Saturday, September 15, 2012

One step at a time.

I hate losing. I think I have always been this way. And I bet if you’d ask my mom, she’d quickly agree that I have never handled it particularly well either (over the years she has learned to dispense with the pep-talks and simply leave me alone for 24hrs). I have found the ONLY thing that can ease the sting of a loss is playing that team again… and beating them. I was so grateful to learn we would have this opportunity with Osnabruck who had embarrassed us when we visited them in August. This time they were busing to us, and this time we had a few more weeks of practice and games under our belts to prepare. We were up by 10 most of the game, but they cut it late and had chances to take the lead. We sealed it with some free throws and solid defense at the end. I had 15 points. They scored 80 on us last game—this time we held them to 56. Need to keep moving forward, one step at a time.

The tournament in Prague was next, and we headed out the following afternoon on our 5-hour journey to Czech. We played the next day at 2pm against a team that turned out to be pretty bad. Actually, that is being generous. This team was just terrible. I have always hated the excuse that you play down to the level of your competition. Why? Why not force them to play up and when they can’t you simply kick their butts? Unfortunately, we went with the excuse and played pretty bad most the game, too. Eventually we pulled away by double digits and won, but it was not a fun game to be apart of, nor did we take any steps forward. The team we were playing the next day was in the stands watching, no doubt enjoying our remarkable impersonation of high school basketball (barely an exaggeration there). We went into the city that night; this was my second time in Prague, but I was reminded of how incredibly stunning Prague is and how impossibly blessed I am.

Despite our awful first game and despite witnessing said game, our next opponent decided to run a box and one against us on Saturday—I can only assume this was because I scored 25 points in that stink fest. I guess it sorta worked since I scored just 10, but we won by 15 as the rest of our team played ultimately, not so effective since we have other scorers. Again, our defense stepped up big, too, which is becoming our bread and butter more and more. One step at a time. The championship game was the next day against the host team, Prague. They are a good Div 1 Czech team so this would serve as a tough challenge for us as well as a benchmark moving forward. We came out on fire and for most the game stayed this way, which was helpful cause our defense wasn’t quite on point for parts of the game—what was I saying about bread and butter? We won by 9 and I had 31 this time around. Following the game, we quickly collected our things and bused the 50kms to Nymburk where our camp would be held. We had a short turnaround: our five days of fun started the next morning at 7:30.

I’ll just give a quick outline of what our days looked like during camp: conditioning in the morning followed by breakfast; then shooting practice followed by weights followed by swimming; then lunch followed by court practice followed by dinner; and lastly another court practice followed by pool, ice tub, or sauna. Tuesday and Thursday night were different because we had games back in Prague rather than practices, which we were grateful for. Tuesday’s game was an interesting one for a couple reasons. First off, we played in a gym you’d expect to find in a prison, somewhere. Having never been in a prison, it’s hard to explain why I was sure of this, aside from the gated windows, tiny space, creepy lighting and general “trapped” vibe, but go with it. It was also interesting because of how the foul situation unfolded—in the first half, Roli (starting SF) fouled out, I had four (big shocker) and a couple posts had three for us. I’d bet no one on their team had more than one. Talk about home court advantage, these refs certainly seemed to dislike us. Despite being rather exhausted from camp and the Prague tournament, we battled and actually didn’t look like the more tired team. Maybe that team should invest in some conditioning workouts. But this team was good, the best team we'd played so far. After going back and forth for much of the game, we took a one-point lead and ultimately won 69-68. We were really proud of ourselves for gutting that one out. I had 35 points but shot the ball excessively to do so—but only cause my coach Vlasti made me. Seriously. 
I wasn’t having a great shooting game to start, which was frustrating, naturally. I tried playing through it, getting to the basket instead, meanwhile passing up a few open looks, too, which ticked off Vlasti. He called me out in a timeout, more or less saying, “You are a shooter right? Well you can’t make baskets if you don’t shoot it, so when you are open, shoot.” Tough to fight that kind of logic. And while I don’t like the idea of shooting my way out of a slump in a game, I generally prefer his perspective since it gives me the green light to shoot, and there is nothing I like better…except winning, I reallllllllly like that. So shoot the ball I did. It was the darndest thing, but after he said that (when you’re open, shoot) I found myself open, like a lot…like allll the time…mostly. Basically. Yes, I was basically open most the time, sometimes. I probably coulda shot my way out of 3 slumps as much as I shot it after that, but I was just following directions. I think that’s what my tombstone will say: Here lies Sami, she followed directions well.

Thursday, again, we had a game rather than practices that night, and it was also in Prague. This team was pretty good, but I think we lost because we finally gave into fatigue. Well, fatigue, and our zone defense was dreadful. I can only speak for myself, but I know I was huffing and puffing and generally exhausted throughout the game; our 20-minute warm-up has never felt longer. Still, we had a 10-point lead much of the game, despite a painful number of turnovers, until we decided to try our zone.  Our appalling attempt at a 2-3 zone allowed lay-up after uncontested jumper after lay-up and killed us. Sure, we hadn’t ran it before, but it’s a 2-3 zone so I figured we’d be alright. Hardly. By the time our coach put us back in man, we’d lost our lead and in fact faced a small deficit even. Here is where my fatigue beat me as I missed a short jumper and a 3 to tie the game. I finished with 25, but felt pretty bad for coming up short. Despite the unfortunate outcome, we established where our zone is ineffective and needs work and we competed with our tank's on empty, so I think we took a step forward—maybe not a Shaq size step, but like an 8 year old girl’s step.

Camp was actually pretty cool. Of course it was exhausting, but the team has this tradition where every night during camp it is Vlasti’s birthday, and so every night became a celebration. All of us—players, coaches and trainers—gathered at the bar to drink beer and hang out together to honor Vlasti’s invented, perpetual birthday. Since I still hate beer, I drank water, but that wasn’t really the point. We’d play games and just spend time bonding a little bit. 

We made it home late last night/early this morning to Wolfenbuttel. I am really starting to like this place more and more. Despite essentially being a tiny village, we have been fortunate enough to find some cool activities to do to entertain ourselves on our weekends off or between practices during the week. We made some friends who play American football in Braunschweig (just outside the Wolf) so we went to a couple of their games, which was fun, even though they suck. We have a men’s Pro B basketball team in Wolfenbuttel too, so we caught one of their games as well. Aside from having a horrendous football team, Braunschweig also boasts a cool zoo and movie theater that plays movies in english every Monday night. I especially love this since I have vicariously lived a lot of great life moments through movies. Good times.

Season opener is in two weeks. We have two more preseason games this coming week against teams from our league and then a week of prep and practice for opener. We still aren’t where we need to be, but we are getting there, one step at a time, and I think with a couple more weeks of work we will be ready to go for season. Regardless, I am really excited for this team and this year. When the time comes, for those interested (Mom), I will post the team and league websites so you can watch our games. For now I will just post my address in case someone wants to send me pictures of their face for my room walls. They are currently blank and it's unsettling. 

Sami Whitcomb
Wullenweber Strasse 4
38404 Wolfenbuttel


  1. Very interesting. I'll have somebody explain some of the basketball stuff.

  2. Somebody?! What the...why not just ask me like you used to? C'mon!!

  3. 1. "Run a box" is there maybe another name for that, because I googled it and got porn.

    2. When you say "the defense stepped up" is that the same players as offense right? You're saying- our defense operations were working.