Back on the court again
Sylvia Hatchell coached North Carolina to a national championship in 1994. The Tar Heels finished the 1998-99 regular season 24-6 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. North Carolina returns three starters and is favored to win the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Oct. 19, 4:00 p.m.
It doesn't seem like it has been that long since the end of last season, but here we are, back out on the court again. We didn't actually start practice until late on Sunday, a day later than we could have, because our campus was on fall break from Thursday to Sunday. Most of the players had not been home since school started and they don't get much time away at Thanksgiving or Christmas so we let them have the full break and didn't start practice until Sunday at 6 p.m. I figure one day is not going to make that much of a difference. I think the players appreciate the fact we realize basketball is not the only thing in the world.
I always look forward to practice starting, because it means I can stay home a little bit. In the off-season, there are so many other things going on, speaking engagements and things like that. Once the season starts, practice comes first. I don't really have time to do those other things and I don't get asked to do as much. People know I'll be spending my time with the team.
The players, too, are always ready for practice to start because so much of preseason is just conditioning. They're anxious to be able to run with a purpose and with the basketball, not as a part of the conditioning program.
We're all excited about this season. The offseason gave the players some quality time to get away from basketball a little bit and also to work on their conditioning and strength. We've had a lot of players really mature mentally and physically, in every phase of the game, since last spring. Several of them have lost weight, have really worked hard in the weight room and have increased their vertical jumps and gotten stronger. As a result of that, they're more confident. Overall, I think we're a better team than we were last year. The fact is we're still pretty young, with no seniors, but we have a lot of experience.
When we did get started on Sunday, we went straight to the court and got to work. I'm not big on these Midnight Madnesses. We've tried that a couple of times and I just don't like starting practice with a carnival atmosphere. We feel like, "Hey, let's get to work, we've got a job to do."
We've had a couple of really good practices so far and right now I'm headed down to the court for another one, our third of the season. Our work ethic and chemistry have been good so far and I think the players really feel that this team can accomplish a lot. As long as we can stay focused and keep working hard, I think this team can be very good.
-- Coach Hatchell