Camp Guard 'Em Kicks Off Season For OU
The camp is a four-day crash course in defensive fundamentals, terminology and team philosophy. It’s s a time for the Sooners to engrain high-energy defense into their DNA.
“We start with this because it is really the central point from which your communication stems, your toughness stems, your team unity, and your team trust,” Coale said. “All those intangible things that separate good teams from great teams can really be tangibly taught through man-to-man defense.”
Perhaps the most important of those intangibles for Coale’s Sooners is communication. It is the cornerstone upon which Oklahoma builds its team, and that was evident in the raucous practice gym on Monday.
“The first day was awesome,” redshirt junior Kaylon Williams said. “Communication is extremely important. I know the freshman might have gotten irritated with us telling them how important that is, but it is that important.”
With strong leadership from veterans like Williams, it is nearly impossible for the newcomers not to buy in. Gabbi Ortiz is one of five freshmen going through their first week of collegiate practice.
“Defense is very important,” Ortiz said. “Obviously if they are putting a whole week into it, it is a key to us winning basketball games. We know that it is and we are excited about getting better each day.”
We start with defense because it is really the central point from which your communication stems, your toughness stems, your team unity, and your team trust.
“I saw a lot of good things from different people,” Williams said. “LaNesia [Williams] is a great hoop defender. She looks quiet from the outside but when she was out there screaming “hoop” it shocked me. My voice is always on 10 and she got a little louder than me. I enjoy seeing that.”
The Sooners are hoping to continue their current upward defensive trend. Last season Oklahoma cut their opponents field goal percentage from .418 in the previous season to .388 in 2013-14. They will need to continue that during a 2014-15 schedule that features perennial tournament teams like Kentucky, Duke, West Virginia and Baylor.
One way Coale pushes her teams to improve on a daily basis is her “thought of the day” for the team for every practice. On Monday that word was trust.
“We actually had an emphasis that without trust there is no us,” Williams said. “Trust is the crux of the entire defense. It starts there and we have to work from a place of trust.”
“Trust is a big thing because if you can’t trust each other on defense, you can’t be anything,” Ortiz said. “We are all about denial so we have to have trust in our help defense. If help is not there then we can’t get in their faces and deny.”
One thing Coale can trust the 2014-15 team to do is bring energy and effort to the court every day.
“I was pleased with their intensity,” Coale said. “This the best team summer we have ever had in terms of our commitment and our energy on a daily basis. They seem to be learning how to love the process. That reflects in their intensity.”
Bringing that intensity on a regular basis can be an adjustment for a freshman. Transitioning from a high school to collegiate practice can be a challenge. This year’s freshman class has embraced that challenge.
“We had a ton of energy coming into practice knowing it was our first,” Ortiz said. “Being a freshman, me and my classmates were really excited about our first college practice. It is very fast paced and it is all defense this week. Defense is very tiring and you are constantly moving. You don’t really get breaks so the little breaks you have you cherish I found out.”
Regardless of classification, the Sooners are just happy to be back on the court playing basketball.
We have been waiting for this forever. We are just excited as a group to get this thing moving.
“I am ecstatic,” Ortiz said. “You put in all the work in the summer with your strength and conditioning. That’s fun but it is a lot of hard work and now we get to be on the basketball court and I think we are all super excited for the season.”
“We have been waiting for this for forever,” Williams said. “It is exciting and we are really pumped about it. We are just excited as a group to get this thing moving.”
The Sooners begin the new campaign with a Nov. 5 exhibition contest against Southeastern Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. at the Lloyd Noble Center.