Associate Athletic Director Cory Aadland's final thoughts from Wednesday in Branson.
Just got back from the Parade of Champions and the USF-College of Ozarks game. This was my second time seeing the Parade of Champions and even though you know exactly what's going to happen and it's the same thing over and over, it is still a pretty cool experience to see all 32 teams announced with their players, coaches and honorary coaches (who are members of the community involved with local businesses that serve as sponsors and hosts for each of the teams for their entire time in Branson). I hope the guys involved enjoy this experience because it is something that is very unique to the NAIA.
As I closed my last entry we were on our way to eat with the team at the Outback Steak and Oyster Bar. You think the Outback Steakhouse is an authentic Australian restaurant? I don't think I've ever seen gator tail on their menu. Coach Greene ordered a full order of it and after seeing it Larry Swann asked the server what it was. After explaining what it was the server asked Larry if he wanted to try some. I think his response was something along the lines of "heck no!" The server insisted and brought him out a small plate to sample. After trying it himself he walked around to the rest of the tables in our group offering it up to any curious and/or gullible sole who was willing to give it a try. I resisted at first but then figured when would the next time I would have this chance be. And it really does taste just like chicken! So I can now say I've tried gator tail and I can safely say that I won't need to do that again. I had way too many things going through my head as I was chewing. But really this is what makes the national tournament experience so unique for people like me. I see these guys all year along almost every day, but to get to do things like try gator tail and spend more time with them is something that I really enjoy. We've got a great group of young men on this team and it really is a privilege to even be associated with them.
So back to my observations from this afternoon's practice. One thing that I was really amazed by was the complexity of the schemes in basketball at this level. Of course I knew there were plenty of offenses sets and different defenses but to hear Coach Murphy go through just a few of the sets he's seen on film with Grace was mind boggling. Then there was the different terminology our guys use for our defensive scheme... can anybody tell me what being in "white" position means? No, how about "l" position? Or maybe "strong" position? A long ways from the "stay between your man and the basket" philosophy we all learned in 5th grade!
After walking through a few different sets and then again at a more game-tempo pace, it was on to something that really caught me off guard and impressed me more than anything... fundamentals! Don't get me wrong; I believe fundamentals are extremely important in any sport, but here these guys were the day before they play the opening round of the national tournament and they split up between shooters, bigs and ball handlers working on the same things they did the first day of practice! After a good 10 minutes of fundamentals it was on to some free throws where I witnessed my highlight of practice... Coach Murphy jumping up and hanging on the back of the rim making faces at Justin Nelson trying to distract him while he was shooting! Who says coaches can't loosen up and have a little fun every now and then!
The last 10 minutes of practice were spent scrimmaging at game speed and let me tell you they got after it. And when I say they got after it, I'm talking everybody... players and coaches both. It made me think of how these mild mannered coaches that I see in the office every day turn into almost completely different people when they get into practice or games. And I'm not talking about just our men's basketball coaches... I'm talking all of our sports. The enthusiasm, intensity and passion that each of our coaches put into their programs on a daily basis is truly amazing. Seeing that passion during games can be expected, but these coaches have that same passion day in and day out that most of us only see when it comes to game-days.
Practice came to a conclusion after some more free throws as all the guys made their way to half court, highlighted by German Madueno's cartwheel, which to me was a perfect ending to a practice the day before a big game. These guys are serious about what they do and they work extremely hard at it, but at the same time they're having fun and enjoying the experience. I don't know what else you could ask for. With the team together Coach Murphy told them of the specifics of the agenda for the remainder of the day including specifically what they were to wear for the Parade of Champions, team travel gear pants and blue polos. He made sure to explain extremely clearly that they were to wear those exact pants and not some other version so they could all look the same. As the team walked off the court Coach Mueller made his way over to me with a slightly concerned look on his face. As he got to me he whispered so that Coach Murphy couldn't hear him, "I didn't bring my travel pants!" I hope no one noticed tonight, but I know I sure did!
All in all today was a great day...slightly long but still a lot of fun. Here's to hoping that tomorrow is an even better day. A win tomorrow night is no small task but very well within us, and I'd like to stick around here for a few more days so the weather has a chance to warm up! Remember for all fans here in Branson that we will be holding a reception from 1:00-3:00 tomorrow afternoon at the Grand Plaza Hotel and we want as many people there as we can get. So come over and enjoy some time with the team and fellow fans as we get ready to cheer on our Tigers.
Who ya rootin for?