At practice…

The University of South Dakota men’s basketball team was beginning its preparations for tonight’s game at the Dome against Oakland on Tuesday night. I was down there getting interviews in the afternoon and  decided to hang out for a while along press row and watch the team practice.

This is the sort of thing that keeps sportswriters sharp for game days—we try to recreate game conditions when we’re typing out recorded interviews.

OK, so roll back to the week before — I was sitting in the same spot about three hours prior to the USD women’s game with NDSU finishing a story that would go in that Sunday’s paper regarding football recruiting footprints. Adam Thoseby, a 6-5 Australian who transferred from Utah State, was working out that afternoon on the court, putting himself through various drills that combined dribbling through chairs with shooting. He was at it for some time. There was an impressive array of dunks, as well as outside shooting drills where he rarely missed.

You have to remember that most college basketball players look like world-killers when they’re just shooting around. Even guys who don’t shoot from the outside in games can make 3’s at a pretty high rate when there is no defense. Likewise, a lot of guys who wouldn’t dunk in a game can take a run at the basket and get the ball over the rim.

I’ve seen Thoseby practice before and I’ve heard the coaches talk about what he’s going to add to the program when he’s eligible next year, but I didn’t have a real impression of his skills until Tuesday. The Coyotes were involved in an intense half-court scrimmage that was set up to prepare the starters for Oakland, and in particular, Travis Bader, a 6-5 sharp shooter who is averaging 22 points a game.

The scout offensive team included Thoseby, whose assignment was to behave as if he was Bader. This essentially meant shooting a 3-pointer whenever it was physically possible to do so, regardless of how well he was being covered.

And then the 3’s began to fall. On a few of the early ones, he had good looks at the basket, but as the defensive attention intensified, the difficulty increased. During one streak, he hit three in a row, then hit a well-defended fourth on a high-arching bomb from the corner that had a few of us courtside shaking our heads.

"He’s not acting like Bader, he is Bader,” Dave Boots said during a short break.  The scout team was also occasionally attempting alley-oop plays to Thoseby. Those weren’t working but it was obvious that they’d worked at least once in a while in the past. The other thing that seemed obvious was that the starters acted as if getting lit up by this redshirt in practice was a fairly common occurrence.

This was not a casual pickup game going on out there — the coaches were constantly yelling instructions to the defense to maintain intensity while the scout offense looked for a shot. With Trey Norris, another gifted transfer who is sitting out this year, running the point, the scouts were giving the first unit all they could handle — and more than they could handle when Thoseby had the ball.