Busy Wednesday in Duluth

March 7, 2013

Visiting the Boys & Girls Club | Team Practices at The Arena at Gwinnett Center

Clarke Returning Home | Game Preview

Vanderbilt's women's basketball team got its first look at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., Wednesday morning during the team's only allotted practice time at the home of the 2013 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament.

Each SEC team was provided a 45-minute time frame to practice at the arena Wednesday, and Vanderbilt's practice was from 11:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Vanderbilt's practice was sandwiched between practices by South Carolina and Missouri.

South Carolina's practice ended a few minutes early, which enabled the Commodores a few extra minutes to move their stretching routine from the hallway and onto the court, where strength and conditioning coach Tasha Weddle provided instruction.

The clock for each team's practice session begins one of two ways: at the scheduled start time or as soon as someone touches a basketball on the ball rack.

It is a rule of postseason basketball that as soon as a basketball is touched, the clock begins. When each team takes the court, it is instinctive for players to head directly for the rack basketballs, which always prompts members of the coaching staff to shout, "Don't touch the basketballs" to each anxious player. These words are repeated multiple times with each reminder increasing in volume.

As usual, the verbal defense worked and no one took a basketball off the rack until the coaching staff was ready for the 45-minute session to begin.

Once underway, post players and guards split into separate groups and worked on opposite sides of the court. After working through a number of shooting drills, the two groups reconvened and practiced spacing and finding the open shooter in an offense of perpetual motion. The session was primarily used as an opportunity for the players to become acclimated to the conditions of the arena.

The team held a more intense practice later Wednesday afternoon at the Suwannee Center, a basketball facility not far from where the team is staying. In the practice session, the team was able to focus more specifically on its game plan.

Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club
This year, the Southeastern Conference began a community outreach initiative in conjunction with the women's basketball tournament. Titled Time Out in the Community, the service effort featured representatives from all of the league's institutions visiting a number of local schools and organizations.

Vanderbilt's opportunity to give back came Wednesday afternoon at the Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club. Represented by redshirt junior Stephanie Holzer, redshirt sophomore Clair Watkins, sophomore Kady Schrann and staff members Chanell Thomas (director of basketball operations) and George MacLellan (video coordinator), the group spent two hours with local youth at the Boys & Girls Club.

Vanderbilt's players and staff members spent time introducing themselves, providing the children with basketball tips and putting them through a number of competitions, including a variety of relay races and games of five-on-five and knockout.

As the children entered the facility, their eyes lit up when they saw the unfamiliar visitors. "How tall are they?" asked many of the children, with a look of astonishment on their faces.

Holzer, who is 6-foot-4 heard the questions and immediately signaled the group over. Once gathered around, she pulled out her cell phone and located a photo of herself from second grade when she towered over all of her classmates. The children looked on in disbelief of the photo, but with their heads pointed up to the ceiling at Holzer, they had no choice but to believe the photo to be true.

A number of the youth in attendance had very little experience playing basketball, which provided ample opportunity for instruction. When not focused on basketball, Vanderbilt's players spent time getting to know those at the Boys & Girls Club by telling the youngsters about themselves and asking questions about their school and hobbies.

Vanderbilt's players also posed for photos with the children and taught them how to show their "VU" spirit when photographed.

After two hours, it was time to leave the Boys & Girls Club, and as the players waved goodbye, the children waved back, thanking them for spending time with them.

The overall experience left a positive impression not only on the children at the Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club, but also on Vanderbilt's players and staff.

"It was a really neat experience," Holzer said. "We had a really good time and it was a memorable experience to interact with these children."

Duluth is No Stranger to Vanderbilt
This is the third time the tournament has been played in Duluth, with the other years coming in 2007 and 2010.

Vanderbilt has experienced a great deal of success in its previous trips to Duluth, going 5-1 overall and claiming the 2007 tournament title. In 2010, Vanderbilt lost to Tennessee in the semifinals.

Nine Straight for the State of Tennessee
Since 2004, the SEC Tournament trophy has resided in the state of Tennessee. In the nine-year span, Vanderbilt has won three tournament titles and Tennessee has won six. The last team from outside Tennessee to win the league tournament was LSU in 2003. In 2002, Vanderbilt claimed the tournament title. Vanderbilt has won a total of six SEC Tournaments.



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