July 21, 2011
ARLINGTON, Tex. - The summer tour in Canada is enabling UT Arlington head coach Scott Cross and the Mavericks to get a head start on practice for the 2011-12 season.
Cross has changed his practice philosophy from last year. Gone are the long, drawn-out practices. In their place are shorter, more intense workouts designed to get the most out of his players.
So far the fifth-year likes what he has seen.
"The reason I wanted to break up the practices is because those practices became long for the players as well as the coaches," Cross said. "I want to make sure I am getting the absolute most out of these guys and breaking up the practices has worked well."
Finding motivation has not been a challenge for Cross. The Mavericks still have a bitter taste in their mouths after a series of tie-breakers kept them out of the Southland Conference Tournament a year ago.
The excitement produced by the opening of the College Park Center during the 2011-12 season combined with the move to the Western Athletic Conference in the 2012-13 season has sparked the team to a new energy level.
It doesn't hurt that the team now has a year of experience together.
"Last year we had nine new players and even the four who were returning were basically new because we were installing a new system," Cross said.
The team's overall basketball intelligence has risen, Cross said. Part of the reason is that the players have been in the system for a full year now. The other, potentially bigger part comes from another change Cross has made to the practice setup.
This year Cross is determined to run more five-on-five scrimmages. That way his players get more live, in-game experience while also working with different personnel combinations throughout the practice sessions.
"If there was one thing I could over again from last year it would probably be running more five-on-five in practice," Cross said. "I like the competitiveness it is bringing out in the guys."
Though Cross has been pushing the team harder in some ways, especially with three workouts a day, LaMarcus Reed III said the practices have been fun.
"I'm hoping practices go like they've been going these last couple days," Reed said. "You can definitely see a difference in our competitiveness with these five-on-five drills. There's not much difference in talent so everyone is competing and if you don't compete at a high level it's going to show because there are no standout players, I don't think."
UT Arlington will get to measure how far the team has come when the team plays its five-game tour in Canada starting Aug. 17.
Cross thinks the game experience will certainly help.
"Between everyone coming back and this extra month to prepare, I think we can be further along this year on Aug. 23 than we were last year on Nov. 14," Cross said.
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