By MICHAEL KELLY
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- It took almost 90 minutes for basketballs to appear at the Amsterdam Running Rams' first official workout of the 2013-14 high school season.
"We just took them out," said Amsterdam High School boys basketball head coach Tony Orapello at 9 a.m., Monday.
The Rams began their first practice of the season at AHS at 7:30 a.m. For the first part of the workout, the dozen players who showed up never saw the court. Instead, Orapello had his players running 100-yard dashes in the school's hallways and doing exercises on the stairs in the auditorium.
"They wanted to know how long they were going to run," said Orapello, smiling. "I said: 'Until you drop.'"
To their credit, the players at Monday's workout made it right to the end of the two-and-a-half-hours-long practice before they flopped to the ground. As soon as the squad's hopefuls broke its session-ending huddle, the players made it to the side of the court and not much further. Sneakers off, most of the players lounged for several minutes together; making the effort to get up and leave the gymnasium was a goal for a later time.
AHS senior Andrew Rouse was a limited participant in Monday's workout, as the swingman is recovering from a broken left hand. A returning player from last year's squad, Rouse said he knew what to expect from opening day and that he had mentally prepared for a rough morning.
"We've just got to work through it. It's not one of our favorite things to do, but we have to do it," said Rouse. "It will make us better. ... This will make us that much faster, that much better on defense."
Things did not lighten up for Orapello's charges after the initial portion of the workout. Once on the court, Orapello had the players in continuous motion; besides a 15-minute window in which the players practiced shooting, the rest of the time spent in the gymnasium consisted only of drills that involved length-of-the-court running.
Orapello said he expects to keep up the frenetic pace at his practices for the season's first couple of weeks. Sophomore Bryan Stanavich, who played for the Rams as a freshman, joked that the players needed to take the conditioning seriously so that Orapello "doesn't kill us." Asked which portion of the workout was the toughest, Stanavich said he could not pick just one piece of the practice.
"I don't know," he said. "Everything was pretty tough. ... He wants to get out of the gate fast and get us in good condition."
Orapello said he will cut down the Rams' roster during the next several days. A few potential players for this year's team were missing Monday, as Orapello said he had roughly 15 players to choose from for this year's team.
Quickly, the Rams will be rounding into game form. While AHS does not begin its regular season until its Big 10 home opener against Albany on Dec. 3, Orapello's squad will travel to Green Tech -- last year's Section II Class AA runner-up; AHS is a Class A school -- for a scrimmage on Nov. 19.
"We had a good summer and we faced them then," said Orapello. "We know what to expect."
Orapello, who is back for his second year leading the Rams after a lengthy break from coaching the team he led in the late 1980s and early 1990s, expressed excitement for the upcoming season. AHS went 4-15 a season ago, but Orapello said he likes this season's mix of players, many of which he had coached previously when he worked at the program's lower levels.
"I know them already, so this is definitely my group," Orapello said.
Of course, one did not need to be too familiar with the teenage boys at AHS Monday to know how they felt after the season's first workout. Regardless, Orapello offered up his expert opinion.
"They're tired," he said, beaming.