UE coach Marty Simmons admitted he probably sounded like a “broken record” on his radio show Monday, but the sixth-year Aces coach again stressed effort, aggressiveness and toughness from his team.
Simmons’s feelings on the Aces’ last week, which included a win over Miami (Ohio) before Saturday’s loss to Murray State: “Probably disappointment and a little frustration…I thought at times (against Miami) we were really good, and at other times we were very sloppy. That’s the frustrating. That’s the disappointing. That’s kind of been our team from day one. My inability, our staff’s and our players’ inability to get some real consistent effort and attention to detail — just execution — but more than anything effort and competitive desire for long periods of time has not been there. And not only in games but really in practice, and it’s something we talk about on a daily basis. Myself and our staff study our team daily. Nobody knows our players any better than us. We put a high price tag on preparing our team, not only from a game planning standpoint, but really on the fundamentals of basketball.”
Simmons on UE getting back to practice on Monday: “We watched a lot of tape today, and we practiced as hard as we probably have all year. So that’s a step in the right direction. I sound like a broken record, but you really build habits on consistent play — making the right ready day after day, play after play. You build instincts. That way, when certain situations arise, you just do it the right way. We haven’t demanded that from ourselves. We haven’t executed enough to do that. When you play good basketball teams — quick, athletic, well-set-up basketball teams, that’s your belief system. That’s how you have to play to be successful. And we’ve got five days — now we’ve got four — where we have to make a considerable jump in that area. We basically told our team tonight, ‘Zero-zero. We’re starting over.’ We want to see who’s going to do these things that we’re asking them to do.”
Simmons said the Aces ran drills Monday that emphasize toughness. “We split out teams evenly. We’re just trying to generate tougher, harder play. We asked our players as we watched video of the Murray State game, ‘What traits describe a tough basketball player?’ And we listed out maybe 10 things — they listed that. And I asked, as we watch the tape, ‘Analyze. Are we executing these traits to define ourself as a tough basketball team?’ And I think as we moved forward it became crystal clear that we’re not. The toughest thing for me in coaching is getting your team to buy into what you think it takes to be successful as a player and a team. With four seniors, you wouldn’t think — but that’s where we are. That’s where we’re at.”
Simmons on handling players during finals week: “I think the biggest difference is just the time of day sometimes that you end up having practice. My guys, knock on wood, for the six years we’ve been here, they’ve actually been really good during finals. I think they put in the time necessary to study for exams. It’s like they’re really excited to practice, too. Today we practiced a little longer than we normally do on exams. Last week, we kept it fairly short — tried to keep it crisp, short, because their minds are focused on academics as well. Overall, not a big change.”
Simmons also talked about his three recent signees. “To be able to get two Indiana kids who are potential Indiana All-Stars means a lot. We’re trying to bunker down at home as much as we can and get the local, the in-state kids. And to get two early as good as those two (Blake Simmons and Jaylon Brown), we’re really fired up. And then Boo (Duane Gibson) — that one is really exciting. I get giddy just talking about him, because he’s got such good potential as well. They’ve got good personalities. They’re fun to be around, and I think they’re going to be a great fit.”
Simmons’ final thoughts: “No. 1, that was a terrific crowd we had out there for the Murray State game. I’m just real appreciative that our fans came out. I know they’re disappointed. We’re disappointed as well, and we’re going to just keep working. We’re going to get there. We’ve just got to keep battling away. I think this is a big week for us to get better through practice, and then obviously we’ve got Alabama State, Oakland City and Butler to finish out before the holiday season, so it’s really a big time for us.”