In case any of the players are wondering, this is “Practice #82.” They can find that out on the upper-right corner of their Daily Practice Plan, a typed down-to-the-minute practice schedule listed in Roman numeral format:
II. Stretch (10).
III. Thought of the Day (2). “Get low. Stay low on defense.’’
IV. Fundamentals. 1. 2-Line Full Court Passing (2), 2. Celtic drill (2), 3. Rebound-war on the boards (5).
V. Defense. Shell drill. Defend Georgia Tech.
VI. Offense. Fast ball movement. Man movement. Pass to Post.
VIII. Shoot 3’s (15).
DeQuan Jones, who played for UM last season and is now with the Orlando Magic, is in town for a game against the Heat. He shows up at Hurricanes practice with Magic teammates Kyle O’Quinn and Mo Harkless. They watch and remark on the intensity and organization of the workout.
“Coach L and his staff are super organized and strategic,” Jones said. “Everything is calculated down to a T and broken down. We’d spend a block of time on each fundamental. They’d break down details like, ‘This guy shoots from the right 70 percent of the time,’ stuff like that. As a player, that paints a picture of what you’re guarding, what to expect. Almost to the point you know what the offensive player’s going to do before they even do it. It made the games easy. That’s one thing I noticed. Practice was always the hardest thing.
“They slowed the game down and broke down the Xs and Os. This coaching staff made me a better player, made me respect the game.”
Larranaga’s practices are spirited. Caputo is crouched on the sideline, yelling instructions to the “Green” scout team. Konkol stands at midcourt, coaching the “White” team starters. Huger, 42 but still a lethal scorer, often plays guard with the scout team. He has experience from his days playing under Coach L at Bowling Green. Larranaga, wearing a heating pad strapped to his back, whistles, claps a lot and encourages his players.
“Trey, I like how you accelerated past that screen!” “Jules, real good!”
When he has to, Larranaga gets tough. After Kenny Kadji missed a midrange jumper in a scrimmage, Larranaga yelled: “You take difficult shots and you don’t have to. You don’t need to dribble. It doesn’t prove anything. You missed the shot. Keep it simple!”
The scrimmage goes to five points. On this day, the scout team beats the starters 5-1 — an omen of the 71-69 loss to come the next night.
As the practice is wrapping up, Larranaga says someone has to hit a half-court shot before they can leave. The players laugh and begin heaving shots from mid-court. Durand Scott makes it. Practice over.
After practice, the players receive one of Caputo’s famously meticulous full-color, 17-page scouting reports. Players are instructed to study the report before they go to sleep that night. The first two pages are personnel reports.
The scouting report on Duke’s Ryan Kelly before he lit up UM for a career-high 36 points read: “We expect him to play and be excited about it. MUST MATCH HIS INTENSITY! Excellent on offensive boards. Make him a dribbler. Prefers left shoulder in paint.”