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Love, hate relationship: Local teams use a variety of drills to get better on the court

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Trinity Episcopal Day School’s Tommy McCoy reaches for another ball as he does a quick shooting drill during practice.

NATCHEZ — The Trinity Episcopal boys basketball team gets excited when head coach Edwin White tells them to get out the basketball rack and begin one of their favorite practice drills.

In what amounts to a three-point shooting competition, the players take turns taking five shots from one spot on the floor, each time grabbing a new ball off the ball rack.

The players turn it into a competition, but there is a lot more that White gets from the drill than he lets his players know.

“They think they are having fun, but I am getting what I want out of them,” White said.

White pushes his players to get shots up quickly, and the drill helps the players focus on form, quick release and maintaining both of those things when they get tired.

Guard Garrett Vinson said the drill is real beneficial to him, because he spent his fall throwing footballs as the Saints quarterback.

“It just helps me get more shots up,” he said. “Right now I am still in football mode, and this helps me get my shot.”

The Saints like to turn the drill into a competition, but guard Tommy McCoy said it does not get too heated

“It’s a competition, but it’s a team competition,” he said. “Everybody on this team is like brothers, and we want everybody to do well, because we’re a team at the end of the day.”

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Tanner Cage goes up for a shot as teammate Dre McCoy stands nearby as they do the shooting drill that requires players to get up five shots as quickly as possible. Trinity head coach Edwin White said the players enjoy the drill, but he likes that it enforces shooting form and shooting under pressure.

11-man drill

The Cathedral High School girls team enjoys the up-tempo 11-man drill head coach Randy Smith puts them through.

Alternating between the two ends of the court, two defenders take on three players on offense, with one end of the court being used at a time. After a basket is made, the player serving as point guard dribbles down to the other end of the court with two defenders and two other players on offense waiting on her. Players off to the side sub in and out, making 11 total players that participate in the drill.

Smith said the drill teachers rebounds, making outlet passes, filling in lanes and working on offense skills against defenses. It’s also as close to a simulated game as you can get, Smith said.

“While you’re doing this, you’re running, thinking and playing different spots,” Smith said.

Cathedral guard Taylor Beesley said the drill helps the team stay in shape, but it doesn’t feel like a workout.

“It’s actually fun, because we’re all playing,” Beesley said.

Guard Sallie Stout also said she enjoys going against her teammates in such an up-tempo drill.

“It’s like a mini-scrimmage, because you have to pay attention to every more people are making, and you’re changing positions constantly,” Stout said.

17-sprint crosses

When Lisa Abron tells her Ferriday High School girls, “OK, 17,” the reaction is always the same.

“They go, ‘Ugh,’ because they have to keep doing it until they get in a certain amount of time,” the Lady Trojans head coach said.

Abron is referring to the 17-spring cross, where her players line up on one sideline and sprint across to the other sideline 17 times. If they don’t do it within a certain amount of time, the drill starts over.

Abron said the drill helps build up speed and endurance, which is important in basketball.

“It gets the calves and thighs ready for all of the transitions we do in basketball,” Abron said.

Despite the collective groans, the Ferriday players said they understand why Abron has them do the drill.

“It forces you to get in shape,” junior Shakeria Kelly said.

Freshman Jaba Griggs said she’s been able to adjust to the drill after being sluggish while running it at the start of the season.

“I wasn’t really in basketball shape (at first),” Griggs said. “I haven’t played since junior high, but now I’m use to it. It’s a lot of running if you’re not in shape, but you get used to it.”

Natchez High defensive slides

Natchez High School basketball player Derrian Johnson only had one thing to say about the defensive-slide drill the team does each practice.

“It burns,” the senior said.

The drill requires the players to stay in a defensive stance for long periods of time, while coaches shout out which direction the players should move.

It’s a drill that no player looks forward to, but Johnson said he knows it has benefits.

“We know it makes us better, and we don’t really complain about it,” he said.

Natchez High head coach Mike Martin said he knows the drill is tough on the players, but it is supposed to be.

“It’s difficult,” he said. “But it helps us in the games. Defense is half the game.”

Natchez assistant coach David Haywood said he remembers doing the same drill under Martin when he was playing at Natchez more than 10 years ago.

“You are required to stay in a stance for long periods of time,” he said. “It’s hard on the thighs. It helps build up strength, and it’s real important in high school ball, because there is no shot clock, so you might have to stay on defense for a minute at a time.”

Johnson said the drill is toughest at the end of practice when the players are already tired, but that translates to late-game situations.