Last Thursday night, Drake students had their first opportunity to get a look at the 2010-11 Drake basketball teams. Both teams held scrimmages for the True Blue Debut event at the Knapp Center. The teams have been practicing and working out most of the fall, but the True Blue Debut created more of a game-like atmosphere, including videos before the teams took the floor, player introductions, the Drake band and fan entertainment at times of intermission.
The women’s team played first, scrimmaging against the Drake Gray Squad, a team made up of male students who participate in practices against the women’s team, mostly as a scout team to help the women prepare for games. The women’s team easily beat the Gray Squad 23-15, putting forth the effort that senior guard Kristin Turk expects to see all season.
“We have a team that maybe isn’t as talented, but we’re definitely ready to work hard,” Turk said. “I think we have really good chemistry and in the long run that will overcome our talent deficiencies.”
Before the scrimmages took place, Head Coach Amy Stephens was optimistic about the progress the team has been making at practice.
“Our staff is really excited about where we’re at,” Stephens said. “We have a lot more offenses and defenses than we normally would at this time of year.”
After Stephens addressed the crowd following her team’s victory, various fan and player activities took place. First, a brand new flat-screen television and an iPod nano were raffled off for students. After the raffles, the men’s team took the floor for a few shooting contests, against other players and random fans.
When the activities were over, it was time for the men’s scrimmage. This year’s team has plenty of talent, but is young and inexperienced. However, sophomore center Seth VanDeest feels confident in the team’s chemistry.
“We have a close group of guys and everyone works hard,” VanDeest said. “That’s always important, playing with guys you like. In crunch time, that will work out well for us.”
The scrimmage consisted of a white squad and a blue squad, both made up of members of the team. Redshirt sophomore Jordan Clarke of the blue squad tallied seven points in the 16-minute scrimmage, leading the blue squad to a victory over the white.
Head Coach Mark Phelps has also been pleased with the team’s chemistry and work ethic, a common theme for Drake basketball this year.
“I have been really happy with our attitude, our effort and our team chemistry at all of our workouts,” Phelps said. “I have been around college basketball for 15 years now, and I can really say that we are doing a great job with that stuff.”
Phelps also commented on the youth of this year’s team, but was confident the squad will be able to grow throughout the season.
“We have a lot of good talent, but it’s young talent,” Phelps said. “I expect our team to be better in the latter part of the season than in the beginning, but if we reach our potential, we can be really good.”
The men’s scrimmage ended the night, and left most fans feeling optimistic for the upcoming season.
“I came out tonight to support the Bulldogs and see how the teams were looking this year,” first-year student Kevin Riley said. “I’m really excited to come to big games and see how crazy the atmosphere is here. It’s looking like were going to have some strong teams this season, and I’m hoping both can go to the NCAA tournament.”
Photo: Connor McCourtney