In the spirit of the MLB All Star Game, I decided to throw our guys a curveball last night.
I surprised our players and staff by telling them we would practice this morning at 6 a.m., for just under an hour. The news was met with great enthusiasm. It was a good way to break up the monotony of individual instruction and get them to play together a bit. I did my best to stay away from them this summer; I am sure my staff won a lot of friendly bets around the office about how soon I would have practice.
My main message before practice was that we won a title last
year. It was a championship that we are all proud of - it was difficult
to win and we learned a lot about ourselves in the process. With that
being said, it's time to take the next step as a team and a basketball program.
My expectations for them this season will be MUCH higher.
We started practice with a lot of defense. This was a good opportunity to teach the new guys our defensive principles and philosophies. As expected the incoming players have a long way to go.
There is no doubt in my mind they will get there. To finish practice I put in two plays and let them scrimmage a bit. We definitely look quicker and much more athletic than last year's team.
Below are some first impressions of each player...
Zach Lofton - impressed me with his playmaking ability. He has outstanding potential.
Coach Pitino says Andre Hollins is healthy and poised for a breakout year.
Andre Hollins - Came back healthy and in great shape. Breakout year coming.
Elliott Eliason - Body looks great, finished everything today.
Mo Walker - Had some big time moves in the paint. Would love to see him still get stronger and quicker.
DeAndre Mathieu- still recovering from Day Day beating him in one-on-one last week. Hopefully he will get over it by November 14th.
Josh Martin- Rodney Williams-esque athlete. Still has to learn how to play. Very excited about his potential.
Carlos "Squirrel" Morris- Has put on 15 pounds and has about 15 more to go. Long arms. Could be a great defender.
Daquein "Day Day" McNeil- I told him yesterday to come to practice a confident player. He walked in this morning with a gold jersey on. Traditionally, in practice maroon is the first team and gold is the second team. Everyone should walk into the first day of practice with a maroon jersey on! He has a chance to make a big jump from last year.
Joey King- Typical Joey. Efficient offensively and a great understanding of how to play. You win with guys like Joey. He has put on 15 pounds of muscle.
Nate Mason- Really impressed me defensively. Has very quick feet.
Charles Buggs- did not play, rehabbing after knee surgery. Looked like he was preparing for the Tour de France all practice.
Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou- will be here when school starts in September.
Coach Saunders and his staff were kind enough to invite me to the Timberwolves summer league practice Monday evening. His staff does an unbelievable job. I was blown away by Zach LaVine. He has a chance to be special! I was also extremely impressed with how hard Shabazz Muhammed played. He is a warrior. Gorgui Dieng looked great as well. Obviously I am biased when it comes to Gorgui.
My staff and I will be on the road from Wednesday to Sunday starting this week for the next three weeks. I will be in Washington D.C., Chicago and Springfield this week. Should be fun. The season is right around the corner. Can't wait!