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Trying to fit basketball in

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Posted: Thursday December 09, 1999 10:32 AM


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 is currently 6-2 and ranked No. 11 in the latest Associated Press poll. Check out Hatchell's diary every other week on

December 8, 1999
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Semester exams start here on Thursday, so this week we'll just try to fit in enough basketball to keep the kids from forgetting about it. This time of year, the kids have so much on their minds. They have to finish up classes, study, prepare for exams and take exams so we only ask them to make a little time for basketball. We go on a very limited practice schedule during exams and try to fit in as much quality work into our practices as we can in a shorter period of time. The players get worn down mentally so we make the practices a break for them, a time they can come and get some exercise and get away from sitting in front of the computer or having a book in their face. We try to make it a breath of fresh air and not give them anything they have to think too much about. We don't put in anything new during this time, just let them come and get some exercise and enjoy playing basketball. It's more of a maintenance-type period.

We just finished playing four games in a six-day period, so it's also good for everyone to get some rest. We've had a lot of little nagging injuries -- back problems (Juana Brown and Jackie Higgins), groin pulls (Leah Sharp), bronchitis (Maggie Goloboy), and a thumb injury (Jasmyn Huntington). We've had to step back and move people around and back off a little bit defensively. We basically finished the game against Georgia Southern Tuesday night with eight players.

We started off the string with a win at Maryland in our ACC opener last Thursday, then spent the weekend at the Wachovia Women's Invitational Tournament in Richmond, Va., where we lost to Notre Dame on Saturday and then beat Richmond on Sunday in the consolation game. We haven't ended up in consolation games very often and they're difficult games to get up for. If you've lost the day before, you've put everything you had into that game and within 24 hours, you've got to get back up and play another one. It's a mental challenge, something you have to overcome, so that format is an important part of learning to be a mentally tough player. The tournament setting is good for the players to get used to and understand because that's what it's going to be like at the end of the season.

Right now, we're 6-2 and I feel like we've learned so much from both of our losses. They were against outstanding teams -- UCLA in the opener and Notre Dame last weekend -- and we've definitely become a better team because of the competition. We break down the film and analyze it in ways that really help the players learn. They're able to see that if we had done a few things better or differently, we could have won.

This time of year, you definitely want to be tested by playing some teams ranked higher than you. Yet, you want to play some games that let you build confidence with your young players and try things you've worked on in practice, different defenses or offenses and traps and presses. It's still an experimental time.

These early games have been especially helpful for our freshmen. We've had a couple of situations in which they have had to step up, and they have responded tremendously. They're still making freshman mistakes, but their enthusiasm and hustle lots of times makes up for those technical mistakes. Coretta Brown, a point guard, has done a really good job for us, and Jennifer Thomas, a forward, just earned ACC Rookie of the Week honors. Cherie Lea, another guard, has done some things for us defensively to help us out. I'm pleased that all of them are getting the experience they are. I think they've really gained a lot of confidence as far as what they can do and how they can help the team.

-- Coach Hatchell

Related information
College Basketball Diary: Sylvia Hatchell
College Basketball Diary: Learning a lot
College Basketball Diary: Preparation
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