Coaches Corner: Steve Curtis
Thursday, November 13, 2008

Here we go again!  It is hard to believe but another basketball season is upon us.   Most of the sporting world’s interest is focused on the NFL and college football, but college basketball highlights have made their way onto ESPN and before you know it the season will be in full swing.  And I can’t wait to get started.

It is always interesting to see how the players spend their offseason.  NCAA rules do not allow us to work out with them during the summer months even though a few of them were enrolled in summer school.  Others went home for a few months to see the families and friends they lose track of during the school year.  Centenary doesn’t have school in July and early August so everyone was able to catch up a little with them then.  While it isn’t too far for most of them some have quite a distance to travel.  Sarah went home to China and caught a little Olympic Fever, while Karolina spent her summer in Europe.  All of them returned in late August ready to do whatever they can to establish our program as one the people of this area will be proud to call their own.

My offseason was interesting as well.  Of course there is the constant drumbeat of recruiting but we did manage to take a family trip to Alaska just as the season ended.  John, Mattie, and Katie had been after Claire and I to take them somewhere they could play in the snow so off to the Arctic we went.  We spent a couple of days in Anchorage then drove through the Denali National Park to Fairbanks.  Being from this part of the country I called ahead before we left to make sure the roads would be open.  It’s about 300 miles and I had visions of being stuck on a one lane road in a blizzard 100 miles from anything.  The people at the hotel in Fairbanks laughed and assured me things would be fine.  They were right; it was a stunning drive past Mount McKinley and some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen.  The kids played on slides made of ice, made igloos, and had some of the finest snowball fights in the history of children.  If you like to travel and have never been to that part of the world, do yourself a favor and go.  You won’t regret it.

We are fortunate to have the six players who played the most minutes returning from last season’s team, including all five starters.  The improvement in these players has been evident from the first workout this fall.  Anne, Ashley, Karolina, Bethany, Leslie, and Sarah got a tremendous amount of experience last year.  The growing pains were tough, but they are maturing as players and people.  In addition we return Cierra and Jasmine from injury.  Cierra was on the way to an all-aonference season before she tore her ACL in the eight game of the year.  She is not 100 percent yet but she is getting closer every day and has been very good in practice thus far.  Jasmine redshirted due to shoulder surgery, but practiced well last February and is back to being the player who started a few games as a freshman.  We are also very excited about the players we have added to the program since last season. Tasha and Michaela were very good players at their respective junior colleges and will bring a lot of experience to our team.  Beth, Megan, Chelsea, and Tesa are making the transition from high school to college and have been very good during the fall workouts.   

Our challenge as coaches is to get the players to compete with each other for playing time in practice while supporting each other during games.  It’s easy to get upset when someone you have gone head to head with for weeks is playing and you are on the bench.  Obviously we have more depth but our players have to put the team first and sacrifice their personal feelings if we are going to reach our goals.  So far they have done that, but how they react from this point on will be a big factor in our success.

The dress rehearsals are over, the roles have been learned, and the curtain is about to rise on the 2008-2009 season.  It will go up Friday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala., against the Crimson Tide of Alabama.  Then on Tuesday evening we open our home schedule against Louisiana-Monroe.  The Gold Dome has undergone a facelift and is going to be a terrific facility for us to play in.  We haven’t played a game in about eight months, and all of a sudden we will play four in ten days.  One of the hardest things to do is to keep an even keel as we go.  The nights after you win are euphoric, and the nights after you lose are depressing.  In either case we have to put that emotion behind us and go on to the next challenge.  It is a long way from here to the conference tournament in March, but if this year is like the others the time will pass quickly.  Should be an interesting year, so check in each week to see how we are doing.