Hey Hey—just checking in from St. Louis for the first time in a few weeks. While the weather was 70 and sunny here yesterday (amazing!) the only thing hotter is the men’s and women’s basketball teams. OK so that was a really lame start to the blog, but really—combined we’ve won 11-straight UAA games and everyone down here is pumped with the way things are shaking out. We have a three-game lead in the UAA and the women are still tied for first with Rochester. Let’s rewind and go through our past few weeks.
Two weekends ago we traveled to Brandeis (Boston) and NYU—everyone’s favorite trip of the year. My parents, aunt and uncle, went on the trip so it was a blast going to nice dinners with them in Boston and New York. When we go to awesome cities like these, Coach Edwards gives us a night free to explore as long as we’re back by curfew. I could see other coaches being strict and making their players stay in the hotels, but Coach makes sure we get to enjoy the unique opportunity to see cities we don’t normally get to, however we want to see them. Last year, Tyler and I went to see a musical on Broadway—very cool and not something most college kids from St. Louis get to do during the school year. Listening to show tunes and musical soundtracks may or may not be a guilty pleasure of mine.
Anyway, Friday night’s game at Brandeis was a really tough one. The students were rowdy and on top of the court. Aside from cursing about my mom–I was dealt one of my lowest blows when one kid yelled at me ‘Hey Wallis—I read your blog on d3hoops.com and it sucks!’ At first it got to me—but then I was pumped because it meant more people than my parents and sisters are taking the time to read this stuff.
‘Deis hung tough but my man Cam Smith, who was growing a dirty stash out like Larry Legend, hit a big time shot down the stretch to help us get the W. A lot of people that don’t know too much about our team know about me, or Tyler or Aaron Thompson (AT)—but team’s need a guy like Cam to be successful. He’s leading our team in rebounding, he hits backbreaking shots, and he gets after it defensively while frustrating the other team’s best player.
We bussed to New York early Saturday for shoot-around and walk through to prepare for NYU. I don’t think we were ready for the way NYU cut early on and we were down 10-1 before any of us had woken up for the Sunday morning game. A.T. put us on his back and before you knew it we were up 28-12. We held a decent lead the rest of the way and got back to St. Louis with a clean weekend sweep and a 7-0 record at the midway point.
For those that don’t know how the UAA works, at the halfway point the schedule flips around. So we played NYU the next Friday and Brandeis on Sunday at home. It’s an extremely strange dynamic—and gives us a taste of what it would be like to play a five or seven-game series—how they do it in the NBA. Since I’d been at Wash U, we’d never won both games in the back-to-back turn around, but this year we were able to do so. Last year we lost to CMU by 30+ on Sunday then beat them by 15 the next Friday—just weird.
We took down NYU in front of rowdy Field House crowd on Friday night and beat an undermanned Brandeis squad on Sunday. We have a big weekend coming up including our last two road games of the season. Tomorrow morning we leave for Atlanta to play Emory on Friday then on Saturday we fly to Cleveland for our game against Case Western on Sunday.
I wanted to take this opportunity to address a few questions I got from some readers about my recovering from injury and my play on the court. I feel like my return this year has definitely been a success. We graduated the National Player of the Year, have an enormous target on our back as defending national champions, and still have found a way to be 19-1, 9-0 in the UAA.
Personally, while I played quite a bit this summer—I really didn’t feel like myself back on the court most of first semester. Physically my body was fully healed, but basketball is a lot about confidence and I’m not sure I fully had it in my leg the first month of the season. Right now, however, I feel fantastic. I think it just took time to know that if I got knocked down going to the basket, my leg wouldn’t necessarily snap, but I’d get back up and hit free-throws.
I think there are a few significant ways I feel like my game has evolved from a few years ago due to sitting back and watching. The first is I really am focused on ‘playing forward’–a term I’ve heard Kirk Hinrich use. He means that if you miss a shot or make a turnover, to forget about it and just worry about the next play in the game. Obviously at the end of the game you should evaluate why you made mistakes–but during the game, it’s important that those mistakes aren’t changing your mindset.
Another thing I am conscientious about is to make sure I value the ball on every one of our team’s possessions. After sitting out I realized how costly it is when turnovers actually happen–even if they’re aggressive turnovers, trying to make a play happen. I think that’s one of the reasons my assist-to-turnover ratio is well over three this year where it was under two a few years ago.
Also—there was a question about our PA announcer Bruce Veach, and his absence at a bunch of our games this year. He’s an important part to the Bear basketball family and is going through a tough fight with cancer so he’s only been able to be at a handful of games. He’s got all of our support though and is a tough guy and he’s gonna make it through this. Besides, no one yells “AT FOR THREEEEEEEEE” like he does!
Again, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com if there’s anything you want me to address. Only a few more until March!!!!
P.S. Wanted to give some love to Corey O’Rourke and Elliot Curtis, Carnegie Mellon’s PGs, for their podcast ‘Two the Point’
It’s pretty good stuff if you get a chance to listen.