Work in Sports
Learning a lot in first exhibition game
Posted: Monday November 08, 1999 01:48 PM
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. Check out Hatchell's diary every other week on CNNSI.com.
November 8, 1999
Well, we've got one exhibition game under our belts, an 82-77 loss to the Russian Junior National Team last Wednesday. After a couple of weeks of practice, it was good to put on our uniforms and get on the court and play against someone besides ourselves.
We learned a lot in this first game. The Russian team was outstanding and really had some great players. It was great for us to have that kind of competition.
Of course, we weren't at full strength. Four of our players (Nikki Teasley, LaShonda Allen, Cherie Lea and Jennifer Thomas) have not made their preseason conditioning requirements and didn't dress for the game. As a result, we had Coretta Brown, a true freshman, at point guard for most of the game.
I saw some good things, though. I thought we executed well at times and I thought we rebounded pretty well with them. [UNC outrebounded the Russians 36-34.] Even though they were so much taller than we were, we still got the ball inside and scored on them.
The European style is very different from what we see. They're so methodical with their play, their roles, their passing, their screens, all their cutting. They just play a different brand of basketball and that's something you have to adjust to.
They scored 82 points, but a lot of those were off transition. We were the first team to play them, so we didn't have a scouting report. If we'd had one, we could have walked through it and shown our freshmen what to do on defense against some of their plays. I think we could have held the score down a bit.
We went with a starting lineup of Brown, the freshman point guard, junior guards Juana Brown and Leah Sharp, junior forward LaQuanda Barksdale and junior center Jackie Higgins. Jasmyn Huntington, a junior guard who transferred from Nevada, also played a lot of minutes. This was the first time we'd had this group out on the floor competitively, and we were going against a veteran team. Still, we had it tied late in the game and had a couple of chances to win. But we learned a lot from it and that's what I wanted, some great competition so that we would have to work hard and could learn a lot. That's exactly what we accomplished.
I saw some good things, things we can build on. When we get the other players out there, we'll be even better. We have another exhibition this Sunday, so we'll get a chance to get out on the floor again before we open at the Four in the Fall on Nov. 20.
It was tough not having the other four players out there, but we really take our conditioning requirements seriously. In the preseason, all of the players have to meet a number of goals, including strength training and running a set time in the mile. The mile is what's slowing some people down now, but they're coming close and I feel confident all our players will meet their goals.
In coaching 24 years and winning three national championships, I've learned what it takes for a team to be on the level it needs to be to compete for a Final Four and a national championship.
We've raised the bar this year as far as what we require from the team. We think the players have a lot to gain from working at this high level, and we focus on three benefits in particular. First of all, you do get conditioning. Second, you get discipline. Third, you get mental toughness. As our players reach the goals we've set within our conditioning program, those things will be in place: the outstanding conditioning, the discipline.
-- Coach Hatchell