Mocs bonding beyond court

Mocs bonding beyond court

October 26th, 2011 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

Keegan Bell strolled into the Chattem Practice Facility on Tuesday morning and grabbed a seat about 30 minutes before a daily basketball team meeting.

Then he rubbed his left knee.

"Man, I slipped on the ramp playing laser tag last night," the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga point guard said. "I'm all running around in my Crocs for my team, and Ricky [Taylor] is just walking around cool as can be."

Taylor, a Mocs teammate who played on the opposing laser-tag team, figured out the secret to scoring: Forget about shooting opponents and shoot at the base.

"Yeah, we killed 'em," Taylor casually bragged. "They'd get me, then I'd turn around and shoot the base for more points."

The UTC team practiced twice Monday and then spent the evening at Pin Strikes, which is a bowling alley, laser-tag compound and entertainment center.

The Mocs, who began fall break last Friday, spent three days together practicing and three evenings hanging out in different off-the-court environments. They were preseason team-bonding experiences -- opportunities for the nearly 50-50 blend of veterans and first-timers to build unity off the court that will help them on the floor this season.

The Mocs hit Jefferson's restaurant Saturday almost in time to watch their football brethren beat Elon and a few other college games. Then Sunday, they headed up Lookout Mountain to coach John Shulman's house. He made a low-country boil -- with shrimp, corn and sausage -- and extended members of the basketball family contributed as well.

"I'm one of the top cooks in the country," joked Shulman, who received a thumbs-up grade from fellow team cook Taylor. "Seriously though, if you can't like each other, it's really hard to play ball together. It's really important to have one team agenda."

Monday night, they enjoyed Pin Strikes like a group of 13-year-olds at a birthday party. Redshirt sophomore Drew Baker had the best bowling scores of 154 and 137.

"Bonding will help us in the long run because we're one big family," freshman Ronrico White said. "One of the veterans, I can't remember who, said, 'I'm gad this team gets along.'"

It may have been senior Chris Early.

"We're more together than any team I've been on since I've been here," he said. "I don't know what it is. We've just hit it off."