Fayetteville Observer: CU's offseason preparations a group effort

Reco McCarter
Reco McCarter (BigSouthPhotos.com)

- Increased summer access to players benefits coaches throughout college basketball, especially the members of Campbell's first-year staff.

Head coach Kevin McGeehan already has spent significant chunks of time teaching and reinforcing principles of the Camels' new offensive system. The NCAA's offseason workout parameters have given his players and assistants alike opportunities to run it.

Starting Sunday, the midpoint of September, coaches could begin participating in skill instruction with more than four players at a time. The allotment of two instruction hours per week remains the same, but being able to put five players on the court together rather than four makes an obvious difference.

Before this week, assistant coaches Peter Thomas, Dan Geriot and Chris Clark had been filling out the fifth and final spot in five-on-zero offensive drills. All five of McGeehan's staff members, including operations director Deon Curry and graduate assistant Greg Robbins, are former Division I players in their 20s, so McGeehan has young, knowledgeable, athletic personnel at his disposal.

The primary option was the 6-foot-5 Thomas, whose presence helped the Camels perform their drills at full speed with high intensity. By the end of a workout late last week, when he had played multiple positions in back-to-back-to-back sessions that catered to three groups of four and lasted 40 minutes apiece, Thomas was happy to catch his breath.

"It's tiring when you're the guard," said Thomas, who began his college career at Richmond as a walk-on, earned a scholarship as a junior in 2005-06 and started every game in his final two seasons. "Luckily, I did it two years in college, although that's starting to be further and further away. I definitely don't do any other workouts on the days I'm going to be (playing) at practice."

Thomas, like Geriot and Robbins, played for Richmond when McGeehan was an assistant to Chris Mooney, who has enjoyed success running a system that employs principles of the Princeton offense.

When McGeehan makes a call, he's directing his players to execute a series of "actions" or movements, not run a specific play. It's up to the players on the court to recognize weaknesses in the defense and make smart reads.

That could mean cutting backdoor on one possession and moving toward the ball to receive a pass on the next. The read could dictate whether a player uses a screen or rejects it.

If someone makes a poor decision or runs to the wrong spot, McGeehan wants his team to remain calm and keep playing, because the mistakes are easily correctable.

Sound complicated? It can be, but McGeehan and his assistants understand that because of their past experiences.

"Once you kind of get the basics of what we're doing, everything else becomes a little more natural," Thomas said. "I remember when I was a junior, after Coach Mooney and Coach McGeehan got to Richmond, the first two months, you're dreaming about this stuff as you go to bed.

"As you're in it more and more, you start to see everything goes back to the same thing, a pattern to make plays and reads off what we're doing."

Making progress

McGeehan and his assistants have been knocking the rust off what they started teaching in April. By participating in some drills, they can see things differently and communicate better with their players.

As the Camels move forward, progress is evident in the way players like wing Reco McCarter are being more vocal. McCarter, Marvelle Harris and D.J. Mason are following Thomas' lead, even if they're dunking the ball on fastbreaks and Thomas is laying it in.

With a bigger group this week, McGeehan plans to conduct two one-hour workouts, a schedule that gives the coaches more time to hit the road and recruit. Practice officially begins in late September, six weeks before Campbell opens its regular season against Shenandoah on Nov. 8.

With imminence comes a clear level of excitement.

"You're starting to feel it as you move into full team workouts that practice is coming, and you know the season is not far behind," McGeehan said. "I'm pleased with where we are."

Staff writer Bret Strelow can be reached at strelowb@fayobserver.com or 486-3513.