SE builds family ties in New Orleans

Thursday, November 28, 2002

As everybody is getting ready to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner later today, we're getting ready for a basketball game.

New Orleans, where we're competing in the University Hoops Classic hosted by Tulane, is a long way from home for the majority of our players. But even though we're on the road and the kids are away from their families, we've got a basketball family here.

Since our first game in the tournament is today at 5 p.m., against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, it's not really possible for us to have a Thanksgiving dinner today. Instead, as I write this, we were planning to get the entire team and staff together for a Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday evening.

So many times trips like this can have a bonding effect, where it's just your team against the world so to speak. You're gone for a few days, you're in an unfamiliar environment and everybody has to depend on each other just a little bit more than usual. It can be really good for a team and hopefully that will be the case with us.

This is also the first big road trip for a lot of our new players, especially the freshmen, so I'm sure it's exciting for them. And I know it's exciting for all our players to be in New Orleans.

A lot of funny things always happen on a long road trip. You ask players 20 years after they get through playing and they'll remember the funny things that happened on road trips.

Road trips often bring a team closer together, but I feel like we already have a close-knit basketball team. I really like the chemistry of this team right now. I hope it continues and I think it will. Usually when you start with good chemistry, you end with good chemistry.

In our first two regular-season games, and our two exhibition games, we've had a lot of unselfish play, always looking for the open man. I think that's been one of the bright spots for us so far.

No play illustrates that more than a play during Monday night's win over Central Methodist in our home opener. We were leading by 20 or 22 points in the second half and Demetrius King had a wide-open 3-pointer, but he passed up the shot and instead got the ball to Derek Winans for a much better shot. We always talk about getting the best shot we can get and that was a perfect example of it.

We played pretty well against Central Methodist and I thought we also played pretty well at Arkansas State last Friday night in our season opener, but we got beat badly on the boards and that hurt us. As we continue to get our injured players back, I think we'll improve in our rebounding.

It was a great first week of play for the Ohio Valley Conference. Tennessee-Martin went to Saint Louis and upset the Billikens and Austin Peay went to Memphis and upset the Tigers. Another impressive performance was Tennessee Tech barely losing at Cincinnati. Those kinds of results are good for everybody in our league and bring more attention to the OVC.

There are some very good teams in the University Hoops Classic, with Tulane and Wisconsin-Milwaukee probably being the best. Wisconsin-Milwaukee might be the best team in the tournament and we draw them the first night.

This tournament will be a tough one for us, but hopefully it will make us a better basketball team. Our goal is to win the tournament, but if we could somehow come back home with two victories in the three games, I think that would really help our confidence.

I want to wish everybody a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I hope you will follow all our games in this tournament on K-103.

And we'll be back at the Show Me Center for two big games next week, playing Oakland City Wednesday night and a tremendous Southern Illinois team Saturday night.

Gary Garner is the basketball coach at Southeast Missouri State University

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