October 11, 2013

Practice, Practice, Practice … CSUN Gears Up For 2013-14 Season

By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletics Director, Strategic Communications

Photo Caption: Reggie Theus felt "honored and proud" to be in attendance for two of his coaching mentors, Jerry Tarkanian (m) and Rick Pitino (r) who were recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.  

Northridge, Calif. – "Coach Theus, may I have another (day of practice)?" … That phrase is the signature statement the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team hollers after every two and one-half hour practice that has been tough, grueling, demanding, intense, high-octane yet productive since the opening day of pre-season drills on Sept. 27.

Allen Iverson never enjoyed "practice, practice, practice." He would not have enjoyed the practice scheme that first-year head coach Reggie Theus has designed. The 2013-14 Matador squad knows that every day of grueling, highly competitive workouts will pay dividends during a season that will start on Nov. 8 against Hope International. Game time at the Matadome is 7:00 p.m.

"It is a privilege to be able to come out here and grind it out in practice every day," said Theus. "You have to want to have more. If you want to be the best, if you want to be a great team, you want to have more. This team is working hard. One thing for sure is that we are in shape. Playing hard to be in shape is paramount. I told the team about what needs to be done to be the best. You have to look at yourself, and say, 'Coach, may I have another (day of practice)? … Coach, what time is practice tomorrow?'"

In past years, basketball practice started around October 14-15. This year, the NCAA has allowed teams to start practice 42 days before the start of their first regular season game. That is a significant amount of time the team has put to good use.

"I ran my first five practices like an NBA training camp," said Theus. "We ran drills they run in the NBA. We didn't do a lot of 'basketball playing' but a lot of drill work. The team put in a lot of work building their legs, getting the muscles going, getting ready to play defense. A lot of competitive drills have been incorporated to help our conditioning."

Theus has liked what he has seen in practice.

"This team is working hard," said Theus without reservation. "I have been very impressed with their attitude. We often talk about playing with a chip on your shoulder. The players have talked about how much they have learned in a short amount of time. I think we are on the right track."

With the foundation now being etched in concrete, Theus wants the Matadors to establish an identity.

"Establishing an identity is driving our players to work hard," said Theus. "That is an important factor. There has been a high level of competitiveness. These guys are competing for minutes. We are creating an intensity level that is new to a lot of the players on the team."

Theus played for head coach Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV (1975-78), and served as an assistant coach under Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville (2003-04, 2004-05). Tarkanian and Pitino stressed a strong commitment to defense. That's what Theus is establishing at Cal State Northridge. The defensive intensity is similar to the design that worked for Tarkanian when he coached the UNLV Runnin' Rebels to national prominence, and Pitino, who guided the Louisville Cardinals to the NCAA title during the 2012-13 season.

"If you want to score points, your defense has to be solid," said Theus. "It takes a 1,000 percent buy-in on the defensive end. You have to take a lot of pride in your defense. You have to stop the other team. Coach Tarkanian and coach Pitino have taught their teams the same way. Coach Pitino teams are one of the few squads that still play pressure defense. Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) at Duke is another coach who uses that type of defense. Coach Pitino's practices are intense. He has set the bar high."

Cal State Northridge has been ranked as high as second and as low as seventh in the Big West Conference pre-season magazine rankings. There is an over abundance of good teams in the league that could contend for an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament in March, 2014. With so many competitive teams in the Big West Conference, every league game could be close.

Matador Memo …
The ESPN/Big West television schedule has been announced … CSUN is listed four times as possibilities for wild card games … The dates of television possibilities are …

Thursday, January 16, Cal State Northridge @ Cal Poly, ESPNU @ 8:00 pm

Saturday, March 1, Cal State Northridge @ UC Riverside, ESPN2 @ 5:00 pm, or
Saturday, March 1, Cal State Northridge @ UC Riverside, ESPNU @ 8:00 pm

Thursday, March 6, Cal State Northridge @ Long Beach State, ESPNU @ 6:00 pm

Selection of these games will be made three-to-four weeks prior to the event … Earlier this week, it was announced that CSUN, expected to be contenders in the Big West Conference in 2013-14, will be featured on Prime Ticket in two games … The Big West Conference, in partnership with Prime Ticket (the official regional telecast home of the conference) announced that on Saturday, January 18, CSUN will host UC Santa Barbara at 7:30 p.m. … Then on Saturday, February 22, CSUN hosts UC Irvine in a 7:30 p.m. … The Anteaters, in all the pre-season basketball magazines, have been tabbed as the team to beat in the conference … All non-televised home league games will start at 7:00 p.m. … A couple changes have been announced on the 2013-14 basketball schedule … The non-league game at Fresno State has been changed from 7:00 pm to 4:00 pm … On February 1, CSUN will travel to Hawai'i in a 7:00 pm tipoff … Aloha !!!