On the Road with the Wolfpack Women’s Basketball Team

A breakdown of the Wolfpack women’s basketball team’s road trip to Norfolk, Va., for its first road game of the season — against Old Dominion on Monday, Nov. 23, 2009.

Sunday, Nov. 22

~ 10 a.m.
The team leaves by bus from Reynolds Coliseum. In addition to the 12 players, four coaches and the bus driver, traveling with the team are four student managers, a graduate assistant and the equipment manager, video coordinator, director of basketball operations, athletic trainer, and sports information officer. Typically, Patrick Kinas, the play-by-play announcer of the Wolfpack women’s basketball team, also joins the team, but he called the men’s basketball games in the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla., and arrived in Norfolk on Monday afternoon.

The coaches sit at the front of the bus, followed by the support staff and student managers, and then the players.

First thing firsts: the graduate assistant passes out sheets of papers for the players, coaches and support staff to indicate their preferences for the pre-game meal Monday at Outback and dinner on the bus ride back to Raleigh after the 7 p.m. game. (Among the choices for Outback are salmon, steak and ribs; side choices are veggies, fries and a baked potato; and a choice of a house or Caesar salad; for the ride back home, among the choices are subs, pizzas, salads, and wings.)

There’s a lot of chatter on the bus, but by about 10:30 a.m. the bus is pretty quiet.

~ 11:30 a.m.
The team eats lunch/brunch at the Cracker Barrel in Roanoke Rapids.

~ 12:45 p.m.
The team leaves Cracker Barrel. Coach Harper appoints sophomore guard Kim Durham of Apex to make sure the players are all accounted for and on the bus before leaving any destination.

~ 2:35 p.m.

The view from the hotel in Norfolk.

The view from the hotel in Norfolk.

The team arrives at the hotel, the Marriott Norfolk Waterside, and checks in. Coach Harper tells the players they’re leaving for practice at 4:10 p.m. and to pick up their practice gear from Brenda “Bren” Keene’s room. She’s the equipment manager. Stephanie Aronson, the athletic trainer, adds that players can come by room beginning in 10 minutes to get taped. All players are required to tape their ankles or wear ankle braces.

~ 4:10 p.m.
The team leaves the hotel via bus.

~ 4:25 p.m.

Players at ODU's practice facility.

Players at ODU's practice facility.

The team arrives at ODU’s Marc Jacobson Athletic Center. As soon you enter the practice facility, you immediately see cases containing the trophies marking the Old Dominion women’s basketball team’s 1985 NCAA title, 1975 Division II title, 1979 AIWA title, and 1980 AIWA title. (AIWA is the acronym for the Association for the Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, which governed women’s college athletics until the early 1980s when the NCAA began holding national championships for women athletics.) There are banners in the practice facility to honor this history as well as symbolic jerseys to honor the following former players at ODU: Nancy Lieberman, Ticha Penicheiro, Anne Donovan, Clarisse Machanguana, Tracy Claxton, and Inge Nissen.The point? ODU is instrumental in the history and development of women’s basketball.

~ 4:31 p.m.
Players warm up by shooting.

~ 4:39 p.m.
Players stretch and do several jogs in different directions (i.e. forward, backward, zigzag, etc.) from sideline to sideline.

The team stretches.

The team stretches.

~ 4:48 p.m.
Players huddle at center court around the coaching staff, and Coach Harper goes over several things to focus on during practice. They break the huddle by yelling “Play hard” as a team.

~ 4:51 p.m.
Players work on stationary ball-handling and dribbling drills led by sophomore guard Kim Durham. Among the dribbling drills are figure eights, side v-dribbles and ups and downs; and among the ball-handling drills are slaps, tipping and the around the waist.

~ 4:55 p.m.
Players do a full-court drill, playing 5-on-0, working on scoring in transition and looking at different options to score in transition.

~ 4:59 p.m.
Players, going 5-on-5,work on their offensive sets against ODU’s defensive schemes. “Crash the boards. They’re not good at boxing out. They rely on their posts,” assistant coach Stephanie McCormick tells the players.

~ 5:10 p.m.

Players, going 5-on-5, work on out-of-bound plays.

~5:14 p.m.
Guards shoot free throws while post players take a break and drink water.

~ 5:17 p.m.
Post players shoot free throws while the guards take a break and drink water.

~ 5:20 p.m.
Guards and posts split up, and each set works on shooting from their position.

Practice at ODU.

Practice at ODU.

~ 5:26 p.m.
Players, going 5-on-5, work on their motion offense. “If you don’t go for loose balls, they’re going to kill us,” McCormick says.

~ 5: 36 p.m.
Players work on breaking a full-court press. “Make yourself available. Go where they’re not. Find an area,” Coach Harper instructs them.

~ 5:41 p.m.
Players shoot free throws in groups of two around six baskets. They each shoot two free throws and then rotate to the next basket to their right. When they get to the basket in the far-end corner, they get a sip of water before moving to the next basket.

~ 5:48 p.m.
Coach Harper calls out for the “super scouts.” The scout team consists of three student managers and assistant coaches Richard Barron and Jon Harper, and they run the offensive sets that ODU runs. The NC State players work on defending against the offensive sets.

~ 6:15 p.m.
One of the players must make a free throw. For each free throw missed, the team must run a full-court suicide. The player misses four free throws before making a free throw.

~ 6:19 p.m.
Two players must run an extra set of full-court suicides because of the number of free throws they missed during the breaks. The rest of the team takes a water break.

~ 6:21 p.m.
Assistant coach Jon Harper leads the team in push ups, telling the players when to go up and down. They do about 64 of them, with a short break after every 20th push up.

~ 6:26 p.m.
Practice ends.

~ 6:35 p.m.
The team leaves the practice facility and heads to dinner via bus.

~ 6: 58 p.m.
The team arrives at the restaurant, Max & Erma’s. The players, support staff and assistant coaches take their seats. Coach Harper says she’s going to walk back to the hotel (just a two-minute walk from the restaurant) and watch more game film. She tells her husband, assistant coach Jon Harper, what she’d like for dinner, and he brings it back to the dinner after the team finishes dinner. Tonight’s popular menu item? Funnel cake fries with a strawberry dipping sauce. And yes, Coach Harper ordered them, too.

~ 8: 45 p.m.

Senior Nikitta Gartrell on the team bus.

Senior Nikitta Gartrell on the team bus.

The team leaves the restaurant and heads back to the hotel by bus.

~ 8: 55 p.m.
The team arrives back at the hotel. Assistant coach Jon Harper tells the players to immediately go to his and Coach Harper’s room to watch film.

~ 11 p.m.
Players are in their rooms, and it’s lights out. Assistant coach Stephanie McCormick checks on the players.

Monday, Nov. 23

~ 10 a.m.
Breakfast in the hotel restaurant. When the players received their room keys Sunday, they were given a coupon to hand over to the wait staff to have access to the breakfast buffet. It didn’t go unnoticed that the coupon was good for the “North Carolina women’s basketball.”

~10:45 a.m.
The team heads to a conference room and watches film again. Some of the clips are the same ones they saw the night before and some clips are new. Each player has her scouting report with her and looks over it  as Coach Harper goes through various schemes ODU runs and the strengths and weaknesses of some of the ODU players. Throughout the clips and instruction, Coach Harper periodically asks questions to get them to repeat and emphasize what she’s talked about during practice and film sessions and what’s included in the scouting report. For example, Coach Harper asks, “What do you do when they do a random pick on the ball on the wing?” Answer: “Switch.”

Other Coach Harper excerpts from the film session:

“We might never get a layup tonight, but you want to challenge them and make them defend you every single time.”

“Look at how active they are. They’re not standing still. They’re really moving.”

“Please box her out. She’s strong.”

“We don’t need to foul No. 44. Don’t bail her out.”

“FYI. You don’t get any extra points shooting behind that black line.”

[Editor’s note: Women’s basketball has a 19 feet, 9 inches three-point line, and men’s basketball has a 20 feet, 9 inches three-point line. Because both the men’s and women’s team play in ODU’s home arena (the Ted Constant Convocation Center), there are two lines to mark the three-points line. A light blue marks the women’s line, and a dark blue marks the men’s line. Reynolds Coliseum only has one permanent line, which marks the women’s line. NC State is one of just a handful of Division I schools in the nation to use separate facilities for home games for its men’s and women’s programs. Once the renovations on Carmichael Auditorium are complete this year, UNC will be one of the few other schools to have two separate home facilities for the men’s and women’s teams, as well.)

~ 11:09 a.m.
The film session sends.

Players wait in the lobby before heading to a practice.

Players wait in the lobby before heading to a practice.

~ 11:15 a.m.
The team boards the bus and heads to the Ted Constant Convocation Center Center for shoot around. On the bus, the players quietly review the scouting report to themselves.

~11:36 a.m.
The team arrives at the Constant Center.

~ 11:45 a.m.
Players warm up by shooting around. One of the first thing Coach Harper tells the players is that when they’re shooting three-pointers in the shoot-around, to shoot with their feet standing on top of the navy blue line.

~ 11:51 a.m.
Players split in guards and posts and shoot free throws.

~ 11:56 a.m.
Players work on guarding the scout team, which is running ODU’s out-of-bound plays from the baseline.

~ 12:06 p.m.
Players work on guarding the scout team, which is running ODU’s out-of-bound players from the sideline.

~12:08 p.m.
The players work on running their out-of-bound plays.

~ 12:11 p.m.
The players do shooting drills.

~ 12:15 p.m.
The players shoot free throws

At the Monday shootaround.

At the Monday shootaround.

~12:20 p.m.
The players run defensive sets against the scout team, which is running ODU’s offensive sets.

~ 12:30 p.m.
Practice ends with the team yelling “Together” at center court.

~ 12:40 p.m.
The team boards the bus and heads back to the hotel.

~ 1:02 p.m.
The team arrives back at the hotel. Coach Harper announces that the players should drop off their practice gear at the equipment manager’s room and to meet back in the lobby at 2:50 p.m.

~ 2:50 p.m.
The team walks to Outback for the pre-game meal.

~4:00
After the players eat, Coach Harper goes over the scouting report again and asks players to identify the strengths and weaknesses of some of ODU’s players.

~ 4:10 p.m.
The team leaves the restaurant and walks back to the hotel to get ready for the night’s game.

~ 5:15 p.m.

The team leaves the hotel via bus. The ride to the Constant Center is fairly quiet as most of the players have on their headphones to listen to music.

~ 5:36 p.m.
The team arrives at the Constant Center. They change clothes, complete their warm-ups and get a final talk from Coach Harper during the next hour-and-a-half.

~ 7 p.m.

Game time!

~ 9 p.m.
NC State wins 62-52. Coach Harper does a radio interview, talks to the team in the locker room, and attends a press conference. The players shower, change clothes and talk to some family and friends who came to watch them play.

~ 9:30 p.m.
The team departs the Constant Center via bus. Food from a New York-style pizzeria waits for the players, and they eat on the bus on the way home. For the first time during the trip, the bus’ TVs get turned on — to ESPN and Monday Night Football. Most of the players listen to music, study or nap.

~ 1 a.m.

The team arrives at Reynolds. Coach Harper announces that the players have Tuesday off but need to do lifts at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday before they fly out to Nashville for the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Invitational. The players go their separate ways. They’ve got class Tuesday, and Tia Bell and Emili Tasler, in particular, have a presentation in a course that counts toward their minor in coaching. Their presentation looks at A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back, a documentary about the Tennessee women’s basketball team that won the 1997 national championship after losing 10 games that season. It features Kellie Jolly Harper, who missed three months of the season due to a torn ACL. Look for an interview to be posted Friday in which Coach Harper talks about the documentary. The trailer below: