The first of those milestones came in July when the new freshmen arrived on campus for the second summer semester. During those summer days, the players took summer school classes, worked out under Strength and Conditioning Coach Tasha Weddle in the mornings, and played pickup in the late afternoons in Memorial Gym.
The basketball coaching staff is prohibited by the NCAA from any on-court instruction during the summer, so the veteran players shoulder the responsibility of helping the new freshmen to get off to a good start in their collegiate basketball careers. Summer pickup games provide the opportunity to give the newcomers some on-the-court instruction and practice.
When the fall semester begins, another important milestone arrives. Beginning with the start of classes, the basketball coaches are allowed to work directly with players in on-the-court skills instruction. For incoming freshmen, it's their first opportunity to work directly with their college coaches.
NCAA regulations limit the amount of instruction time with each player to 2 hours per week and the total amount of required activities to 8 hours per week. Like most college programs, Vanderbilt takes advantage of the 2 hours allowed for instruction (known as "individual workouts") and uses the bulk of the remaining time for strength and conditioning.
The two hours allowed for individual workouts are broken down into two sessions a week, one on Tuesdays and the other on Thursdays. Then, after classes and lunch, the players return to the gym for conditioning. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are for strength training.
The name "individual workouts" is somewhat of a misnomer, since coaches are allowed to work with a group of up to four players at this time of year. Assistant Coaches Tom Garrick and Kim Rosamond generally work with the guards, while "Coach Vicky" Picott works with the post players.
In planning the individual workouts, the coaching staff intentionally mixes younger players with older players. For example, freshmen Maggie Morrison and Kady Shrann and junior Gabby Smith participate in individual workouts together.
"We want the younger kids to be able to pick up on stuff as quickly as possible," says Coach Garrick. "We try to get our most technically sound offensive footwork person to come in there so the younger kids can have someone to emulate and someone to follow.
"And Gabby's really good with them. She's really a nurturing soul, so she kind of mother hens them and takes care of them a little bit while telling them 'You need to pick it up.'"
Even though players come into the program with a high level of skill by high school standards, learning what they need to know to play at the collegiate level can be overwhelming. They need to learn different types of footwork, different ways to come off screens, different ways to look to the basket, when to go fast and when to go slow. The list goes on and on.
"We work on shooting the ball in the spots that our offense dictates, using the proper footwork to get those shots and using your common sense to know when you're open to shoot those shots," Coach Garrick says.
"Defensively, we work on our early fundamental principles, anything that we're going to have to use throughout the course of the season, so we try to start with the basics, where you should be, at what time you should be there, and what your footwork should be when you get there."
The next major milestone in the march towards the season arrives forty days before the team's first game on November 11. At that point, the NCAA no longer restricts the number of players that can participate in a workout. With that restriction removed, workouts will be reduced to two groups, a group of all the guards and a group of all the posts before moving on to full-team practices.
Kady Shrann, Gabby Smith, Coach Tom Garrick, Maggie Morrison
Gabby Smith, Coach Tom Garrick, Kady Shrann
Gabby Smith, Kady Shrann, Coach Kim Rosamond
Gabby Smith and Kady Shrann
Maggie Morrison and Gabby Smith
Gabby Smith, Coach Kim Rosamond, Maggie Morrison
Maggie Morrison, Coach Tom Garrick, Kady Shrann, Coach Kim Rosamond
Coach Tom Garrick, Maggie Morrison, Gabby Smith
Gabby Smith, Kady Shrann, Coach Kim Rosamond, Maggie Morrison, Coach Tom Garrick
Gabby Smith, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb, Coach Tom Garrick
Gabby Smith and Coach Balcomb
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Photos copyright 2011 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com