Keegan Bell has been shooed out of McKenzie Arena by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga security while practicing at 10 p.m.
Lately, he’s been rolling out of bed about midnight and grabbing his iPod, a ball, some sweats — sometimes UTC teammate Jasper Williams — and heading to the new Chattem practice facility. He shoots there without getting escorted from the premises.
“I’d get kicked out a lot by the security guard,” said Bell, a Vanderbilt transfer who is sitting out the basketball season per NCAA rules. “I come in here, and I’m the midnight guy, here at 11 or 12, and that’s my favorite time to shoot.
“When the team is on the road, this is my house.”
The UTC basketball teams have been using the facility at times for several weeks now, but this week they truly appreciate the practice gym. McKenzie Arena has been occupied by the TSSAA state wrestling tournament.
In previous years, the Mocs have scattered to area high school gyms while the Lady Mocs used Maclellan Gym.
“We were at the whim of Maclellan, Baylor or McCallie or a high school that isn’t practicing at the same time we want to go,” associate head coach Dave Conrady said. “It saves me a lot of work because I’m not spending two days finding a place to practice.”
The Mocs practiced for about 90 minutes Thursday in preparation for their Southern Conference game against Samford (13-13, 8-9) at 7 p.m. Saturday in McKenzie. Coach John Shulman spent about five minutes on the Bulldogs; the Mocs (14-13, 10-6) spent the rest of the time in shooting drills and general improvement.
“I think we shot more free throws yesterday than any other day this season, so you hope it translates,” said Shulman, whose team is 10th out of 12 SoCon teams in free-throw percentage. “You would think we’ll shoot them better, but sometimes two-plus-two doesn’t equal four when you’re dealing with college kids.”
The practice facility on Vine Street will be used during the conference tournament based on a pre-set schedule for all teams. The UTC squads will continue practicing there at times between now and the tournament as the arena is occupied by other events.
“It would be a disaster right before tournament time if not for this facility,” Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore said. “I ought to kiss the plaque of the four people who made this possible every day I come in here.”
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...