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Cracker Attends His First 2021-22 Hoops Practice

September 29, 2021

First things first.

Yes I’ve chosen a third person headline.

Because I can.

I knew CSU Mens Hoops Basketball practice for the 2021-22 season officially began this week. And after attending one short team activity over the summer, I wanted to get my fix. I shot a quick message to Aaron Katsuma, CSU’s Director of Basketball Operations, and he let me know that Tuesday would work best this week.

So I arrived at the IPF with mask and was quickly required to show proof of vaccination. Such is the reality these days. Had they asked, I would have shown proof of Flu Shot and Pneumonia vaccine which I had received earlier in the day. Im 68 years old for Gods sake. I have found that vaccines work for me.

A short visit with CSU’s Kyle Neaves, a quick wave to CSU play-by-play extraordinaire Brian Roth, a short hello from Coach Medved, a fist bump from Mike Brohard.

And then a whole variety of team drills. Including 2 on 2 screen and roll, 3 on 2 transition. Interspersed with shooting drills. Some more smaller group drills.

And spotlight free throw shooting. Two free throws. A miss means the team runs. Adam Thistlewood misses and the team runs. Kendle Moore makes and they don’t run. Simple as that.

And then the moment of truth. A conditioned 5-on-5 game that began in the halfcourt and involved transition as well. Teams split. Green team consisting of Isaiah Stevens, Adam Thistlewood, James Moors, John Tonje, Isaiah Rivera. Gold team consisting of Kendle Moore, Chandler Jacobs, David Roddy, Baylor Hebb, Dischon Thomas, Jacob Jennissen.

In a game played to 20, the Gold team jumped out to an early dominating lead as both Moore and Jacobs nailed three-balls. 17-4. Game over right?

Not so fast as Isaiah Stevens grabbed the reins and led the Green team back from oblivion. Play got physical and a little bit chippy. Some hard fouls, some complaints of other fouls called.

A quick intervention by Coach Medved reminding them that complaining about fouls wasn’t going to get their team to 20 which was the goal of the game. Both teams refocused and the game was decided by a free throw by Dischon Thomas.

A quick huddle, a quick talk from Coach Medved and practice was over.

So what stood out?

First and foremost was the competitiveness of the practice. This was not a practice for the timid as the players really get after it.

Second is the culture that has been build where other player’s successes are celebrated by all. Drawing an offensive foul by getting absolutely run over draws loud roars. A dive for a loose ball gets a roar and an entire squad helping the player to his feet. It is a culture of team. And so when you hear the mantra of ”Team Together”, you know its real.

Other Observations

This team has really done their work in the weight room in the off-season. They are beefy and will make it very difficult for teams to attack them in the paint. They are also very fearless in terms of physical contact. More than once I saw Isaiah Stevens set a hard screen on David Roddy. Your all-conference point guard at all of 6’, 180 pounds on a 250-pound Roddy. Halting him in his tracks with a screen.

The usual suspects (Roddy, Stevens, Moore, Thistlewood, Moors, Tonje, Thomas) have not just settled at last year’s levels. They carry an even greater edge to their game.

But from my eyes, the most improved of all is Isaiah Rivera. Last year was a bit of challenge for the talented freshman from Illinois. COVID robbed him of important individual development and team activities. Rivera had his first true pre-season this summer and it shows. His perimeter shooting is good, he’s fearless going to the rim, and he mixes it up on the defensive end as well. He will push other returning players for PT this season.

Chandler Jacobs will fit in seamlessly with this CSU team. He can run, he can shoot, he can rebound, and oh how he can defend! Strength, length, cobra-like arms to create steals and deflections. He’s not just solid positionally on the defensive end. He is a ball winner.

I had a chance to speak with David Roddy post-practice and asked him about how he thought Chandler fit into the squad. Point blank David tipped Jacobs to win the MWC Defensive Player of the Year. Thats pretty strong stuff coming from an All-MWC player in 2021 and one of the early favorites for MWC Player of the Year in 2022.

And when I pressed David to compare Jacobs to other well-known established defenders in the MWC, David basically said there were none and immediately pointed more to an NBA-tough Russell Westbrook.

Ram fans are certainly in for a treat with Jacobs this season.

UPDATED: I forgot to comment on freshmen Jalen Lake and Jalen Scott. They did not participate in this particular practice. Like all of their teammates, they are fully vaccinated but there was some kind of issue in terms of their COVID vaccine certification. That should be corrected shortly. Obviously I look forward to seeing where they are at in their development.

Open Scrimmage on Homecoming Day

CSU will host an open scrimmage in Moby Arena at 10:00AM on Saturday, October 9th. Doors will open at 9:30AM. I suggest you find a way to stop by the scrimmage prior to beginning your tailgating festivites to get an early look at this year’s team.

And if you have any time, I suggest staying afterward and spend some time with the players.

I had a wonderful post-practice conversation with David Roddy yesterday. A lot of it was in confidence. But the more time you spend with these players and get to know them, the more you realize how remarkable they are. Roddy is mature beyond his years and is a wonderful example of why I have so much belief in our collective futures.

I touched bases with Adam Thistlewood post-practice as well to get caught up. As one of the team’s elder spokesmen, I love talking to him about things beyond basketball. If you arent aware, Adam is a Computer Science major who defines student-athlete. He filled me in that he’s taking 500-level graduate classes this semester. No small feat for an Honorable Mention All-MWC performer last season.

Adam brought up the first time we really had a chance to chat which was years ago during his freshman campaign. He and Kendle Moore came in together and formed a bond. They are the vetrans who have been the fisrt building blocks of the program built by Niko Medved. And because Adam brought it up, here’s the picture I took that day.

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