For men’s basketball, an early end to summer was just what players needed to acclimate as a nearly brand new squad.
The squad arrived back on campus July 1 to train and bond with eight new players and a brand new coaching staff. Players said they spent the summer serving the D.C. community at food banks, getting together for team dinners and practicing to become a more cohesive unit before hitting the court.
“We’re kind of like the only ones on campus at that point so we’re with each other all the time, really getting to know each other and working hard,” Paar said. “I think that’s the best part of the summer.”
Paar said the workouts gave them chances to run through plays and combinations to determine what worked well together. He said the team evaluated the roles each player would hold on the court through individual workouts.
“It’s like honing in on your individual skills, and then honing in on those individual skills and then having those translate over to our team offense and defensive system,” Paar said.
Off the court, Paar said the team volunteered at organizations like food banks and Habitat for Humanity. He said the service work deepened the relationships between players.
“On the court, we’re connected, but it brought us together in a deeper way, just off the court getting to know each other more,” Paar said.
Some of the practices were tailored to the needs of individual positions. Senior guard Justin Williams said head coach Jamion Christian divided the team into “bigs, wings and guards” and instructed them to work on skills like shooting. Williams, who was sorted as the wing, said he primarily worked on perfecting his shot during the summer sessions.
He added that during team practices, the team would mainly focus on defensive drills geared toward its new “mayhem” defensive style. Under Christian, the squad has practiced a fast-paced, pressure-oriented defense with the goal of forcing turnovers. In past seasons, the Colonials focused on developing a fast-paced offense and protecting the rim.
Williams said individual practices are more common in the summer, and a typical week consisted of “three or four individual days,” followed by a team day and lifting as a team. Individual practices emphasized offensive work like shooting and ball handling, he said.
Food was another key bonding activity for the team this summer. Every day, the players would pick a restaurant to eat at, like Tonic or Founding Farmers, Williams said.
Christian also hosted regular team dinners at his home in Maryland for players to enjoy a home-cooked meal. Williams said these dinners were some of his favorite memories from the summer because they helped create a more united team.
“I really liked going to the coach’s house,” Williams said. “Coach, this year, he’s doing a great job building a team-oriented environment. So we do everything as a team, one unit. So we went to his house and had a barbecue to spend time with family and friends. It was really fun.”
Williams said this summer felt different than his previous three years because there are several new additions to the team, and he needed to take more time to get to know his teammates. But he said the team adjusted fast and created a tight connection.
“It was a little different because the team is so different,” Williams said. “We have so many new pieces, but it was really easy to get to know the guys. We have a great group of guys, and the team chemistry, it just clicks.”
Between drills and dinners, the Colonials spent most of the summer in one another’s company. Ace Stallings, who transferred into the program this season, said the time spent together over the summer helped facilitate real friendships between players.
“We’re already close with everybody,” Stallings said. “But I think it started because we really tried to get vulnerable so we can get close with each other really fast early, I think that helped us bond early on.”