Somebody taped the Mocs practice plan to the glass door of the Chattem basketball practice facility on Wednesday for all to see — a rarity.
One line summarized the practice, the day, the week, and the upcoming Southern Conference tournament which begins for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Saturday at 7 p.m. in McKenzie Arena.
“Risk it all.”
Those were the words that followed, “Thought of the day,” which is a staple of UTC practices and a line that Mocs must memorize before stretching and a few warm-up laps around the court.
“It means that you have to give it your all so that even if you win or lose that you’d be crushed and we played with our hearts,” UTC coach John Shulman said. “Now, if you don’t win, you go home. And I would hate to see somebody keep playing in our arena.”
It means finding time to shoot in a gym, any gym since McKenzie Arena is not available. It means getting sufficient rest, eating healthy meals, giving maximum effort in practice and sacrificing all that’s possible in the quest of an NCAA tournament bid.
“It means, give everything you have to do to get the job done,” said junior guard Ricky Taylor, who played on UTC’s 2009 SoCon tournament championship team. “This is about a dream of going to the NCAA tournament.”
That dream isn’t fulfilled unless the Mocs win on Monday night and see their name flash up on the screen next Sunday during the CBS telecast of Selection Sunday.
And that dream is an addiction for coach John Shulman. When the calendar flips to March, only a SoCon tournament title gives Shulman his fix.
“It’s an amazing taste and you want to go back so bad, it’s an addiction to go back to the NCAA tournament,” Shulman said. “If you’ve never been there, it’s no big deal. You go on to spring or whatever.
“Once you get a taste of it, it’s hard not to put every ounce of energy, and every minute of thinking and thought into getting there, because that’s where the good stuff is.”
That’s why Shulman has asked his team to risk it all, to lay their hearts on the line more than if they were to ask the prettiest girl in their hometown to marry them.
“You have to take every game as if it could be your last,” point guard Keegan Bell said. “You know that you don’t have much practice time, and for some people, it’s the last game that they’ll ever play in competitive basketball.
“You have to approach everything as if its your last.”
In Shulman’s words, the ones posted for all UTC athletes entering the main weight room for conditioning, his Mocs have to risk it all.
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 ...