Practice the right way

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(Courtesy of SMU Athletics)

Watch the SMU men’s basketball team practice at the Crum Basketball Center, and it’s easy to tell that the team does in practice what it does in games: have fun.

There was music blaring on the practice court one recent afternoon. A couple of players participated in one-on-one games, while another player was working on his flashy shots. Head Coach Larry Brown was not at the practice, but the guys worked as if he were.

“We go hard, there is a lot of competition between us and we don’t stop,” Mustang Basketball Guard Sterling Brown said.

Under NCAA rules, teams are only allowed to practice two hours a week and must practice in small groups of four, instead of as a whole team.

Some teams in the NCAA have two one-hour practices each week, but Larry Brown prefers three forty-minute practices for his men. During practice, the players work on a combination of fundamentals and shooting, and also put an emphasis on defense.

Since players spend a lot of time in the classroom, not all of them are available to attend one of the morning or afternoon practices. Practices are determined by who is available at what time.

“Scheduling is a big deal for practices,” Brown said in an interview after a recent coaching clinic.

Brown said that even with the practice time limit, players still find ways to have fun.

“Sometimes they play pick-up games with each other after practice,” Brown said.

There are some new faces on the team this year, but they already seem like they have been here for a while.

Forward Jordan Tolbert, who transferred from Texas Tech, said he has adjusted nicely to the team because of the small group practices.

“These practices have let me get my footwork better, and I’m getting better individual skills,” he said.

The smaller practices allow players to work closer together, and they use each other to get better.

“There’s a lot of motivation, and we get each other going,” Tolbert said after practice.

It is easily possible for teams to struggle making the switch from a more lenient summer workout to the strict in-school practices, but for the Mustangs, the challenge was welcomed with open arms.

“We had a longer grace period to make the practice adjustment so we’re doing good,” Sterling Brown said. “There were not a lot of struggles to switching over.”

Brown, who is expected to be a key player this season, was one of several Mustangs to spend part of the summer break playing basketball in Europe.

He, along with forward Ben Moore, were members of the Global Sports Academy U.S. Team and they traveled to places such as England and the Netherlands.

Center Yanick Moreira was a member of the Angola National Basketball Team for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup which was held in Spain. To learn more about how Moreira and Angola performed, go to the SMU Live Blog.

The players’ time overseas allowed them to stay fresh, so when practices started up, they got off to a quick start.

For the players who stayed in Dallas over summer, getting together to practice was not difficult.

“We had some guys doing the summer school sessions, so they were here all summer, so they have experience,” Coach Brown said.

Basketball fans are getting excited for another season, but freshman Kevin Wappler has mixed feelings about the practice rules. He would prefer that the team practiced together, but since they can’t, he’ll deal with it.

“A full team practice would be better, but basketball is basketball,” he said.

Wappler noted that there are certain benefits to the smaller practices.

“They get to work on the smaller things and get better athletically,” he added.

The Mustangs’ first game is Nov. 14 against Lamar University at Moody Coliseum, and based on how they have practiced so far, they should have the perfect combination of skill and team chemistry.

“We gotta push each other to go hard, and practice strengthens our team chemistry,” Sterling Brown said.

Coach Brown describes the team in its simplest way: “We’re a family.”

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