Buzz Peterson’s just happy to have made it out of Hurricane Irene’s path without much damage to his home and university. He lives along the North Carolina shore; UNC-Wilmington’s campus is just a few miles left of the Atlantic Ocean.
Prior to the serious weather, Peterson and his team were basking in beautiful conditions, as they took a trip to the Bahamas on Aug. 16. The Seahawks’ second-year coach was pretty satisfied, considering he’ll have one of the youngest teams in the country this season. The Seahawks have eight freshmen on scholarship, plus two more walk-ons. There’s only one senior (Trevor Deloach) to go with two juniors and three sophomores.
While playing against Bahamian all-star teams, UNC-Wilmington went 1-1. Yep, only two games, but Peterson put everyone on the floor and carefully allotted minutes to maximize play and evaluation. Certain guys, like Keith Rendleman, Donte Morales and Matt Wilson, who Peterson said will be starters in November, only got a handful of minutes. With all those freshmen to learn about, they were the ones who saw most of the PT.
Peterson’s in this position — having so many young guys — because he came aboard last year, when the program was in need of a cleansing. There were only six scholarships player available when Peterson got the job because so many of the players didn’t have the grades to keep playing. He wanted a culture change. He wanted this huge freshman class.
“We’re all right. This is where we want to start,” he said. “These guys will be the foundation of our program, and we’ll move forward with our class.” There is now just one 2012 scholarship and two 2013s for the Seahawks.
What Peterson learned: Initially, he was wondering how much of a hacking team he’d have, considering, according to him, his team was out-shot in free throws 77-33. That’s the type of disparity that can lead to brawls on the court, you know.
Peterson said the chemistry of the team coming together is what he learned about most, though. He squeezed in 13 practices in 10 days. Everyone was there, save freshman guard Freddie Jackson, who was held back because he didn’t have a summer school credit.
What impressed him: “Morales did some nice things,” Peterson said. “He showed some true leadership. He looked very confident, looked like a whole different person out there.” Of all the freshmen who saw the court, Peterson said Nate Anderson (6-8, 245 pounds) played the best over the course of two games. Fellow frosh K.K. Simmons and Adam Smith scored a lot, “but they’ve still got to learn on defense.”
What concerned him: It was the collective defensive understanding of the team, and particularly with the guards. In the past, Peterson’s teams have relied on athletic ability, but this year’s crop will “be more about overall team support,” Peterson said.
-- Peterson began to see how his team would work as a group on defense by putting guys in different positions. He had 2s play the point, power forwards move to the 3. There was some success — but they did have all those fouls, too.
-- The starting five will get battles from Deloach, Keegan Pace, Shane Reybold and pretty much every guard who proves his condition can handle the secondary break.
-- No major injuries of any kind to report.
-- Peterson, who’s a North Carolina guy, will run the Carolina secondary break with all of his whippersnappers.” I’m still one of those old-school coaches, I guess, the closer you are to get that ball inside and take advantage of your size,” Peterson said. “In this league it’s hard to run. It’s a lot of half-court. It’s possession-for-possession. We will fight that.”
-- How’s this for a fun anecdote from the trip: Deloach doesn’t swim at all, and getting him to go on a water ride proved to be about as hard a task as any for the team. So with Peterson wanted to get some good bonding/teamwork going, he implemented a reward system. Peterson gives his guys plus-points throughout the year. Collect enough points, and you avoid sprints in practice. It’s an old thing Dean Smith used to do.
Peterson said the entire team would get 10 points if they could get Deloach to ride down the Leap of Faith, a water ride slide that included a brief streak across a pool filled with sharks. It took about a minute of encouraging, and came at the very end of the day, but Deloach finally went down. Once he was there, he freaked out — until he realized the pool he ended up in was knee-deep.