Men's Hoops: Halloween practice report

While thousands of kids were traveling home from Nashville schools, delirious with anticipation of the sugary prizes they would surely enjoy later that night, I was searching for a parking spot within a half mile of Memorial Gym, eager to enjoy my own prize - a chance to see the Men's Basketball team practice in the new practice gym facility.

While searching for the lone unlocked door that would provide me access, it dawned on me that Memorial has a East South Entrance and a South East Entrance. Come on folks! Couldn't we do better than that? I was worried that if I had to travel much further around the facility, I might encounter a South by South East Entrance. Maybe VandyMania could sponsor a Name That Entrance contest, surely I'm not the only one this mysterious directional labeling has given pause to?

* Freshman Bryson Krueger is still not practicing and no indication was given as to when he would be rejoining the team.

* The best news so far is that the entire team is healthy, with the only minor injury being Brian Thornton's stubbed toe which he injured last week in practice. Brent Ross, the Vanderbilt Sports Information Director, told me there were no nagging injuries at this time and the staff had gotten Thornton all fixed up since last week.

* Didn't exactly have the best seats in the house and I was only allowed to stay about a total of 45 minutes, so my observations may not be all that helpful. Special thanks to Don for letting me do this for VandyMania and to the VUAD for allowing me to attend and answering all my silly questions.

* On my end of the court, the big men were practicing receiving entry passes in the low post. The group was comprised of Martin Schnedlitz, Julian Terrell, Brian Thornton, Ted Skuchas and David Przybyszewski. Couple quick observations while watching that drill - Skuchas looks pretty smooth with his back to the basket and has a deft touch with either hand, including a nice baby hook that was equally effective from the right or left side. Schnedlitz also proved equally adept moving to the basket with either hand. You could tell right away that Przybyszewski has worked hard on his footwork and balance in the low post, had a couple very nice pivots toward the basket from the right side. After jamming a couple with one hand, Coach Jeff Jackson reminded big Chef "no dunks!" I've heard a lot about Terrell's ability under the basket, so I was most interested in his performance. The only thing I saw that I didn't like is that he didn't once use his left hand. Each time he received the entry pass from the right side, he would spin to the inside (as part of the drill) and put up a quick right-handed shot (instead of laying it up with the left, as all of the other players did).

* The next drill for the big men was starting underneath the basket and then popping out along either baseline for the 10 foot jumper. Przybyszewski obviously has a nice stroke, but the player who most impressed me during this drill was, again, Ted Skuchas. He didn't nail every shot, but the thing that stuck out the most is that he has a very quick release. Terrell made most of his shots and had pretty good form, but I think I noticed a slight hitch in his shot. Was only able to watch him take a half a dozen shots after I noticed it, but there is definitely a slight hesitation with the ball out in front of him as he goes up for the shot.

* I should note here that Coach Dan Muller and Brian Thornton were the ones feeding entry passes to the post players. 'Deuce' never did one rep on either drill and I don't think he participated at all in the following full team defensive spacing drills. He didn't appear hurt and as I mentioned earlier, the SID said no one was injured.

* On the other end of the court the guards and small forwards were working on their own drills, but I really did not have a good vantage point to see what and how they were doing.

* After those group drills, the team got together on the far end of the court and it looked like they were working on proper positioning and spacing for a 2-3 zone defense. The team was split into two squads signified by black and white (really grey) jerseys. The players that dressed in black were Thornton, Terrell, Przybyszewski, Corey Smith, Russell Lakey and Jason Holwerda. The white squad was Mario Moore, Adam Payton, Skuchas, Schnedlitz, Scott Hundley, Matt Carter, Geoff Peck and Matt Freije. At first, the coaches (with the help of walk on Geoff Peck) passed the ball around the perimeter while Coach Jankovich was teaching them where they needed to be. Then 5 players from one squad would go live against 5 players from the other squad. With the ball, they were running the motion offense and I think were mandated to make a minimum number of passes each possession before shooting. The defensive squad had to implement the positioning of the zone that was just drilled into their heads by Coach Jankovich. After each shot, the squads would switch sides with some players rotating in.

* Some observations while watching this team drill:

- It is a lot of fun to watch Lakey get on people defensively. He is all over the place and constantly has his hands going for the ball or stretched out in the air to block a bad pass.

- Freije had one rough stretch where he was stripped by Russ near the top of the key and then blocked by Przybyszewski after he got the ball back and tried hit a quick turnaround in the low post.

- During one rotation, Przybyszewski had a great rebound off an errant Lakey three pointer. He got nice position underneath and timed his jump perfectly. Unfortunately he was stripped right after he came down with it.

- Terrell had a spectacular rebound off a Freije miss, leaping sideways towards the baseline from his position in front of the basket. He took two small steps and was airborn in seconds, nearly jumping over Lakey, who was on his team, to grab the board - as he started to fall out of bounds along the baseline he quickly flipped the ball around his side to Lakey, who was ready and waiting.

- Freije got his revenge about 10 minutes later when Przybyszewski took an entry pass at the top of the key and tried to quickly turn around and shoot. As soon as Przybyszewski released the ball, Freije was reaching the top of his jump and easily got a hand on it. Pretty impressive.

- Jason Holwerda had a couple nice moments, including a steal off a pass from Hundley on the wing to Moore at the top of the perimeter. Then he had a terrific no-look dish to Przybyszewski who peeled away from Freije and made the easy layup. The pair tried that same play again about 10 minutes later but Schnedlitz showed some nice weak-side help and slid over to intercept the pass.

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