Sept. 22, 2011
ATHENS, Ohio - On this last day of summer, the Ohio Men’s Basketball team gathered together for the first time with lofty goals in mind for the upcoming season.
The Bobcats, who have earned wins in the last two postseasons for the first time in program history and have reached tournament play a program-best three times in the last four years, would love to add to its MAC-best 11 postseason wins and 12 NCAA Tournament bids in 2011-12.
After what has felt like an eternity to these Bobcat players, Thursday afternoon arrived and they finally got to share the court with Head Coach John Groce, the rest of the coaching staff and their teammates.
“The effort and attitude was really good, probably the best since I arrived,” Groce said. “It’s encouraging to see because I feel that not only will this help us improve, but lead to more consistent play in games.”
For Division I men's basketball teams, practice does not officially start until Oct. 14 but the Bobcats have been working hard. Assistant Coach Jamall Walker is tutoring guards D.J. Cooper, Stevie Taylor, David McKinley and Nick Kellogg, while Assistant Coach Ramon Williams is teaching wing players, Ricardo Johnson, T.J. Hall, Nick Goff and Walter Offutt
“We have emphasized shooting to our guards and wing players,” Groce said. “We lost our all-time three-point leader in Tommy Freeman so we’ve been working on shooting and spacing the floor. We made sure they all got on “The Gun” this summer and got as many shots up as possible.”
Assistant Coach Dustin Ford is working with Ohio’s post players. Reggie Keely, Ethan Jacobs, Ivo Baltic, Jon Smith and TyQuane Goard have been working on getting tougher and being more physical in the paint.
“With our frontcourt guys, we’ve put the focus on toughness,” Groce said. “It’s the hardest job in our system to be a ‘big’. You have to run a longer distance from one end to the other. You’re involved in more physical contact with all the sealing, blocking out, screening that we do. All of this practice they do is part of a continual process to make them physically and mentally stronger.”
During the summer, all of the players have been working with strength and conditioning coach Mike Basgier. Basgier’s goal is to get the team ready for the rigors of a grueling season that will include the always-difficult slate of MAC contests.
“Mike has worked them hard,” Groce added. “Our guys have all reached or surpassed their strength goals and we just have a few guys that still need to reach their conditioning goals. Heading into this period of time, we’re a little banged up, nothing serious, just nagging stuff. We are going to make sure they’re ready to run and compete when this season begins.”
Groce, who is entering his fourth year at the helm in Athens, preached defense and toughness throughout this morning’s one-hour session to his team. This was never more evident than when he whistled practice dead and made the team run when one player was caught with his hands on his knees.
“Defense is something we have been emphasizing,” Groce said. “We need to get our numbers down to where they were two years ago when we made the run to the NCAA’s. Our opponents’ field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage numbers were too high last year. We’re still going to play fast and run a high-tempo attacking offense but we’re going to be committed to defense and getting stops.”