women's hoops: The defense never rests

Several days a week in the late afternoon, the sound of sneakers squeaking and balls bouncing emanates from Memorial Gym. Summer pickup games are an important part of summer conditioning for both the men's and women's basketball teams. They're also fun. (Part 5 of 5)

In the last part of this series on the offseason for the women's basketball team, Whitney D talked with senior guard Hillary Hager about pickup. Since many female basketball fans grew up before the days of Title IX and never played pickup games themselves, Hillary explained it all.

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Hillary Hager: Pickup's part of our conditioning workouts, and it's also a good way to work on our basketball game in a non-structured atmosphere.

We play three days a week. We play Monday, Wednesday, Thursday. We start about five, and we end anywhere from 6:30-7, depending on how many games we get in, how long it takes us to get six or seven games in.

When you walk in, it's basically first come, first served. The first ten people that are there just split up into teams, two guards on a team, two post players, whatever. You try to make the teams as even as possible, but there's always a team that's going to be a little bit better.

And then you play games. If there's hardly anyone waiting, you play games to 11, which is "11 straight", you just go to 11. You play by 1's. Every basket's worth 1, a 3-pointer's worth 2. Or you can play "11, win by 2", and that means you have to win by 2. It's always winners stay, so that's an incentive. You want to win, so you can stay on the court and play more games.

Recently, we've had a lot of people, so we've been playing games to 7. Usually it's 7 straight. It can take anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. If it's the beginning of the night, it'll probably take five to seven minutes. If people are hitting 2's and you've got a lot of 3-point shooters on your team, then it goes like that (snapping fingers). You hit three 2's and that's almost the game. And then as we get tired, the games get longer.

The next person who walks in calls "I got next", and then they pick up four more people with them as more people walk in. And if there's not enough, like if we only have 13 people, then the three people who are sitting out pick up people from the loser's team.

We've had a lot of people this summer, so we've been running two courts. Like yesterday we had probably about 23 people. All women. We get people who live in Nashville and play in other places, like UNC-Greensboro or UNC-Charlotte. A lot of TSU girls come over, and we're pretty good friends with them. We get people who play at Lipscomb, who play at Fisk, all different types of places.

And also, we get older women who played. There's this one lady who said she's 32 years old and played at one of the area colleges, and she's still playing. So I thought that's really cool. So it depends, we get a mix of people. It's fun. You form a relationship with people other than the people on your team, and it's a fun thing. Rarely do we have five Vanderbilt people on one team.

But for us Vandy players, especially the returners, it's a good time for the older players to teach our freshmen what our coaches want, because we know now what our coaches want, and we can give them tips. We're always trying to teach. Just simple tips, like how to come off a screen. There are so many ways to come off a screen, so we teach how our coaches teach to come off a screen. Or what kind of pass you want in the post, just basic fundamental stuff that they might have done a different way in high school that we do a certain way here.
Overall, I think our freshmen look good. They were rated the #1 class in the nation, and if they continue to work hard, it's going to prove to be that. They look pretty good. But it's different because our team is so big now. It's a lot different, because we had 11 last year and now we're up to 16. That's a ton of people. It'll be good; it'll be fun.

Sometimes people ask whether they can come and watch us. Well, the gym isn't locked and nobody comes and physically throws people out, but we really feel like it's our time to just have fun. It is part of our conditioning summer workouts, but it's also fun and a real relaxed atmosphere. We don't want to worry about if we don't shoot well one day and have people saying, "Oh, they're not playing good." It's fun and relaxed, and we're just doing what we love to do, and we want to keep it that way.

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Photos for VandyMania by Whitney D. Click on thumbnails for larger images.

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