The Rebels still have almost a month before they take the court for real in the season opener against Portland State, and nobody was happier about that fact after Monday’s practice than Dave Rice.
Rice was not pleased with the team’s performance during Monday’s practice, a session that saw players missing defensive assignments consistently, forcing bad shots on offense and turning the ball over too many times.
Rice, who normally sports a calm demeanor on the sideline, had to stop play and raise his voice several times in an effort to get his point across.
“As a coach there’s a fine line between being patient with guys when they make mistakes, and yet holding them to a high standard when they’ve made the same mistake on multiple occasions,” Rice said. “And so we’re going to be patient, but we need to be more efficient than we were today. Overall, I was not pleased with how we practiced today. And the guys know that.”
When asked if the mistakes were more about effort or execution, Rice didn’t hold back.
“I was disappointed with both today,” he said. “There were individuals that had good practices and everyone did good things at various times. But not nearly good enough for what we’re trying to do.”
Luckily for Rice and the Rebels, they do have the next three weeks to correct their mistakes, starting with Tuesday’s practice at the Mendenhall Center. And Rice will continue to let his players know when they’re not performing up to his standards.
“It’s what the team needs,” Rice said. “They need to understand the high standard, and the opportunity that we have to have a very good season. But right now we’ve got a long, long way to go. And today was disappointing overall in terms of how we practiced.”
Other news and notes from Monday’s practice:
Birch, Kendrick, Smith among standouts
Rice may not have been happy with the practice overall, but some individuals did manage to put together good showings. I thought Khem Birch looked particularly effective at both ends of the court, as he made some athletic blocks on defense and finished around the rim efficiently on offense. He also got up and down the floor quickly, which is a good sign—Birch beating opposing big men down the floor could lead to easy transition points during the season.
Jelan Kendrick also showed a slick offensive arsenal once again, slicing to the rim in transition and dropping in a couple nifty passes. He also knocked down a few outside shots, continuing a trend of solid shooting for the 6-foot-7 wing. Kendrick hit just 20.5 percent of his 3-pointers last year at Indian Hills CC, but judging by how he’s stroked the ball so far in practice, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t much better than that for the Rebels this season.
Also standing out on Monday was junior point guard DeVille Smith, who managed to get into the lane and collapse the defense on several occasions. He’s still the frontrunner for the starting point guard job, in my opinion.
No redshirt decisions looming
Rice said he expects to use at least one redshirt this season, but the team won’t make any decisions until after the first exhibition game, at the earliest.
“The good thing is that all the new guys can play in both exhibition games and still redshirt,” Rice said.
Freshman Dantley Walker, who has been viewed as a potential redshirt candidate after serving a two-year LDS mission, said he doesn’t yet know what will happen this season.
“I asked coach Rice about it,” Walker said, “and he just said we’re going to see how it plays out as we keep going into practice and get closer to the season. Haven’t had any word yet, so I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing.”
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Khem Birch Back at Practice
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