December 2009 Archives
It would seem ignorant to suggest that Owls Fr. F Arsalan Kazemi doesn't
play hard all of the time, but since the concept of hard work is subjective, Kazemi felt it necessary to check with Ben Braun before he continued to explain how hard he works every minute he's on the court.
Kazemi made his second career start on Tuesday night and, clearly important to him, that start came at Tudor Fieldhouse. By his flashing of his now trademark sheepish grin, Kazemi acknowledged that the event indeed represented a milestone in his burgeoning career. However, his approach to starting remains the same as when he came off the bench prior to the Owls' unsettling loss at Lamar last week: he works himself ragged no matter the situation.
"I try to play hard all the time," Kazemi said. "You get tired anytime you play more than five minutes hard, but I try to play hard. I hope ... "
As his voice trailed off, Kazemi leaned forward and peeked over at Braun as if to seek approval of his declaration that he does indeed play hard. Braun was quick to confer that Kazemi had expended energy at such a feverish pace that he committed a turnover out of sheer fatigue in the second half of the Owls' 75-62 victory over McNeese State
. Miscues of sincere effort Braun can live with, and given how much Kazemi pours into every second he is on the court, all Braun craves from Kazemi is his remembering what his tireless effort yields.
What is more pressing at this juncture is getting Kazemi more shot attempts. Rarely can a freshman produce so much so efficiently, but Kazemi seems to be an exception. He earned his way into the starting lineup with volume rebounding, and after recording his third double-double on the season against the Cowboys (16 points, 10 boards), Kazemi bumped his averages to 9.9 points and 7.7 rebounds in just 22.6 minutes/game. It became clear weeks ago that Kazemi is an able facilitator on offense, and the more he touches the ball on the low block the better the Owls are at getting good looks at the basket. Kazemi is shooting 55.1% yet has taken at least 10 shots in a game only twice (North Texas and LSU). That has to change, but coaxing the unselfish Kazemi to go against his nature is easier said than done.
"We've got to get him to square up and look at the basket a little more," Braun said. "He also takes what the defense gives us and he's now starting to earn the respect of his opponents. People are getting in there on him, so he either has to make a quick move or get the ball to open guys. But he's a good passer and he does a good job - he really does. We're looking (for ways to get Kazemi more shots)."
An expanded role is in the offing for Fr. G Tamir Jackson, too. Braun played Jackson off the ball after the opening tip and during spells throughout the game. Jackson has experience on the wing and took to the alteration swimmingly, producing another strong effort (18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals) on the heels of steadying performances at LSU and at Lamar.
Jackson is averaging 17.3 points on 50% shooting over his last three games. His decision-making on when to shoot has improved dramatically, and if Braun can continue to maximize Jackson's offensive potential by splitting his time at both guard positions, perhaps Jackson can shorten the learning curve most freshmen guards must traverse early in their careers.
"Tamir showed his versatility," Braun said. "He played on the ball and he played off the ball, and he played it equally well. That was good."
Said Jackson: "I do feel more comfortable. It's just taking every day in practice and working hard, listening to Coach Braun, playing my game, staying poised and staying calm and not trying to force too many bad shots and passes. Just getting people open to make our team better (is key)."
Sounds simple enough, but Braun knows that his team will develop in lockstep with Jackson and Kazemi. The faster they mature the better the Owls will perform, and in the grand scheme of things, exceptional team performances outweigh any individual statistical achievements.
"I'm happy whenever my team wins," Kazemi said. "All I try to do is win the game. I don't care how many rebounds or how many points (I record), all I want is to win the game. That's really important for me."
The timing was eerie as the momentum swung right on cue. The Owls built a double-digit lead in the first half, gave most of it away by the intermission, pushed the advantage to nine points coming out of the break and then stood on the brink of another second-half collapse as they approached the midpoint of the final stanza. Suddenly, the unexpected happened.
Fr. G Jessica Goswitz tallied the next seven points for the Owls. So. G D'Frantz Smart, making a triumph return to the starting lineup following a work-ethic-related demotion, settled the offense. So. G Amenemope McKinney chipped in free throws, a key offensive rebound and a layup while So. C Candace Ashford deflected passes on defense and crashed the boards as needed. It was a collective effort that produced this 57-48 win over Northwestern State
on Monday night at Tudor Fieldhouse, a collective effort that was assuredly needed.
Some of the contributions off the bench were subtle, but they were appreciated nonetheless. In this offensive grind the Owls needed every tipped pass and defensive rebound. When the Demons opted to take So. F Jackie Stanley out of the game (just four shot attempts) with hasty double teams on the block, she made an impact by pounding the glass (eight rebounds). Sr. G Tara Watts struggled with her shot (3 for 13), but she defended (three steals), rebounded (six boards) and helped run the offense (five assists). Jr. F Morgan Mayse wasn't as efficient offensively as she was in the Owls' losing effort at Lamar, but she worked diligently on the defensive end and did enough (11 points, six boards) to aid the overall effort. It was teamwork.
"You don't win a lot of games shooting 31 percent from the field, but we attacked the glass," Owls coach Greg Williams said, noting the Owls' 16-7 edge in offensive rebounds. "Candace ... that was probably her best game of the year. Amenemope had not played well and I was forced to put her in because Tara got hurt, and she makes two big free throws and makes a nice move to the hole and scores late. That was encouraging. Jess had a strong second half."
The rebounding, and the fact that Rice forced 25 turnovers without initiating full-court pressure, was key. Every Rice starter recorded at least five rebounds while Ashford chipped in eight in 19 minutes while spelling Stanley, whose surgically-repaired knee limited her reps in practice the past two days. Goswitz was the lone volume scorer to shoot a solid percentage, but the Owls' commitment to defense and rebounding rendered their poor shooting moot. Had the Owls not worked as hard as they did, this game would have slipped away like the others.
For whatever reason, hard work had become foreign to Smart. Williams responded by benching the energetic point guard, and she responded by increasing her effort in practice. She returned from her two-game demotion with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and one huge lesson learned. From every corner, the Owls discovered something to build upon.
"He sent a message that I have to play hard all the time, and my effort in practice and in games wasn't reflecting that," Smart said. "I understand totally why he benched me; people were working harder than me and I deserved to not start. I showed him in practice that I was willing to work hard every second and every play, and I think he gave me a second chance. I'm grateful that he did, and from now I'm going to try and play hard in practice and in games.
"Sitting on the bench definitely taught me a lesson. It's a tough one to take, but it got through."
Given the circumstances, things could have gone completely sideways for Owls Sr. G/F Cliff Ghoram on Saturday against LSU at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.
For the first, and last, time in his Rice career, Ghoram played before his hometown family and friends. Having graduated from Zachary High School
, roughly 20 miles north of the Maravich Assembly Center
, Ghoram dreamed of playing for and representing LSU in the days of his youth. That opportunity never manifested but a chance to perform before four dozen supporters did, and despite the sentimentality of the moment Ghoram did not disappoint, posting season highs in points (17) and rebounds (8) in the Owls' 65-61 loss to the Tigers
. The outcome of the game left Ghoram longing, but shining in front of the home crowd was fulfilling.
"I didn't want to do anything outside my box. I just wanted to be aggressive and make sure I did what was best for the team and try to help us get this win," Ghoram said. "I really wanted it on a personal level because, being from the Baton Rouge area, my family and friends are all somewhat close to LSU in a sense. I attended LSU basketball camps when I was younger and had thoughts about LSU as my future school. But I'm happy I chose Rice and I'm happy I got the opportunity to come back home and show my family how I play."
Whereas early lulls spelled doom at Arizona and at Harvard, the Owls were aggressive from the opening tip against LSU. Ghoram was particularly invested early, and he was later joined by freshmen Arsalan Kazemi (who might join the starting lineup in the very near future) and Tamir Jackson in helping keep the Owls in contention. Rice coach Ben Braun rightfully noted the trio's energetic efforts in the postgame presser while lamenting the lack of impact from several key veterans in the rotation. Braun wasn't calling to the carpet anyone in particular, but he did pointedly express the Owls' desperate need for contributions up and down their roster.
Ghoram recognized the benefit of supporting his slumping teammates, acknowledging that his inspired and productive performance was motivated in part to fill the gap left by those who struggled. He will inevitably scuffle on occasion, and he hopes someone will have his back.
"If one guy is down or he didn't have his best game, we just need to be there for each other. Keep being like a family," Ghoram said. "We'll get over this hump together if we keep picking each other up as a team. I won't have great games all the time, and I need guys to help me out as we tried to help out the guys that didn't have great games (at LSU). That happens."
The women would be wise to heed that sage advice, for they aren't as close to a breakthrough victory as the men. Following consecutive wins at the Gene Hackerman Invitational and a momentum-snuffing two-week hiatus, the Owls rallied from a double-digit halftime deficit at Lamar on Sunday only to crater over the last 10 minutes in an 82-66 loss that wasn't as decisive as the final score indicated. Per usual, most of the Owls' wounds were self-inflicted.
The Owls trailed by as many as 14 points late in the first half, but when Fr. G Jessica Goswitz completed a three-point play at the 10:05 mark of the second half, the Owls trailed 60-57. What followed was a maddening exercise in futility as the Owls tried in vain to cap the rally.
Over the ensuing seven minutes and 22 seconds the Owls missed all 10 shots they attempted and committed five turnovers, many of the unforced variety. By the time So. G D'Frantz Smart scored on a layup with 2:43 remaining, the Owls were again trailing by double digits.
"We've got some players that - what can you say? - get nervous," Owls coach Greg Williams said. "You can see it in their eyes they get nervous; they freeze up. They want to get rid of the ball or they don't want the ball or they don't want to be aggressive with the ball. That's why we shot (only) 12 free throws. That's frustrating because that's not how we want them to play.
"We've got some kids right now that aren't playing well and they know they aren't playing well, and it's a mental thing with some of them. It's like a hitter in baseball - if you're not hitting you can't go up there and take three strikes. You've still got to swing the bat and stay aggressive."
The statistics supported the notion Lamar was the superior team: the Cardinals were plus-20 in free-throw attempts, plus-14 in rebounds and plus-12 in second-chance points. The Owls were not only athletically inferior, they were less assertive and roundly outworked on the glass. But despite those facts, the Owls were within three entering the final quarter of the contest. Better ball security and improved confidence might have rendered those statistics moot, and as soon as the Owls come to realize they aren't as talent-challenged as they occasionally appear, games like their ninth of this season will shift from the loss column to a desired locale.
"We need to pull together and work hard," said Owls Jr. F Morgan Mayse, who played brilliantly (17 points, six rebounds, four assists in 31 minutes) while So. C Jackie Stanley labored with her cranky, surgically-repaired knee. "We've got to do it for 40 minutes."
The circles in intercollegiate athletics frequently overlap, with one coach linked to another via direct line or through some Kevin Bacon-like degrees of separation. Some relationships develop depth while others barely extend beyond casual pregame handshakes and banter, but in most cases these guys either know of each other or can recount a personal account.
While at Cal, Owls coach Ben Braun participated in a clinic hosted by then-Nevada coach Trent Johnson
. For Braun, the clearest memories of his stay in Reno are from conversations he shared with coaching giants Pete Newell
and Tex Winter
, but Johnson extended the invitation that Braun accepted. The men were competitors when Johnson worked as an assistant under Mike Montgomery at Stanford, and became Bay Area adversaries when Johnson left Nevada and succeeded Montgomery on The Farm. The men will meet again when the Owls face LSU in Baton Rouge
on Saturday, and chances are good that Braun and Johnson - who served as a Rice assistant under Willis Wilson as did his assistant, former Rice standout Brent Scott
- will have more than a few anecdotes to share before the opening tip.
Neither man will surprise the other with his coaching. Each is acutely aware of what the other aims to accomplish, a fact that helps explain why Braun believes that the Owls' mental preparation will have as much bearing on their success as anything relative to X's and O's.
"It's a mindset," Braun said. "Our players realize that it starts on the defensive end. If you want to play successfully on the road you'd better start defensively. You can't go on the road and say, 'Let's just hope we hit some shots or let's just have a great shooting game.' Everybody wants a great shooting game, but what can you control? You can't always control your shot going in, but you can control how hard you defend, how hard you rebound and your effort level. We're going to have to defend LSU. Our challenge is just have a good defensive game."
The Owls' struggles on the road have been documented
, and getting a 'W' at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center is no small task. But the Owls realize that for this program to take the next step toward legitimacy, they must play with a greater sense of urgency away from Tudor Fieldhouse. Arizona and Harvard are solid teams to be sure, but the Owls won't gain national respect until they can perform above expectations in another program's gymnasium.
The aggressive defense, tenacity, hustle and confidence the Owls have played with at home must somehow translate when they don those snazzy blue uniforms. The Owls realize that.
"It's all preparation and mindset," Owls So. G Connor Frizzelle said. "When you go in there you can't be goofing around, you can't be thinking about anything (else). We you get to game time, especially on the road, you've got to be sharp (and) you've got to be mentally prepared."
Added Owls Sr. G/F Cliff Ghoram: "That's something we have to learn to take from being at home and bring it when we have our away games. LSU would be a great game to start for us."
All it took was one conversation with a respected guru to fan the flame. Recruiting is a subject that, given job parameters, must danced around to a degree, with nebulous references highly favored over revealing prospects' names and hometowns. But it is common knowledge that the Owls have eight commitments in hand (you know where to look to get this information), and those who follow such things are likely familiar with the half-dozen or so prospects being targeted to fill the five remaining vacancies. Will David Bailiff add another offensive lineman to the current crop? A tight end? A defensive back of some sort, and maybe another receiver? Another defensive tackle would be appreciated, but that banged drum has been ignored.
However the next six weeks unfold, what will be interesting is noting how Bailiff fits the pieces of this puzzle together. Aside from six Class of 2006 signees who redshirted at some point in their careers (DB Max Anyiam, WR Pierre Beasley, DB Willie Garley, DS Brandon Long, WR Patrick Randolph, WR Corbin Smiter), the 2010 roster will be composed entirely of players Bailiff signed. Considering the Owls lost only a baker's dozen to graduation, including just three starters by season's end (WR Toren Dixon, TE Taylor Wardlow, LB Terrance Garmon), drastic alterations to the rotation are unlikely. But for the most part this will be Bailiff's team in every aspect, with his latest group of prospects cementing his recruiting style and philosophy.
Before we glance too far ahead to the Class of 2010, let's look back and review the development of the three classes Bailiff has signed thus far during his career on South Main:
Starters (10): OL Keshawn Carrington; OL Scott Mitchell; OL Jake Hicks; LB Justin Hill; DB Chris Jones; DE Cheta Ozougwu; OL Tyler Parish; OL Davon Allen; RB Tyler Smith; DE Scott Solomon. Rotation (5): WR Taylor Dupree; OL Kody Emmert; WR Brent Hotard; DE Kramer Lucio; DL Brian Stacey. Others (8): WR Randy Kitchens; LB Tanner Shuck; LB Aaron Williams; WR Michael Fuda; DB Joseph Leary; TE Will Norris; DL Cameron Thompson; LB Brandon Tolbert.
As was to be expected, Bailiff's first class has settled in and dominates the two-deep. Bailiff is still scrambling to recover from the losses of Fuda (baseball), Leary (hamstring), Norris (retired), Thompson (knee) and Tolbert (concussions), and efforts are continuing to find homes for Kitchens, Shuck and Williams, the last two having struggled at linebacker. For the most part the starters will represent team leadership in 2010 and 2011, especially in the trenches.
Starters (3): P Kyle Martens; DL Michael Smith; KR Shane Turner. Rotation (9): OL Eric Ball; DB Jarrett Ben; DL John Gioffre; DB Chris Jammer; QB Ryan Lewis; WR Roddy Maginot; DB Xavier Webb; DE Jared Williams; TE Luke Willson. Others (7): WR Derek Clark; OL Clay Herbert; LB Ronnie Lillard; OL Stefan Nazar; WR Michael Patterson; WR Denzel Wells; DE Arnaud Gascon-Nadon.
It's not a good sign when two of the three starters from this class work exclusively on special teams. Ben, Jammer and Webb will have ample opportunities to move back into the starting lineup, but the clock is ticking on the celebrated group of receivers Bailiff signed following his first season. The same could be said of Lillard, who has the physical tools to at least work his way into and remain a part of the playing rotation. Having AGN go AWOL really hurt the team.
Starters (4): DB Kevin Gaddis; DB Phillip Gaines; DL Alex Lowry; RB Charles Ross. Rotation (3): DE Cody Bauer; LB Trey Briggs; DB Corey Frazier. Others (17): QB Taylor McHargue; WR Donte Moore; ATH Turner Petersen; ATH Paul Porras; DL Hosam Shahin; OL Cade Shaw; DE Josh Skinner; DB Tolu Akinwumi; PK Chris Boswell; DB Andre Brackens; DB Alex Francis; WR Andre Gautreaux; DE Nic Hammett; OL Jon Hodde; DB Broderick Jackson; OL Bobby Janisch; WR Klein Kubiak.
Bailiff hit a home run with all four freshmen starters, and the best thing about the '09 season was that he preserved the redshirt on 16 members of his most recent class (resisting the temptation to pull the redshirts off potential stars McHargue and Janisch). With all the gnashing of teeth over the unproductive/unproven receivers (this corner is most guilty of that charge), Kubiak could be a boon to the roster in a manner similar to that of another greyshirt, TE Vance McDonald. Bauer, Briggs and Frazier need to physically mature this offseason because each flashed considerable promise as reserves and will be key to the rotation in '10.
I am an idiot.
Not only do I feel, in retrospect, idiotic for having excluded Wade Townsend
from my list of the greatest Owls ever (seek the list on your own; I refuse to link to that entry because my mug is no longer on the page), I am disappointed in you, Rice fanatics, for not creating enough hue and cry to elevate Townsend from No. 11 into the top 10. Inexcusable on my behalf and yours.
Why in the world am I railing against my own ignorance regarding Townsend when I am supposed to be discussing Mike Ojala? Well, when I wrote about Bobby Bell
last week it inspired me to inquire about Ojala and his rehabilitation from mid-summer Tommy John surgery. I set out on that task, and while bumping around The Reck stumbled into a golden opportunity to watch Townsend pitch. It was a fabulously cool scene, so let me set it properly.
Townsend, a free agent looking to latch on with a pro franchise, took the mound at the indoor batting cage with a childhood friend offering support, Geoff Perrott
behind the dish, The OG and David Pierce observing and providing advice and - get this - Jeff Niemann
holding the gun. Townsend looked in excellent shape, touched 93 mph, and sat at 90-91. He's engaged in similar sessions with The OG and Pierce for a few months, and at this rate it's only a matter of time before a team extends him a contract offer. He clearly has the stuff to pitch professionally.
What made the scene so fascinating was the support Townsend had not only from his former coaches but his former teammate. That Perrott volunteered to catch only enhanced the camaraderie. Five people shared a mutual interest in Townsend getting his career back on track, with the level of dedication validating the unified belief that he will soon meet that goal.
Watching Townsend work provided a view into his legendary tenacity. I'd heard the stories of his barking at the Texas dugout while pitching against the Longhorns and been regaled of tales of his fiery disposition and competitive drive, but having never watched him pitch during his heyday with the Owls, I didn't fully understand what it all meant until Tuesday afternoon. Townsend should have been on that list along with the pitcher robbed of the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year Award
. Whose spot Townsend should have taken is another debate altogether.
As for Ojala
, he threw off of a mound for the first time on Dec. 4. Since it snowed that Friday, Ojala pitched at an indoor facility at Methodist, the site of his rehab. He threw four additional sessions last week with sound mechanics and a fluid stride. In other words he remains ahead of schedule, and barring a setback a return for the UH series at The Reck appears plausible.
The total stands at eight.
With roughly six weeks remaining before National Signing Day and the UIL state playoffs set to drop its curtain, the Owls have just eight commitments for the Class of 2010. With 13 scholarships available David Bailiff has plenty of work remaining before this class is complete and he can take the next step toward building Rice football into a consistent winner in C-USA.
That feeling bubbling within is related more to concern than panic, although panic lurks around the bend ready to pounce following the defection of two previous commitments. When Bailiff dropped the 'you win with Jimmys and Joes, not X's and O's' cliche´ a few weeks back, it succinctly captured his thoughts on the need for superior talent while surmising that responses to play-calling and game-day schematics are often overblown. Before Bailiff can coach like Nick Saban
he has to sign players like those at Alabama
. Well, in a relative sense of course.
However, while tuned in to Rivals Radio
en route to campus on Monday morning and listening to pundits describe Buffalo, San Jose State and UNLV as 'stepping-stone jobs' one question came to mind: Is Rice such a gig? One particularly loathsome defensive guru believed so, but Bailiff has verbalized on multiple occasions his conviction that Rice can be a destination, not part of the coaching journey. But the fact remains that no coach since venerable Jess Neely has posted a winning career record while working on South Main for at least two seasons. Through three seasons Bailiff is already seven games under .500, and given the history of Rice football since Neely stepped aside four decades ago, Bailiff will need to get the next decade off the a rousing start in order to begin a reversal of his 15-22 career mark at Rice.
The fact is Rice has not enjoyed a winning decade since the 1950s. Here is a review of the last seven decades of Rice Owls football, starting with Neely in 1940 through Bailiff and 2009:DECADE OVERALL CONFERENCE
1940s 63-36-4 (.631) 36-19-3 (.646)
1950s 58-48-3 (.545) 29-30-1 (.491)
1960s 37-61-4 (.382) 25-43-2 (.371)
1970s 29-77-3 (.266) 19-54-1 (.263)
1980s 22-86-1 (.206) 13-65-0 (.166)
1990s 52-57-1 (.477) 37-38-0 (.493)
2000s 46-72-0 (.389) 34-46-0 (.425)
First of all, condolences to those who played, covered or supported Rice football in the '80s.
These numbers reveal that the program began its decline as Neely concluded his tenure and bottomed out with 37 losses during one 40-game stretch between 1981-85. If Fred Goldsmith and Ken Hatfield proved anything it's that Rice football could be resuscitated, their combined and miraculous mark in the '90s providing ample evidence. But is near-.500 football as good as it gets at Rice? Even during the halcyon Neely days lulls were intermittent, with winning seasons in 1940, '41 and '42 followed by losing records in '43, '44 and '45. The Owls were plus-22 overall between 1946-50, 10-10 over the following two seasons, 16-5 in 1953-54 and 6-13-1 in 1955-56. The pendulum swung for seven additional years before Neely finished with three successive losing seasons and an 8-21-1 record from 1964-66. It wasn't all glorious.
So what can Bailiff do? How many more solid recruiting classes will it take for 2-10 seasons to become a thing of the past, and how badly (quickly?) does he need the ceaselessly discussed End Zone Facility to maintain recruiting momentum? Rice has posted consecutive winning seasons only twice post-Neely (1992-93 under Goldsmith; 1996-97 under Hatfield), so even if everything falls into place and the Owls ride 2010 grassroots Heisman Trophy candidate Sam McGuffie, Charles Ross, Vance McDonald and The Taylors to success next season and in 2011, what will 2012 bring? Are you as fans willing to accept the occasional 5-7 season as long as Rice is bowl-eligible twice every four-year cycle, or are such expectations too modest?
Will the dawn of a new decade usher in a new era of Rice football, or is status quo inevitable? If Rice isn't destined for mediocrity, what must happen for it to permanently turn the corner?
Perhaps unabated sentimentality is at the root of my fondness for all things Class of 2005. My first season covering Rice baseball coincided with the introduction of arguably the most talent-laden group of freshmen ever signed by The OG. As that class laid the foundation for successive College World Series appearances in 2006-08, I grew into the role of a writer. I charted their progress in lockstep with my own, and I still privately root for Savery, Henley, Lehman, Friday, Bramhall, CSC, Zornes and Bell to reap abundant professional success.Bobby Bell
was - and remains - one of my favorite Owls. He wasn't as ballyhooed as Savery, as gregarious as CSC, or as affable as Bramhall. Instead, he emitted a reserved confidence supported by fabulous statistics as a freshman (4-0, 2.77 ERA, 1 save, .191 BAA, 0.94 WHIP). While three-quarters of his 2005 appearances came as a reliever, Bell started 11 games (in 18 appearances) as a sophomore and was once again outstanding (8-0, 4.17 ERA, 3 saves, .269 BAA, 1.34 WHIP). His lone loss in a Rice uniform came in his only appearance of 2007, a dreary moment washed away by his triumphant return from Tommy John surgery 13 months later. The ovation Bell received from The Reck crowd still rings in my ears, for that was one of those truly special evenings I will never forget. Bell, as it turns out, holds that memory close.
Plenty of you have kept tabs on Bell as he climbs the ranks of the Blue Jays' farm system
, but when I bumped into him on campus earlier this week, I figured an update on his progress was warranted. Bell is engaged to strength and conditioning coordinator Kristi Lobpries, and the couple is scheduled to exchange nuptials next month in Sugar Land. One month later, Bell will open spring training aiming for a spot in the rotation of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats
.Q: You've enjoyed rousing success during your two seasons in the Blue Jays' system. What has been the key behind the pinpoint control that has become your most notable attribute?A:
The thing that's helped me is I've really worked on getting ahead of hitters early and putting the hitter in the hole instead of the pitcher being behind (in the count). It does two things: it helps you set up your other pitches, and it also helps keep your pitch count low. As a starter late in the game, you've got more juice in the tank from throwing a lot less pitches and being more efficient. In our organization we work really hard on forcing early contact - putting pitches in the zone, keeping it low in the zone, put a little movement on it and try to get an early ground ball. That has more to do with my success than anything right now.Q: You split time between Auburn (Short-Season A) and Lansing (Class A) during your first pro summer, and over 30 1/3 innings you did not issue a walk. What was the fallout from that statistical accomplishment?A:
When I got there the pitching coach (Antonio Caceres) in Auburn told me they wanted me to pound the zone, throw strikes and get ahead of hitters, and I started doing that. Also as a closer, I'd come in and a lot of teams would take first-pitch strikes or wait on their pitch. You throw the first pitch in there and they're taking and you're 0-1, and it makes everything a lot easier and forces them to swing at pitches they might not normally swing at.
Some of the guys teased me about (the string of innings without issuing a walk). I'd get three balls on a batter and apparently everyone would be like, 'Here it comes!' That summer I had really, really good command of my change-up and that allowed me, if I got three balls on a guy, the confidence that I could throw two of my pitches, which keeps the hitter guessing.Q: Given the success you enjoyed during your abbreviated junior season, how difficult was the decision to sign that professional contract with the Blue Jays and leave Rice University?A:
It was very tough because I enjoyed all four years I was here, even the year I was hurt. I enjoyed being around the guys, being with the team and watching their successes. It was a point where my age (was a factor). If I was in the next draft I think I would have been 23 about to turn 24 and a fifth-year senior. Most drafted guys go into rookie ball or short-season, and that age is the point where you need to be moving on up instead of just starting your career. That, combined with the Blue Jays helping me out with what I needed financially, made the decision. It was tough, but I'm glad that I made it and I feel like it's been the best decision for my career.Q: You started 10 games at Dunedin (Class A Advanced) late last season. How excited are you over the prospects of competing for a spot in the rotation at New Hampshire (Class AA)?A:
Being able to start gives me a lot more depth as a pitcher. I feel like I've demonstrated that I can always relieve if by chance down the road they need a reliever instead of a starter. It gives me more options as far as being able to move up if I can do both. I can fill whatever role they need at the time instead of only going up if they need a reliever. Q: Mike Ojala is coming off Tommy John surgery and may be called on to fill a role similar to the one you excelled at following your return from the same procedure. What advice would you share with Ojala in terms of how to approach the challenge of pitching off the same injury?A:
My best advice would be listen to your arm. Don't try to do too much, don't try to push it or rush it. In my rehab I came back and my arm was feeling good. When it is feeling good and you are ready to go out there, don't have any reservations or worry about if your elbow is going to give out again. You've got to pitch and give it your all, and that mentality got my arm strength back quicker. When you're out there you don't want to be worrying about your arm or any physical ailments; you want to be worried about getting that batter out. That should be the focus.Q: What memories from your Rice career resonate most vividly in your mind?A:
It's tough to pick one moment. I enjoyed pitching in Omaha. I thought it was amazing and a feeling like nothing else. I really have to say my first game back from Tommy John really stuck out the most. The response I received from the fans when I came back ... it's something special here at Rice. You go to a big university and there are so many fans and so many things where you get lost in the mix, but that's what is special about Rice. It's smaller, the fan base is smaller, but in a sense more personal. You get to know the fans a little better (and) they follow you in pro ball, which is awesome. My whole experience at Rice I wouldn't trade for anything.
As a junior, Bell went 1-0 with a 1.31 ERA and three saves in 14 appearances. He posted a 0.87 WHIP and opponents batted .139 against him, facilitating the Blue Jays' selecting him in the 18th round of the amateur draft. Bell still features that devastating change, but has worked diligently on his cutter and sinker, and has resumed using the knuckle-curve he threw in 2006.
I was on the Ndamukong Suh
bandwagon long before Suh embarrassed Texas' offensive line and treated Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy as though he stole Jamal Malik's autographed photo of Amitabh Bachchan
. If conventional wisdom were damned, Suh would leave New York this weekend with the Heisman Trophy as the nation's most outstanding college footballer.
That's not to suggest that at least two other finalists - Stanford tailback Toby Gerhart and Alabama tailback Mark Ingram - are markedly less deserving. At this stage there are no sound arguments supporting McCoy
or Florida quarterback Tim Tebow
, whose appearance as a three-time finalist is based on excessive and repulsive media fawning and comes at the expense of the more deserving C.J. Spiller, the sensational multipurpose back from Clemson. I had grown weary with the assumption that Ingram should claim the bounty as the best player representing the nation's best team (no where is that definition explicitly linked to the Heisman Trophy) and tired of the parroted take that since Ingram faced tougher defenses in the SEC, Gerhart's candidacy should be voided (despite the fact that the Pac-10 was superior in 2009).
It is true that Ingram did not pad his stats against the lightweights on the Crimson Tide schedule, so raw statistical metrics don't quite measure the effectiveness of the three tailbacks likely to receive the largest number of votes (Ingram, Gerhart, Spiller). Since so much has been made of the fact Ingram faced superior competition while attempting to become the first Alabama player to win the Heisman, let's take a look at how the five legitimate finalists (sorry, Tebow) stacked up against the top teams their respective programs challenged this season:INGRAM
Top 3 Teams (based on final BCS standings
): 5 Florida; 11 Virginia Tech; 12 LSU
Top 3 Defenses (stats available here
): 4 Florida; 14 Virginia Tech; 15 South Carolina
Ingram averaged 135.7 yards/game and 5.4 yards/carry against the Gators, Hokies and Tigers, and upped those numbers to 169.7 yards/game and 6.5 yards/carry against the best defenses Alabama faced. Additionally, he had seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown against the Gators, Hokies and Gamecocks, pushing his touchdown total to six in those three contests. I was surprised by those numbers, for they reflected just how effective Ingram was against stout competition. I dismissed his candidacy initially, but these stats changed my mind.GERHART
Top 3 Teams: 7 Oregon; 18 Oregon State; 20 Arizona
Top 3 Defenses: 12 Arizona State; 21 Arizona; 32 Oregon
The touchdown totals are what stand out: Gerhart scored seven times against the Ducks, Wildcats and Beavers while averaging 148.7 yards/game and 5.2 yards/carry. His yards/carry (5.1) and touchdowns (six) declined slightly against the top defenses faced by the Cardinal, but he averaged 159.0 yards/game against the Sun Devils, Wildcats and Ducks. Exceptional numbers for sure, but not as impressive as the totals Ingram produced against superior foes.SPILLER
Top 3 Teams: 4 TCU; 9 Georgia Tech (twice); 15 Miami, Fla.
Top 3 Defenses: 1 TCU; 15 South Carolina; 23 Boston College
How was this guy not
invited to New York? Spiller averaged 26 touches and 268 all-purpose yards against the Horned Frogs, Ramblin' Wreck and Hurricanes while scoring eight touchdowns. He was far less effective when substituting Tech and The U for South Carolina and BC, but averaging 23 touches and 198 yards while scoring three touchdowns is more than sufficient for inclusion as a finalist. I realize that Tebow's tears can cure diseases
, but c'mon. MCCOY
Top 3 Teams: 19 Oklahoma State; 22 Nebraska; Texas Tech
Top 3 Defenses: 7 Oklahoma; 9 Nebraska; 33 Oklahoma State
There is absolutely no statistical evidence to support McCoy winning the Heisman. I have no quarrel with his being a finalist - the kid has won an FBS-record 45 games as a starter - for he has far exceeded expectations as the heir to Vince Young. Pat him on the back, tell him job well done, and wish him luck against Alabama and in the NFL. However, do not
hand him the Heisman. It's enough of a travesty that Tebow will be sitting next to McCoy on Saturday night.
It's seriously insulting that Texas didn't even play three teams that finished in the top 25 in the final BCS standings. That McCoy posted a 113.89 pass efficiency rating against the Cowboys, Cornhuskers and Red Raiders (the highest-ranked team outside the BCS standings on the Horns' schedule) is proof positive that he wasn't very good in the biggest games. That rating would rank 100th nationally if extrapolated over an entire season. Poor, huh? Well, not as bad as McCoy's numbers against the Sooners, Huskers and Cowboys, against whom he passed for 482 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions while rushing for 47 yards and one score on 42 attempts. His pass efficiency against those three? 100.09. Not very efficient at all, folks.SUH
Top 3 Teams: 2 Texas; 11 Virginia Tech; Texas Tech
Top 3 Offenses
: 7 Texas Tech; 20 Texas; 22 Florida Atlantic
Who knew the Owls
were so potent on offense? Suh can only hope that his final impression was lasting enough for him to swipe the hardware as the first true defensive player to win the Heisman. He racked up 24 tackles, 10 TFLs, six quarterback hurries, five sacks, four pass breakups and a partridge in a pear tree against the Horns, Hokes and Raiders. His totals against the Owls were almost identical to those at Virginia Tech, so his overall numbers as essentially the same. Apples and oranges when comparing offensive and defensive players, but truth be told Suh was the most outstanding college football player in the nation this year.
My ballot (if I had one): 1. Suh; 2. Ingram; 3. Gerhart; 4. Spiller; 5. McCoy.
And now I'll wait patiently for Chuck P to devise a 2010 Heisman campaign for Sam McGuffie.
Without even realizing it, Tamir Jackson and Arsalan Kazemi revealed separate but equally endearing characteristics in the aftermath of the Owls' third consecutive loss on Saturday.
Jackson insisted on shouldering the blame for the Owls' loss to North Texas
, referencing his exhausting average minutes per game (36.2) only to note how quickly he needs to learn in terms of proficient and efficient performances what takes point guards far longer than eight games to discover. Kazemi sat slumped in his chair, dejected by the defeat he single-handedly attempted to avoid with a rousing double-double (12 points, 11 boards) on a bum right ankle.
"To me it's just a learning experience. I've got to learn real quickly," Jackson said. "I'm playing a lot of minutes as a freshman."
Said Kazemi: "It (the right ankle) is still painful but I had to play for my team. I'm so sorry we lost this game. I'm so mad."
No need to apologize, young fella, not after that
performance. The Owls lost their momentum en route to Boston for their non-conference showdown with Harvard, and they'll need the full 10-day break for final exams to reclaim it. Their defense was abysmal against the Crimson, and while the statistics from Saturday reveal a solid overall performance, the Owls' inability to contain dribble penetration cost them dearly late in the first half and set the stage for the Mean Green to hang around and ultimately swipe the victory. Given their effort against No. 3 Texas, it was difficult to predict the Owls closing the week with two additional losses, but that's what happened. And that sometimes happens when you lean on freshmen, no matter how fabulous.
Kazemi did not make the trip to Harvard - he had two exams last Thursday - and was sorely missed. Jackson lamented his recent spate of turnovers, but only gave passing reference to how ably he ran the offense against the Mean Green. His bitterness may have been most evident, but his leadership was there for the observing too. Jackson is always aware of the nuances unfolding on the court, with conversations on strategy revealing his knowledge of the game. He is thinking while in action, and it seems only a matter of time before he truly gets it and can pair his talent and tenacity with his cerebral approach. Patience must be his guide.
If Kazemi didn't realize how critical he was to the Owls' efforts, he should have no doubt after comparing his team's display at Harvard without him against their showing against North Texas. He is averaging a whopping 7.1 rebounds/game in just 20.7 minutes/game, and while the Owls got just seven total rebounds from Suleiman Braimoh and Trey Stanton on Saturday, they still managed to outrebound the Mean Green by seven boards. Kazemi had almost as many offensive boards (six) as the North Texas rotation (seven). He is essential personnel.
That doesn't suggest that he is indefatigable. Exams, basketball and college life weigh heavily on young minds late in semesters, and there is no shame in needing a break. The Owls are enjoying it this week, and perhaps the reduced mental commitment will serve their desire to get back on an ascending track. Connor Frizzelle and Lucas Kuipers have misplaced their shooting strokes, and both need relocating. A.J. Holland and Bryan Beasley have delivered uneven performances as reserve lead guards, and a trend reversal is in order. Cliff Ghoram is suddenly foul prone, and the Owls as a team aren't getting to the foul line nearly enough nor playing the aggressive yet smart defense that marked their earlier performances. There is work to be done to get this ship righted again, and this down time should aid that refocusing.
"Now they get a chance to get their finals completed and come back just a little stronger with a little more energy," Owls coach Ben Braun said. "We've got to come back and concentrate on some of the finer areas."
AUSTIN - TCU coach Prentice Lewis sat at the dais with an overwhelmingly prideful smile and didn't hesitate pinpointing the moment when momentum swung the Horned Frogs' way earlier on Thursday at Gregory Gymnasium. TCU and Rice wobbled to open their first-round NCAA Tournament match before Owls coach Genny Volpe signaled for a timeout to settle her team, at which time Lewis reminded her team they might want to enjoy their first NCAA appearance.
Their emotional restrictions lifted, the Horned Frogs played footloose and fancy free. The Owls? Their burdens were too heavy, and the pressure to win their first Tournament match in their third Tournament appearance pressed on their shoulders like the largest of boulders and did not relent until the Horned Frogs completed an unexpected 26-24, 25-13, 27-25 sweep.
"Just knowing that this match meant so much to us kind of shook us up a little bit because we wanted it so badly," said senior middle blocker Natalie Bogan, who registered a team-high 12 kills in her final match. "We were never able to get into the rhythm that we wanted to get into."
That much was obvious, even to the untrained eye. For the Owls to play so masterfully during their nine-match winning streak only to give way to self-induced tension proved gravely disappointing for such an inspirational group of student-athletes. They had done everything right in crafting their tale of revival, providing the technical savvy with the emotional punch needed to sweep through the Conference USA tournament at Tudor Fieldhouse before throttling No. 17 LSU mere days after a riveting upset of Tulsa in the C-USA title match. Their story featured guts and grit and gumption, and with their performances a byproduct of pluck as much as proficiency, the idea of the Owls flinching in this shining moment seemed improbable.
Someone altered the script. From the very beginning the Owls seemed fidgety, and worse still they never appeared able to swipe momentum long enough to catch their breath. Despite being roundly outplayed in Set 1 the Owls served for the set at 24-23. TCU then won the final three points, and seemingly dazed by their stumble, the Owls were blistered in Set 2. Pushed into a corner by the threat of a sweep, the Owls showed their trademark fight and twice built three-point leads in Set 3. But this time, it was their opponent which would not be denied.
"We didn't want it to end where we weren't fighting," Bogan said.
But end it did after the Owls twice staved off match point. TCU was, on this day, more deserving. The Horned Frogs played with the confidence of a program that had been in this setting despite this being their maiden voyage. They imposed their will, put stress on the Owls' defense, and executed their middle attack at a level the Owls expected but failed to match. The roles were reversed, with the experienced Owls staggering about waiting for that perfect moment where everything would fall into place, where they could conjure something magical and rally in a manner befitting their talent and togetherness. That moment never arrived.
"What we've got to work on is relaxing when we play in this situation," Volpe said. "This is the third time that we've been here, and every team that I've coached that has been here has wanted it extremely badly. And it takes us a while to get in rhythm, and by that time it's too late. We've got to learn to settle down and understand that we're a great team and we got here for a reason. We've got to play the game a little more relaxed, and TCU played relaxed.
"This team felt like they needed to and they had to win today. That's OK, but if we had just approached it the same way we had approached a match like LSU or the conference championship match versus Tulsa, we played those point for point and without a lot of stress."
This sour finish doesn't spoil a fabulous season, one where the Owls won 20 games for a second consecutive campaign, and one that included that nine-match winning streak and the program's first C-USA title. A victory over TCU would have been the icing on the cake, but there is no doubt that the foundation has been laid for stellar underclassmen Meredith Schamun, Tracey Lam, Ashleigh McCord and Nancy Cole to finish with icing in 2010.
"It's just going to keep getting better," said Bogan, who will depart along with Jen McClean, Channing Grigsby and Jessie Boulavsky. "I just expect it to keep getting better from here."
No matter your opinion of David Bailiff, whether you remain resolute in the assertion that he represents the ideal steward for Rice football or you adamantly believe his shortcomings as a coach supersede his amiability, everyone can agree that this offseason will forever shape his legacy on South Main, right? Should he stick to his plan of building Rice into a winner and do whatever is necessary to field a bowl-eligible team in 2010, many will forgive the debacle that was 2009. Should Bailiff make questionable personnel decisions next spring and show scant progress in distancing himself from a season filled with errors, injuries and poor preparation, his detractors will stockpile ammunition in the argument that last year's bowl bid was a mirage.
From this corner he remains the right man for the job, but it's easy to sympathize with those who have grown weary of what comes across as excuses. A challenging schedule, Injuries, inexperience and the lack of quality depth played significant roles in the Owls' 2-10 finish, but so did schematic miscues and personnel blunders. Few things in life are cut and dry, and to lay all the blame for the Owls' miserable season on the coaches is as full of folly as harping on youth. Everyone shared in this collapse, and everyone must chip in to rectify the situation.OFFENSE
. The Owls dropped from 10th in total offense in 2008 to 110th in 2009, and fell from eighth in scoring offense last season to 109th this season. I respect the talent and leadership Chase Clement, Jarett Dillard, James Casey, Austin Wilkinson, David Berken and Jimmy Miller provided in their final season with the Owls, but such a precipitous drop off in productivity is about way more than personnel. Several things went terribly wrong on offense.Quarterback
: So. Nick Fanuzzi sparkled in Birmingham, scuffled in Lubbock, won the starting job in Stillwater, missed two games with a shoulder sprain, stumbled upon his return, then posted consecutive games
where his brilliance justified the overriding belief that he was the signal caller of the future. He came back to the pack with underwhelming efforts against UTEP and UH, a grouping that includes Miami transfer Taylor Cook and RS Fr. Taylor McHargue.
While already aware of Cook's arm strength and pinpoint accuracy, it made for intriguing conversation when an upperclassman saddled up next to me during one practice and gushed about Cook. His teammates have taken notice of his obvious talent, and plenty of fans are ready to anoint him the starter for 2010. Fanuzzi will have something to say about that as will McHargue, who has that hard-to-define 'it' that made Clement so special. This competition will trump last spring's chase because of the talent (Cook), experience (Fanuzzi) and moxie (McHargue) of the participants. Whoever emerges should be the
guy without lingering debate.Tailback
: Charles Ross led the Owls in rushing (491 yards) and scoring (11 TDs) as a true freshman, and Tyler Smith proved to be far more than serviceable. Michigan transfer Sam McGuffie is the fastest player I have seen in a Rice uniform, and he will be a difference-maker.
But what is the best course of action to utilize all three tailbacks? Smith offers that every-down appeal, McGufffie will cause opposing coordinators fits when put in space, and Ross has the potential to be special because of his size, speed and versatility. However, the offense might need some modification to keep all three actively involved, which should be a primary goal.Receiver
: Gone are Toren Dixon and Taylor Wardlow, who combined for 91 receptions, 1,007 yards and seven TDs. Back are a motley mix of secondary receivers (Corbin Smiter, Patrick Randolph, Pierre Beasley, Derek Clark, Taylor Dupree) and two talented (and under utilized) tight ends - Vance McDonald and Luke Willson. Toss in Denzel Wells (shoulder) and Brent Hotard (thumb) - two camp standouts who had their seasons undercut by injuries - and freshmen Donte Moore and Andre Gautreaux, and options abound. But the same thing was written heading into this past season, and the receiving corps made precious little impact.
The staff needs to find a half-dozen viable receivers and coach 'em up. The Owls could run more out of the spread set next season, but the receivers have to pose some semblance of a vertical threat. That maddening series of dink-and-dunk passes didn't scare anybody this year.Line
: The prevailing theme from the first half of the season - "we're starting four sophomores and one junior!" - was muted by injuries to So. RG Jake Hicks (foot) and shaky performances down the stretch. Bailiff is a real stickler on linemen, and these guys are players he recruited and signed. Beyond Eric Ball and Bobby Janish, it's difficult to identify serious threats to crack the starting five of Keshawn Carrington, Davon Allen, Tyler Parish, Scott Mitchell and Hicks. Should this quintet improve with another offseason of working together under their collective belts? Absolutely, but not one member should be resting on his laurels. The line did not block or protect well enough as a group to reclaim starting roles automatically. Those jobs must be earned, and hopefully those five linemen will be pushed hard throughout spring workouts.DEFENSE
. In the three seasons Bailiff, Chuck Driesbach and Craig Naivar have run the defense, the Owls have ranked 118th, 113th and 117th nationally in total defense, and 118th, 104th and 120th (dead last in 2009, folks) nationally in scoring defense. Injuries have forced them to juggle lineups in all three seasons, with walk-ons and true freshmen filling gaps other programs would plug with veterans. For the first time since Bailiff arrived, he will have athletes who played linebacker in high school playing linebacker for his defense. That will be key. So will be the experience the Owls gained by starting so many freshmen and sophomores as injuries mounted. But is returning 10 starters from the 117th-ranked defense a good thing?Line
: The Owls really missed the depth Arnaud Gascon-Nadon would have provided had he not gone AWOL, but they managed behind exceptional performances from Jr. DEs Scott Solomon and Cheta Ozougwu, who combined for 124 tackles, 21 TFLs, 11 sacks and assorted other statistics reflecting general mayhem. Jr. DE Kramer Lucio struggled to stay healthy while Jared Williams and Cody Bauer grew up and should be serviceable reserves.
But what of the depth at end and tackle? Will RS Fr. Nic Hammett remain at DE, where he appears to be more valuable, or shift back to LB? How much will a healthy RS Fr. Josh Skinner (knee) reinforce the depth at end? And where will help emerge in support of young DTs Alex Lowry, Michael Smith, John Gioffre and Brian Stacey? That four-man rotation could use some bolstering; will RS Fr. Hosam Shahin, plus a couple of walk-ons, be the answer?Linebacker
: Driesbach will finally get to coach linebackers with the instincts for the position. No more converted safeties, ends or tailbacks (well, except for Justin Hill), and that should help. Trey Briggs wore down a bit playing as a true freshman, but a full offseason should positively impact his frame. Idaho transfer Justin Allen looks like a keeper. The depth? Will it be provided by true freshmen - again? That's not the ideal situation, so hope that Matt Nordstrom and Ronnie Lillard continue to improve given the opportunity that will be presented.Secondary
: Now playing the role of Andrew Sendejo, defensive leader, is Travis Bradshaw. While his position at KAT is secure, the remainder of the secondary is in flux. Is Chris Jones the answer at free safety, or will he shift back to strong safety to allow Xavier Webb to grow into the role as starter? Will Willie Garley and Max Anyiam continue to platoon at strong safety, or will the staff finally move RS Fr. Tolu Akinwumi from corner to strong safety, where he could be a beast? What role will RS Fr. Andre Brackens play in the secondary? Broderick Jackson? Paul Porras and Turner Petersen? Will one of those two wind up on offense permanently? And what about the cornerbacks? That turned out to be a mess, didn't it?
Surely Chris Jammer and Jarrett Ben will bounce back from substandard seasons, right? Or will they find themselves backing up the true freshmen who played without fear in 2009 - Phillip Gaines and Kevin Gaddis? Cory Frazier moved to safety early in the season, and he might thrive there once he fills out. Alex Francis should be better prepared to carve a place in the corner rotation. Joseph Leary (hamstring) is committed to reviving his career one last time. Specialists
: Shane Turner was a pleasant surprise returning kicks, a role he should hold for the remainder of his career. Mark Brundage proved to be a blessing in disguise punting behind starter Kyle Martens, and Chris Boswell will get his shot to be the No. 1 placekicker. Brandon Yelovich acquitted himself quite nicely after struggling mightily while handling kickoffs in 2008.
As always, the floor is open for your contributions on this topic.
Renovations at The Reck
, previously discussed here
, will reach another phase on Wednesday when the locker room refurbishment is initiated. Some exterior work has been completed (protective netting behind home plate; equipment shed beyond right field), so the time has come for the interior to be addressed. Considering that the lockers installed when The Reck opened a decade ago remain, their replacement is long overdue. And it's not like The OG was too fond of the original design of those lockers to begin with. After 10 years, he's had enough.
"I think they'll be much more efficient," The OG said. "I'm glad we're doing this."
By efficient, The OG means that the upper compartment will be split as to allow easier and safer access (i.e., avoiding bumping one's noggin while mired in an item search). A darker oak grain will be utilized, with the ubiquitous Old English 'R'
emblazoned on the locker doors.The lockers
will be removed, allowing for a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Plush new carpet will be installed and enhancements to the audio system will follow. The new lockers, designed and constructed by Broward Custom Woodwork
, should be in place by Jan. 4. Three lockers will be added to the existing room space to accommodate the NCAA-mandated 35-man roster.