Photo Story: SEC Media Days

Leaves turning red and gold, bright blue skies, and a crisp coolness in the air mean basketball season is just around corner. Another sure sign is the annual gathering of the coaches and stars of the SEC, along with the media who covers them. They all come together at SEC Media Days.

For the first time this year, the event moved out of downtown Birmingham across the street from the SEC offices to the Birmingham Marriott just outside of town.

All members of the SEC send their head coach and one or two of their marquee players to meet with the media. The schedule consists of four sessions, two on Wednesday and two on Thursday. Three schools are represented in each session.

Over a two-hour period the coaches and the student-athletes are whisked from room to room. Vanderbilt's scheduled time slot was 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.

Kevin Stallings, head coach of the men's basketball team, arrived separately by car shortly before the 2 o'clock session.

The rest of the contingent, including women's head coach Melanie Balcomb, Shan Foster and Julian Terrell from the men's team and Dee Davis and Carla Thomas from the women's team, and the SIDs for basketball, Chris Weinman for the women's team and Andre Foushee from the men's team came by plane. Travel glitches caused a late arrival, making an already hectic schedule even more so.

After getting name tags and meeting the SEC staff representatives, the group split up to rotate through the various stations. Eventually, they'd all do them all, but at different times.

First stop for Dee Davis and Carla Thomas was a promo shoot in an improvised TV studio. They were asked to say certain things for the camera "with feeling", to do tricks, even to throw streamers. Then, when it was discovered that no one had asked them to remove their name tags, they did it all over again.

The green background facilities video production later. Film from the shoot will be used in various SEC promos throughout the season.

After a walk through a maze of corridors, Thomas and Davis arrived at the CSTV (College Sports TV) studio. Each player took her turn on the hot seat. Questions ranged from "Do you have any tattoos?" to "What are your pre-game rituals?" Dee explained that she has to have a red and a pink Starburst before every game.

Carla confessed that the "most embarrassing music" in her iPod or CD is the soundtrack of The Lion King.

Then another studio, another hot seat, this time for CSS. More questions - "What can't you be without when you travel?"

"If you could play one-on-one with any player any time, who would it be?" "Whose poster did you have on your wall when you were growing up?"

And then . . .still another studio, another hot seat, and still more questions for SEC-TV. "What's your favorite food?" "Tell me about 3 point shots" "When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grow up?"

Davis recalled a pair of shoes her mother gave her for Christmas, which were wrapped in a box inside a box inside of yet another box. Thomas said that the important thing in shot blocking is to "make sure you get inside their heads."

Next stop was the television room. Much like a post-game press conference, reporters asked questions, Davis and Thomas answered them for the television stations present as well as for the SEC website.

With all the television shoots complete, their next stop was the print media room, where newspaper reporters can talk with the coaches and student-athletes at more length than is usually possible during the season.

In the background behind the atrium is Radio Row, but by this hour of the afternoon, it was closed, so Thomas and Davis got a chance to relax.

After a while, Foster and Terrell were finished with their responsibilities, too, and wandered back to the lobby to wait for the others.

Coach Balcomb and Chris Weinman, the SID for women's basketball, stopped for a photo. Then it was back to the airport . . and back to Nashville.

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Photographs copyright 2005 by WhitneyD for

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