The seasons change, the coaches change, the players change, but one truth is almost universal: No matter the sport, at some point, preseason
practice gets a little monotonous.
So when first-year coach Roman Banks senses a lull inside the F.G. Clark Activity Center, where the Southern men’s basketball team has spent the past few weeks preparing for a tough season ahead, he’ll remind players that the first game against Dillard is almost here.
It’s Friday, in fact; the back end of a men’s-and-women’s doubleheader.
And if the Jaguars are not paying much thought or respect to their upcoming NAIA opponent, well, they might want to think again.
“I tell the guys (that) we can’t take anybody for granted,” Banks said. “We haven’t won enough games to be able to take anybody for granted.”
Even before practice began, Banks asked for support and patience from a Southern fan base that largely groaned and stayed home the past few winters, citing the team’s less-than-sparkling record (the Jaguars were 17-74 from 2008-11 under Rob Spivery).
Since the preseason started, however, Banks said he and his assistants are starting to fit together a team of largely unproven veterans and newcomers.
Banks said he doesn’t have all the answers yet. The team has a closed-door scrimmage against Nicholls State at noon Sunday; after that, he hopes to have a few more.
“Lately, when we come out at practice, we’ll have two or three good days, then follow it up with a bad day,” Banks said.
“I do think we have more people who understand what we want to do, therefore we’re farther along and we’re able to do more things.”
For now, here’s what he knows:
- The Jaguars play as much man-to-man defense as they can.
Banks said earlier he wasn’t sure what his team would do on defense; that he had to see his players in action and figure it out from there.
Maybe they won’t press as much as he’d like. But ...
“At the end of the day, Roman Banks is about man-to-man,” he said.
“I want to recruit guys who can play that style, so yes, we’re going to do that.”
• They’re going to run.
Not all-out, not all the time. But an uptempo game is also important to the new coach.
“We won’t run crazy,” Banks said. “But we will run (and) get up and down the floor to at least keep pressure on people.”
e_SBlt They’ll ask a lot of point guard Jameel Grace and forward Quinton Doggett, among others.
Grace, now a junior, ranked second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in assists last season, with 3.7 per game — even though Southern finished last in the league and made only 38 percent of its shots.
“With us playing the style of ball that we play, I think that’s actually going to help him,” Banks said.
Doggett, now a senior, was fourth in the SWAC with 6.5 rebounds per game. Banks hopes that this year, that number can balloon to 10 per game.
“He’s a good athlete,” Banks said. “But unfortunately his skill development was behind his athleticism. ... His role probably wouldn’t be as significant on another team because, as a coach, you would want somebody in there who was a little more developed. But we’re going to need a lot from him.”
And from many other unproven players, new and old alike.
The season is coming, and the answers have to be there by then.