Coach's plan keeps Otahkians focused on season

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Initially, B.J. Smith's players thought he was crazy.

Now they seem to like the idea of carrying basketballs wherever they go.

"I thought he was really crazy," senior LaShelle Porter said with a laugh. "But now I can see what it's for and I don't mind."

Smith, Southeast Missouri State University's first-year women's head coach, has had all of his players toting basketballs -- along with daily notebook-type organizers --wherever they go since the second week of school, which started in August.

It's a plan that Smith says will help them organize their time and keep their focus on basketball.

"We would have started the first week of school, but we didn't get our basketballs in until the second week," Smith said.

Smith said his players are required to carry the basketballs and daily organizers with them from the time they leave their dorm or apartment in the morning until they come home at night, with the exception of Sunday, when they are given a reprieve.

"That's wherever they go, even on dates," Smith said.

However, since the players are required to keep the basketballs in their possession only until 8 p.m. daily -- the organizers must be carried until they return home no matter the time -- they might be able to avoid embarrassment on dates.

"We thought he was crazy, having to take the basketball on dates, but only until 8 p.m., so I guess people can wait until after that," junior-college transfer Yashika Sidbury said, grinning.

Smith added, "At first, I think they thought I was half-crazy. But now, I think they kind of like it. It brings some attention to them."

Plenty of attention, say the players.

"It's kind of a joke around campus. People ask me what would happen if they took my basketball and brought it back to coach," freshman Tiffanne Ryan said. "But the planner has helped me a lot. It helps me know what homework I have to do and things like that."

Said junior-college transfer Carina Souza, "It's kind of funny, but I think it's good for us. We dribble all over campus and if we didn't have the ball with us, we couldn't be dribbling. So it's helping us."

Smith said he and assistant coach Lisa Pace came up with the idea.

"We were just talking one day about things we could do. It may have even been her idea, I don't know," he said. "Since we can't spend much time with the players this time of the year, we thought it would be something to keep their minds on basketball and also to keep their minds on all their responsibilities."

Smith and his assistants will be able to spend plenty of time with their team once practice begins Oct. 12, but that doesn't mean the players won't still be lugging basketballs and organizers wherever they go.

"We'll keep doing this at least two or three weeks into practice, then we'll talk about it again," Smith said.

mmishow@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 132

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