Archive for December, 2010

The Holiday Break

December 17, 2010

By: Adam Hutchinson
Head Men’s Basketball Coach

The holiday season is an interesting time for college basketball players.  The semester break offers a much needed respite from preparing for and surviving finals.  It also offers a break from the practice routine, which given the length of the season, can become monotonous.  While it may offer a break from practice, for most players it is not a break from basketball since while at home they generally work out with their high school teams, and watch the division 1 holiday tournaments on ESPN.  And while they may not be practicing during the break, this time away seems to offer fertile growth opportunities for diligent athletes.

First semester freshman year can be an EXTREMELY frustrating time for most basketball players.  They go from ruling the roost in high school and thinking they know the game, to quickly feeling like novices at a sport they have played all their lives and wondering when the ball developed corners.  Passes that used to get through are now turnovers and shots that used to swish now rim out, and many players enter Christmas break mistakenly believing they have regressed tremendously as players.   The break offers an excellent opportunity to correct this belief.

When we return to campus for practice, I ask all of our first year players what stood out to them when they worked out with their high school teams.  They usually think for a moment, but almost to a person, they remark how SLOW the play was.  Many of these guys played for excellent high school programs, often with future division 1 players on them, so they are not referring to the foot speed of their former teammates.  Rather they are noticing how much quicker the decision making is at the college level, how much better the help defense is, and how much more you have to see and process in a shorter span of time.

I have a theory that this is due to the presence of a shot clock in college, and the absence of 15 and 16 year olds on the court, most of whom are just not mentally or physically ready to play college basketball.  Whatever the cause, I notice that the focus, decision making and execution of most of our first year players is infinitely better when they return from Christmas break.  It just seems that they think the game quicker when they come back.  In short, they may still be 1st year students in school, but they no longer play like it.

The break has an equally profound, though seemingly paradoxical effect on seniors.  Most seniors have long since adjusted to the pace of college basketball, and are familiar with the system of play, and the types of offenses and defenses they will face.  At some point before or during their senior season, oftentimes over Christmas break, the game SLOWS DOWN for them.  Watch senior players closely during games, and you will see that they are often fulfilling their role on the court while simultaneously directing the efforts of their less experienced teammates.  This is incredibly difficult to do while playing full speed.  Perhaps most entertaining is when seniors make a decision or rotation to cover for something a freshman didn’t do, while telling the freshman what to do next, what he should have done before, and what’s going to happen next if he messes it up again, all without a break in play.

So here’s to a safe healthy holiday to everyone out there.  May everyone enjoy the time with their family, get what they want from Santa, and most importantly, come back to campus ready to win the ODAC!

Tis the season….for bowl games.

December 10, 2010

By: Nate Jervey
Assistant Sports Information Director

Christmas is upon us….judging by the way Rachel has been acting in the office one would think that the holiday is tomorrow. That, or Rachel has been hitting the egg nog a bit hard. To be fair, she is not the only person in the Athletics Department who is slightly giddy about the forthcoming holiday. Some are excited about the actual holiday, others about the accompanying time off. Aside from the obvious reasons, I like the holiday season for something else. Football. The NFL season is winding down, and the college bowl season is just getting started. In addition to my Chicago Bears taking on the hated New England Patriots this Sunday, I am really excited about the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl featuring Fresno State and Northern Illinois, not to mention the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl pitting Troy against the University of Ohio.

Seriously?

The Pizza-Pizza Bowl

There are 35 bowl games this season and I legitimately want to watch about 10 of them. Is there a need for all of these random games with sponsors that nobody has heard of, featuring games that only 17 people care about, in places nobody wants to go? I hear Detroit is lovely this time of year, lets go check out Toledo and Florida International in the Little Caesars Bowl. Really? I did not even know that Florida International had a team and with a name like “International” I thought that they would interpret football as soccer. Wait!! Do they even realize what kind of game this is? And they are going to go to the “D” to play it? Oh man, this is not going to be pretty.

As dumb as I think most of these bowl games are, did I mention the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl featuring Air Force and Georgia Tech, I will end up watching most of them. Nearly each one is featured on ESPN and I am a guy. I am hardwired to think about three things – football, beer and fried foods. I only know about six tv channels; ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, the NFL Network, the History Channel, and Nickelodeon (what, I have younger siblings). ESPN and the these corporations know that I am a guy and that I am simple and have effectively brainwashed most of the American males between the ages of 21-49. Football, no matter how bad and seemingly insignificant, is still football and thus I am programmed to watch it. So as I get set to watch the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman (Maryland vs. East Carolina), remember that I can’t help it….I really had no choice.

Jim Valvano

One last thing. This past week was the annual Jimmy V Classic on ESPN. Named in honor of the late Jim Valvano, the Jimmy V Classic annually features some of the nation’s best collegiate basketball teams playing at the Mecca of Hoops, also known as Madison Square Garden, in an effort to help raise funds for cancer research. The Jimmy V Foundation was formed in, I believe, 1992 or 1993 and its namesake, Jim Valvano, gave us one of the most touching and moving speeches that I have ever seen. The former head coach at NC State was being ravaged by cancer at the time of his acceptance speech for the Arthur Ashe Award at the annual ESPY Award Show and his words still have a profound effect on me to this day and I simply cannot change the channel when his speech gets played each year. The foundation has some additional meaning to me as well as my father is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed when I was in the fifth grade and I remember being told by my mother and the doctors that there was a chance my dad may not survive. To say that that sucked would be an understatement, but it sucked. Fortunately my father survived and, perhaps, the Jimmy V foundation had a small part in it. I don’t know, but I do know that the foundation has raised over $100 million to date and continues to work to improve the lives of those affected by cancer, directly or indirectly.

It holds even more meaning to me this time of year as this was about the time my dad was diagnosed with cancer and doing chemo following his surgery. The outpouring of support from friends and family over those weeks and months have never been forgotten and I look forward to my trip home in a week where I will be able to see many of them yet again.

I hope that everyone has a safe and Happy Holiday. Go Generals!!!

If you have not seen the speech, or Jimmy V running around like a lost puppy following his team’s winning the 1983 NCAA Championship, I urge you to take a look.

December 7

December 7, 2010

By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

In front of the anchor from the USS Arizona

In case you missed it, today is December 7 – Pearl Harbor Day.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the words “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy” to refer to the events of December 7, 1941 during his declaration of war on Japan.

I hope that all of you took a moment today to recognize the importance of what happened 69 years ago today on the island of Oahu.  I guess I could include myself in the group of people who could say that they have gone through an entire December 7 in the past without thinking about the significance of the day.  This year, the date has a new meaning for me and is a day that I will not let myself forget.

Way back in July, my wife Mindy and I took our honeymoon to Hawaii and, while Maui was a perfect relaxing destination, we chose to spend a couple of days among the tourist hustle and bustle in Honululu.  The reason: to visit Pearl Harbor.

As Americans, two dates that should stick out in our minds are September 11, 2001 and December 7, 1941.  I can say that I had different feelings as I stood on the edge of a gigantic hole at Ground Zero in November of 2004.  Those feelings were different because I lived through the experiences of watching the planes hitting the Twin Towers.  The scars of the events were still evident in the buildings around ground zero and the large hole in the ground was like a large open wound.  That doesn’t mean that Pearl Harbor Day should be any less significant.

Inside the Arizona Memorial

Standing by the tranquil blue waters in Hawaii, it’s a little more difficult to understand the full scope of what happened there.  Watching the movies of that day helped bring it more into focus.  Hearing the tales of destruction and heroism that took place there are hard to ignore.  As we entered our transport boat (USS John Finn) to the Arizona Memorial, we were told the story of the individual for which the boat was named, United States Chief Petty Officer John William Finn.  Despite being wounded 21 times on December 7, 1941, he continued to man a 50-caliber machine gun and refused treatment until the attack was over.  What struck me most was to learn that despite being wounded in such a way, John William Finn, a recipient of the medal of honor, a died peacefully just 38 days prior to my July 4 visit to Pearl Harbor at the age of 100.  Simply astounding.  Upon docking at the USS Arizona, it all becomes so much more real as you see the ship just feet below the surface.  The oil that seeps to the surface is also a reminder of the scars that are present on the now peaceful island.  Because of my visit, I will not forget the significance of this day and those who lost their lives 69 years ago.

I figured I would end my post on a much lighter note by looking forward to Christmas and talking about my tree.

The 2010 Laubscher Christmas Tree

I always had fake trees growing up since my Dad’s allergies wouldn’t permit us to have a real tree.  Kind of anti-climactic I guess.  Last year, I bought my first real tree and had the experience of decorating it, but the tree was located at Mindy’s house and we were not yet living together so I really only enjoyed the tree for two days at the most.

On Sunday, we decorated our tree for this year and we have already thoroughly enjoyed its presence in our home.  I guess I never noticed how little a fake tree meant to me until I realized how much I love a real one.  I wondered a little last night if it is appropriate to name your tree?  But, before I mentioned this to Mindy, I decided perhaps I should shelve that idea before I made an idiot of myself.  Perhaps I like our tree too much. 🙂

By the way, I would have named it Bart.  Not sure why.  Happy Holidays everyone!

What is FIFA Doing??

December 3, 2010

By: Shana Levine
Associate Athletic Director

Qatar. Really?

First of all, I would like to acknowledge that most of the subsequent post is coming from a place of upset and frustration.  This upset and frustration is over the fact that my vacation plans for 2018 and 2022 are now royally screwed up and have to be thrown out the window.  I mean really, Russia and Qatar???

I was really hoping, and looking forward to, traveling to England for the 2018 World Cup and then bouncing from one city to another in the US in 2022.  Those plans will clearly now have to be scrapped.  I guess it made way too much sense to hold the World Cup in places where the venues and infrastructure are already in existence.  England and the US already have more soccer stadiums than would ever be needed to host the cup.  Infrastructure in Russia – maybe, not sure on that one.  Qatar – definitely not.  In fact, they are planning on building 9 stadiums for the event.  More on that later.

I am not all that confident about the stability of the Middle East in next month or next year…much less in 2022.  Chances of me (or most people) making plans to travel there = probably not great.

I do truly understand the excitement of awarding the world cup to areas of the globe that have never hosted – we just had a very exciting and successful (and loud thanks to the vuvuzelas) World Cup in Africa.  So, the idea of Russia and the Middle East hosting for the first time does have a nice ring to it.  But when it comes to the implementation, I am not so sure it’s a good idea.  I mean Qatar is tiny – about 1,100 square miles smaller than Connecticut.  Can you imagine trying to host the World Cup in only a part of Connecticut – with all those people, the number of stadiums and hotels needed?

To add insult to injury, almost everyone that I have heard talking about it on TV and Radio cannot even pronounce Qatar (/’ka:tar/).  If you listened to PTI on Thursday evening, you would have heard Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon and Tony Reali pronounce it like “cutter” (\’kə-tər\) multiple times.  That’s not even close to correct.

Beckham wasn't enough to sway the FIFA selection committee

It had to be a big blow to England to not only have the 2018 cup be awarded to Russia, but to only receive one vote from the committee.  Ouch.  And England pulled out all the stops for their 2018 bid – the final presentation on Thursday included Prince William, Prime Minister David Cameron and Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder and former captain of England’s soccer team, David Beckham.  Wow, that’s star power.  Even though England is basically the “home” of soccer, it has not hosted the World Cup since 1966.  I mean, really, throw them a bone.  Oh, and they have an incredible beer selection in their soccer stadiums.  I really hope the committee really took that into consideration because I know that I do.

As for the United States’ bid for 2022, it was very much focused on giving back, conservation and promoting environmental sustainability in line with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.  The bid included plans to provide a percentage of every ticket sold to go back into providing drinking water for millions in the developing world.  Additionally, there was a commitment from the US to uphold high environmental standards in six core areas: water, waste, energy, transportation, procurement and climate change.  That all sounds great, right?  Well, the FIFA executive committee didn’t think so and actually decided to go the exact opposite direction by awarding the bid to Qatar.  Qatar has the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions – three times those of the United States. Qatar had the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions for the past 18 years. These emissions are largely due to high rates of energy use in Qatar.  Awesome.  And do you know what was in Qatar’s bid?  Well, since it is regularly about 130 degrees there in the summer (right, because it’s a desert) the bid included a plan to create air-conditioned outdoor stadiums.  Really?  How practical is it to air-condition the outside?

Another great decision by FIFA.  Good work.  It’s right up there with shying away from goal-line technology.  I mean, how important is it to know if the ball really goes in the goal?  Especially in such a high scoring game like soccer. (read previous sentences with extreme sarcasm)

So, I guess it looks like I will be headed to Brazil in 2014.  Here’s to hoping they have good beer at their stadiums.