Every season is different and unique. As Mike Krzyzewski aptly titled his book: A Season is a Lifetime!!!!!! This season has been both difficult and rewarding, with a lot of both!!! In the past seven years we have had a lot of success, and we were fortunate in that we did not have a lot of injuries and/or other setbacks to derail us. This season has seen us face difficulties of varying types and varying degrees. Enough to offset the last seven years!!!!
It began for us in a summer league in late July, when Kent Bazemore, a 5th-year senior and the CAA Preseason Player of the Year, broke his foot. Kent was unable to participate in preseason conditioning, strength training, or individual development. He did not return until the first of November, and when he did he was out of shape and not ready to compete at a high level. Unfortunately our season began in less than two weeks, and he would have to play his way into shape. The average person does not fully understand what it takes to come back from an injury during the season. It is not as simple as just getting into shape and being right back where you were. Timing, touch, and feel are just of few of the intangibles that take time and experience to get back. And there is nothing that can be done to speed up that process. And that process can’t begin until the injured player is back and playing again. It is not something that he can work on while he is sitting out and unable to compete. So our season began with our best player a mere shell of himself.
In addition to Kent’s injury we also had a couple of other unusual circumstances that contributed to our difficult start, and made the maturing and development of our team much more difficult than normal. Another player had to sit out the first three games of the season. Two others would not be available until the end of the first semester. So we began the season with four of our 13 scholarship players unavailable or severely diminished by injury.
It took a long time for Kent to get back to 100%, which he is now. So our team was constantly evolving and adjusting to him as his game slowly came back to him. In addition, we added new players as we moved along, further complicating the process of building team chemistry, identity, and belief. As the season progress we slowly improved and began to develop those qualities. One of the characteristics of our team ever since Blaine Taylor arrived is that we play our best basketball in February and March. This season was beginning to follow that pattern. Entering the last week of the regular season we had won 12 of our last 16 games, and were playing very well.
Then it happened again!! During a 65-60 overtime win at Georgia State, our 13th win in the last 17 games, Trian Iliadis tore his ACL. Trian is a senior, a veteran player who has developed from a shooter to a very good all-around player. His defense has been outstanding this season. Furthermore, he has played in three previous CAA tournaments, and been an important part of two championship teams. His experienced will be sorely missed in the CAA tournament this season. So once again we are adjusting, adapting, and trying to find a way. We had one game in the regular season to make the necessary adjustments to our substitution patterns and rotations. And now we are in Richmond to play in the CAA tournament. The good news is that we have been doing this all season long, so it is not an entirely foreign concept to us. How quickly we can adapt will determine how far we can go.
It has been an interesting year. Finishing fourth under the circumstances has been rewarding. We have won some big games, and played some outstanding competition along the way. Our non-conference schedule was once again the strongest in the CAA. And we did this without a full roster. We have played six overtime games, a record for an ODU team in a single season, and gone 4-2 in them. Three of the overtime wins were on the road too. Now we go into the CAA tournament. I don’t know how we will fare, but I do believe we will be prepared to adapt to anything that happens!!!!!
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