As the Runnin’ Rebels get ready for their first official game of the 2011-12 season, I can’t help but think back to my first game as a Rebel freshman in 1974.
The night before the game, there were so many things running through my mind I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to play well and run the new system without any mistakes. I wanted the fans to accept me as a Rebel. And I wanted to blend in with my teammates. It’s amazing what goes through your mind that first time, and you’re just happy to get it over with.
Whether you’re a new player or a returning vet, you always want to impress the coaching staff, so I’m sure a few Rebels feel like I did that day.
Each year, I look at the faces of the Rebels to see who’s ready to play and try to get a sense of what they’re thinking as they go out on the basketball court. Some faces you can read; others, I’m not so sure about. The big challenge of a coaching staff is to make sure, butterflies or no, each player is focused on the game itself rather than all the outside excitement, worries and distractions.
By the way, we beat Cal St. Fullerton, 75-56, that day in 1974—and I played OK. We wound up going 24-5.
It was the start of something big.