Practice with the Women’s Basketball Team

October 29, 2009
By Cherry Crayton


Check out the above photos that Tim O’Brien, a photographer with NC State Student Media, took during the Wolfpack women’s basketball practice yesterday at Reynolds. And if you’ve ever wondered what a college basketball team does during a practice, we’ve got a complete, almost minute-by-minute breakdown of one here. After the jump, we’ve also compiled a list of some highlights from practice and things Coach Kellie Harper said to the team during it. But first, we’ve got excerpts from a quick interview we did with her after practice. It’s all part of our third installment of “A Coach’s First Season,” NC State magazine’s ongoing coverage of Coach Harper and her team throughout the season.

On what she does after practice
After every practice I write down what we did not do well and we’ll focus in on it tomorrow. If we didn’t have a good practice, I’ll figure out why and how I can make it a better practice. I’ll knit-pick little things. Whether it’s reasonable or not, that’s how I do things. I’m always trying to find a way to do things better.

On bouncing back when practices don’t go well
Probably early on [in the next practice] I’ll do some drills where [the players] will be successful, and hopefully, they will build on that success and have a good practice. [When I’m] disappointed in the kids’ effort, I let them know that. For a competitive kid, that means something. And for a group of pleasers, they hate to let their coach down. And I’m hoping that will motivate them to come back out.

On her biggest concerns so far
Depth. And another big concern is that everything is new. We’re teaching, every single day. A lot of these concepts are not going to be habitual for these kids. It may take months for them to learn how to play together in our system.

On why she implemented the new system immediately
As a new coach, you have to institute your philosophy and then tweak as necessary. We’re going to start with the up-tempo, exciting basketball. I think that’s what the kids want to play. As the season goes, we’ll reel them in as we need to. It’s easier to teach up-tempo and then reel [them] in than to teach speeding up later on.

On what she’ll look for during the team’s exhibition game
It will be great for us to get something on tape that we can review. The effort will be there, and [the players] will play hard. I don’t doubt that. I’d like to see how well they’re picking up the concepts we’re teaching. I understand mistakes are going to be made, we’re not going to shoot 100 percent from the field, but I hope we’re thinking the right things. [Editor’s note: The Wolfpack faces North Greenville in an exhibition game on Monday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. in Reynolds.]

On how she deals with the high expectations
There’s no one that has higher expectations for this program than me. That alone relieves any outside pressure that I’m feeling. And I think right now, I believe in our system and I believe in our staff to get things done. I know it’s going to take some time. I understand it’s not going to happen overnight; we’re not going to contend for championships overnight. But I’m very confident in our ability to get it done.

Highlights and tidbits from the Oct. 28 practice:

  • Coach Harper designs each practice and types up the plan with what time to start each drill and activity. She builds the practice around two things she wants to emphasize throughout it — one focused on offense and one on defense — and notes what she wants to specifically emphasize during some of the drills.  The emphasis this practice is on playing hard but not fouling (defense) and setting good screens (offense).
  • Each practice begins with one player reading a quote that Coach Harper has found inspiring and motivating. On this day it’s a quote from Thomas J. Watson: “The [woman] who does not take pride in [her] own performance performs nothing in which to take pride.”
  • The players break their huddle to begin practice by yelling “Work hard!” They close practice by yelling “Together!”
  • About 15 people—in addition to Harper, the assistant coaches, the players, and the male practice players—watch practice from the sidelines. They’re student managers, an equipment manager, director of basketball operations, the strength and conditioning coach, trainers, video coordinators, and sports information personnel.
  • One manager runs the clock during practice, putting up how much time Coach Harper has allotted for each drill and instructional period. Managers also keep statistics, such as free throws made during the breaks and turnovers during the five-minute scrimmage.
  • Two student managers are on the court throughout practice to pass the ball during drills and to chase down balls.
  • Each drill and instructional period lasts no more than 10 minutes.
  • Players are given two 3-minute water breaks.
  • There were about half-dozen male practice players used during the three-hour period, though they practiced in about one-and-a-half-hour shifts. How were they found? Some playing in Carmichael gym, and some are friends of the players or managers.

Quotes from Kellie Harper during practice:

“We’ve got to be relentless. Attack the board. Four people attack the board on every shot. Four. No excuses.”

“Bing. Bing. Bing. You go.”

“When you step out on the court, give me everything you’ve got.”

“You’ve got to regroup and get your minds and bodies into it.”

“Don’t just touch the line, drive through it.”

“We have to get 100 percent of the rebounds. It’s deflating to go down and miss a layup and to have to come back and play defense, but that won’t happen if you get the rebound.”

“I will be madder quicker if we don’t rebound. If you don’t rebound in practice, you won’t do it in a game. And if you’re not doing it in a game, I’m telling you I will blow a gasket . . . . I’m warning you. Four people every single time to the boards.”

“We can’t just make steps, we have to make strides. We have to make improvements every single day. Every single day. By every single person. I’m pleading with you to show up every day and be ready.”

Don’t forget to check out our complete, nearly minute-by-minute practice here.

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