Just Another Manic Monday

| 2 Comments | No TrackBacks
I'll come to relish my infrequent opportunities to observe the Fightin' Ben Brauns practice, for being granted that privilege only once per week makes player evaluations extremely difficult.

What's most interesting is watching Braun force the Owls to adhere to his exacting standards. He wants this team tough and fundamentally sound, and no amount of practice stoppages or running will deter Braun from that goal. The drills are detailed and intense, and the scripted plays are to be executed with a precision that should make the Owls offensively efficient once they get it right. And you'd better believe they'll get it right, or Braun will make them do it again.

"I used to talk with Dean Smith about this. I asked him once, 'Do you make sure they are fundamentally sound first and then get them to play hard, or is the first thing you get them to do is play hard and then work on the technique?'" Braun said. "He said activity can be without achievement. You've got to get a combination of both. I want our team to play hard but I don't want them to lose our fundamental structure. So I've got to stop practice, go back to the fundamentals, break it down, teach players how and why they're doing something, and once I know they understand it now I can turn it up a little bit. It's hard to get somebody to go hard if they don't know what they're doing, so you've got to make sure our players know what to do."

Braun had no issue with the level of competition - the Owls went at it with vigor on Monday. He'd prefer that the mistakes are minimized, but with the Owls opening camp just three days earlier, certain miscues are to be expected. What's clear is that the superior depth created by Braun's first full class of recruits will serve the program well. The Owls practiced without Cory Pflieger (knee) and lost Trey Stanton to a minor ankle sprain early in the workout, and they barely missed a beat. The posts were physical and the guards applied admirable defensive pressure on the perimeter. The Owls looked tougher and committed to defending and rebounding, and given their shortcomings in those areas last season, that was a real positive.

What's obvious is that last season would have unfolded differently had Lucas Kuipers not broken his wrist in practice at midseason. His ability to score inside and out is a true asset, especially when he is on the floor with Stanton. He isn't as aggressive on the block as one would prefer, but he is crafty inside, and his deft shooting touch will provide the Owls a dangerous weapon when combined with the proper personnel. Braun will tinker with rotations for a spell, but there is reason to believe that once he settles on one, the Owls will be potent.

Arsalan Kazemi is skilled, but he and his classmates (sans Tamir Jackson) have adjustments to make. Again, that is to be expected. Whether it's consistent aggression (Kazemi), ball handling (Chris Eversley) or decision making (Egheosa Edomwonyl), the newcomers have ground to cover. But their commitment is apparent, so there is no need to worry on that front.

Jackson plays with infectious enthusiasm and abundant confidence. His willingness to get others involved will serve sharpshooters like Connor Frizzelle well. If Jackson and Cliff Ghoram can penetrate the lane consistently, the Owls' offense will thrive. If not, the posts will have to do a better job passing from the block, especially against double teams. Without Stanton on the floor it's unfair to grade the performance of the bigs in that department, although Emerson Herndon displayed such a scoring touch on the interior that it's difficult not to ponder his potential. He should help this team this season, even if his minutes are limited.

The same can be said of Suleiman Braimoh, who has just enough in his toolbox that his junior season should be his best in a Rice uniform. And if Braimoh continues to lead, that is a plus.

"I think some of our young guys are going to get overwhelmed," Braun said. "And that's where I want our older guys to take them and go over some fundamentals."

As referenced earlier, Braun is implementing strategies to take advantage of his interior size and perimeter depth. He believes the Owls can be more aggressive on the ball and physical in the post, facts that should free up several players to focus on defense only. Bonding so many new parts into one team will take effort, but Braun furthered that process by having the Owls visit former letterwinner and Tudor Fieldhouse namesake Bobby Tudor on Sunday evening.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:


I like BB's intensity and fanaticism with hard play but only with correct fundamentals. I sense he and Wayne are cut out of the same mold and would think that it would make an interesting article comparing the two (even though you don't get to observe BB at work as much as you would like).

I'd love to see this detail to technique and aggressiveness spill over the parking lot to the Stadium. I think we would all be happier if we saw the same kind of enthusiasm this coming Saturday.

MK, what do you see the win total being this year? I know it's early, and we haven't seen the team practice together more than a few times, but still, above .500?

mikeb!: I see no reason why this team can't finish at or just above .500. Perhaps I am being too optimistic (ahem, football 2009, ahem), but I trust in what Braun is trying to accomplish and see an obvious improvement in the talent base. I would be surprised if this team didn't make a push for a middle-of-the-road finish in Conference USA. - MK

Leave a comment





  • Loading Tweets...
    1 second ago