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Coach Sampson has a unique relationship with his point guards. Don’t get me wrong: he will chew me out, but we talk about certain things afterward. Actually, we talk about a lot of things. Even during the offseason, we probably speak every day. Sometimes it will be, ‘how was this transition defense?’ Or he’ll send me a play to study or call me to his office to watch a little bit of film.
He’ll encourage me and pick me up, or he’ll tell me what I’m doing wrong or what I’m doing right. The best thing about Coach is that I know I can talk to him about anything. There are no boundaries.
Most people don’t know that Coach Sampson coaches the team through the point guard. I have to be an extension of him; whatever he says, I have to double down on it. In a way, the point guard has to be Kelvin Sampson on the court. Everybody can’t go up to him to ask a question; they go to the point guard. So you’ve got to be on the same page as him at all times.
If I’m not energetic or who I was yesterday, he’s going to call me on it at any time or place. We have identity guys, like J’Wan Roberts, but Coach expects me to live the culture 24/7. Culture is who we are and how we carry ourselves. Off the court, culture means being the best person I can be. I guess you have to experience it because I really can’t explain it.
Coach Sampson hates when his point guard misses practice. More than that, he preaches that the point guard, the best player, and the coach can never have a bad day of practice. Practice in this program isn’t just an hour or two then take a shower. You have individual workouts, then position workouts, then practice. After practice, we shoot and work on individual goals like shooting three-pointers or free throws.
In the preseason, “practice” can mean anything. There are NCAA rules about how many hours teams can practice, but there are no limits on players doing more. And we all do more. I see my job as doing everything I can to help this program go where we want to go. Sometimes, “practice” can mean eight hours or more in the Guy V. Lewis Development Facility.
And then there’s the running. So much running. It really starts on your first day and doesn’t end til you graduate.
My first day of practice as a freshman showed me that I was not prepared for this. I walked into the facility at 11 in the morning. Before practice, I had an individual workout with Quannas White at 12:30. That workout was crazy, but I had to remind myself that it was just the pre-workout. Then, at 1:30, we got into guard group. And that was insane! And I’m thinking, “Whoa! We still have a practice? I’m tired! I’m really tired! And we still gotta practice?”
Practice usually starts at 3 o’clock, but on my first day, Coach was ready. So he goes down there at 2:45 and he started a little early. My roommate is Tramon Mark, and he hadn’t shown up yet, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
We’re practicing, and I have the first turnover of the year. First turnover of the year! I just threw it away. Immediately, Coach barks out, “Put 63 seconds on the clock!” which means I had to do a shuttle run right out of the gate. No down and back, no 30-second jog. Full-on 65-second run except he docks me two seconds! And trust me, even with a full 65, a shuttle is brutal.
So I’m running, and Tramon walks in because no one told him that practice started early. Coach stops me to yell at Tramon and tell him he’s going to run, too. And then, Coach makes me start over. So I ran almost two full shuttles because he made me stop and start over. I’m tired and I’m leaning on my teammates when Coach yells, “Who is Tramon’s roommate?” And I shake my head, put my hand up and say, “me.”
“You let (Tramon) do that?” Coach says to me. I can’t believe it. “You get on the line with him.” So I ran another shuttle, meaning that’s three shuttles in the first five minutes of my first-ever practice. And that’s after pre-workout, and after guard workout, and it’s five minutes into practice, and we’ve still got 3 hours to go.
I’m like, “what did I get myself into? I don’t want to be here anymore.”
But obviously, I stayed. And boy, I’m glad I did.
Part 2 is here.
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