Mavs spend break sleeping in, lifting and playing basketball
Three hours of the day are accounted for, with getting treatment and basketball practice.
Weights take up another hour. But for the other 20 hours, with no classes until Jan. 19, there’s not much for the Mesa State College men’s basketball team to do.
Sleeping in is a given — practice doesn’t begin until 1 p.m., so the Mavericks show up about noon and head for the training room to get taped and get whatever treatment they need taken care of.
Practice ends at 3 p.m., and many of the players drive to Gold’s Gym to lift, since construction at Saunders Fieldhouse has gutted the weight room.
“It’s great, because they’ve got a sauna there, so we can lift and then get a steam,” senior forward Jake Swartzendruber said.
The athletes are able to use Gold’s while the college’s weight room is out of commission.
Senior guard Ryan Mathews is taking a class during the January term so he can graduate this spring, so he’s making the most of his off hours. The rest of the days and into the evenings, the
Mavs hang together, playing video games, watching movies ... anything to pass the time.
Guitar Hero is the video game of choice for the Mavs, and Swartzendruber said he’s getting pretty good at it, although freshman Jeff Hart might be the best on the team.
“Sean Flohr plays guitar ... real guitar, so he’s really good, too,” Swartzendruber said. “We just have fun with it.”
Flohr is on the injured list with a herniated disc in his back for another couple of weeks. Tuesday, forward Ben Crowe showed up to practice with a sore back, so the Mavericks are even thinner at the forward spot than they were after Justin Ashcraft blew his knee the first day of school.
Swartzendruber, a 6-foot-5 senior, has moved into the starting forward spot, with Crowe and Brian Kenshalo coming off the bench. Swartzendruber was spelling Kurt Bangle at center, but the injury to Flohr, coupled with the emergence of redshirt freshman center Mike Bear, has allowed him to slide back to his natural position facing the basket.
“Since Justin went down, we’ve struggled to find what we want to do with that spot,” coach Jim Heaps said. “We’ve used Sean and Ben and now we’ve put Jake there to get us some more scoring. Jake also defends well and rebounds and makes us stronger inside.”
Crowe had been starting, with Flohr coming off the bench. Crowe is averaging only one point a game, and Flohr was averaging 5.7 points when he was forced out with the back injury.
Swartzendruber contributes 9.9 points and 5 rebounds a game and said he feels more comfortable facing the basket.
“I feel like I can drive on some of the bigger guys who guard me,” he said. “It’s more of a natural position.”
The Mavericks (5-6, 2-2 RMAC) host Nebraska-Kearney (5-6, 2-2) on Friday night and Chadron State (5-6, 1-3) on Saturday.
Not only will the lineup be a little different than fans saw in the Mavs’ final home games of 2008, they’ll see a renewed emphasis on defense.
All the free time the Mavs have spent together off the court should help them with their biggest challenge on the court: Trusting one another.
“The biggest thing this team has to do, and we’ve talked about that, is gain a trust of each other,” Heaps said. “Trust is so important. If you go to help, somebody’s going to help you.
“Somebody’s going to help the helper. If you get caught up in ‘I’ve got my guy, you get your guy,’ it becomes five islands out there. It becomes very hard to defend good teams.”
Mesa State plays primarily a sagging man-to-man defense that takes on a few zone principles — if your guy gets past you, a teammate must leave his man to help. In turn, you go find the open man until the defense can reset.
Knowing that’s what will happen makes the defense work.
“We don’t have five quick, strong enough players who can play one-on-one, I don’t think anybody does,” Heaps said. “The offense has too much of an advantage. It has to be a team concept. When we play team defense and rotate and help and fly around and be very active, it’s a very good defensive team. When we start worrying just about our guy, we struggle.
“You’ve gotta rotate, you can’t hesitate. When you hesitate, you don’t get there in time and the reason you hesitate is because you’re not sure and you don’t trust that I can go and someone will take my guy. We’ve done a good job this week of getting better at that and once it comes, we’ll be a very good basketball team.”