By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
Do you remember when you were first learning how to drive a car? I do. I remember sliding into the front seat of a blue and white two-tone Dodge Dart with a push button transmission and thinking, “How will I ever do all this?”
I had to remember how to start the car, keep my foot on the brake while pushing the “D” button for drive and then pulling down on the fancy gear shift lever. Once the car was in gear I had to push in on the gas pedal while steering the car in a straight line without pushing too hard on the gas and throwing everyone in the car back against the seat.
Those first couple of driving lessons went something like, step on the gas; oh, too hard – step on the brake, throw the driving instructor through the windshield. Then press on the gas again but this time much softer but the car doesn’t move. Oh yeah, take your foot off the brake.
You get the picture.
Now I can drive down Nicholasville Road at rush hour eating a sandwich and drinking a drink while changing the station on my Sirius radio and answering a couple of phone calls all at the same time without missing a beat. Why? Experience. Many years of experience.
Through continuous practice of good driving fundamentals I was able to develop driving skills that would allow me to do multiple tasks while still driving safely on a congested highway.
That’s the same thing that the Kentucky Wildcats Basketball Team is going through right now. Learning to drive, so to speak. These last two games against Evansville and Utah Valley have been the equivalent of those initial trips in the Dodge Dart around the elementary school parking lot. Step on the gas, whoa, step on the brake, not so hard. Step on the gas again, look out for that post, step on the brake, STEP ON THE BRAKE!
That’s what it feels like right now to watch this Kentucky team play – painful, very painful. A lot of stops and starts. Good stretches where they can go really fast and then, look out, another turnover and a missed shot and their opponent is laying it in at the other end of the floor.
And unfortunately, like learning to drive, learning to play basketball seamlessly as a team is not easy. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes hard work and it takes patience.
All of those things seem to be in short supply right now for the players and the fans. No one wants to ride in the car with a person learning to drive. It’s painful and scary.
Watching this Kentucky team has been the same way – painful and scary.
But, basketball is like any other skill that is learned. The teacher must teach and the student must learn and then practice the same fundamentals over and over again until it becomes second nature. Just like driving a car.
It’s hard for five or more very talented basketball players – some of whom have never been required to play tight, physical man-to-man defense or make the extra pass on offense – to come out and look like experienced seniors when they are really inexperienced freshmen and sophomores. Again it looks a lot like that initial ride around the parking lot – a lot of stops and starts – before practice and experience begin to help smooth out the process and all of a sudden the beginning driver sees the pieces fall into place and it’s not so hard anymore. No more jerky starts, no more hard stops – just smooth driving out on the open road.
That’s exactly what the UK Basketball Team is working towards. Smooth driving out on the open road, metaphorically speaking.
But until they can reach that point it may be painful for the coaches that are coaching and the fans that are watching because in the mean time it will look like a lot of jerky stops and starts – poor defensive position, no flow on offense, taking bad shots, unforced turnovers and a lack of fundamentals in rebounding. Really jerky and painful to watch.
But do you remember when you finally passed your driver’s road test, got your driver’s license and took the car out for the first time on your own? It was exhilarating. All the effort and practice was worth it. Smooth driving out on the open highway.
That’s where this Kentucky team is headed. But until they get there, be patient, buckle up and expert a jerky ride for awhile.