By MICHAEL KELLY
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- Ten days into their preseason, the Amsterdam Running Rams conducted their first players-only team meeting.
They were given little choice in the matter, as boys basketball head coach Tony Orapello made the players get together before Wednesday's practice to sort themselves out. Now in his second year back at the program's helm, Orapello said his team needed to discuss amongst itself the need to take its practices more seriously.
"And, how they're going to deal with me," said Orapello. "Let's face reality."
The team was supposed to have its first scrimmage Tuesday at Green Tech, but the matchup was canceled. AHS junior forward Marcus Pritchard said the practice that substituted in for the scrimmage was not the Rams' best.
"We started to veer off track a lot," said Pritchard. "Nobody was disciplined, nobody was working hard -- we were missing layups and doing simple fundamental stuff that wasn't acceptable."
Senior guard Alonzo Martin said the point of Wednesday's meeting was a simple one.
"Just to tell everybody to start being more serious around here and to not fool around," said Martin. "(We need to) listen to what Coach is telling us and buy into it. That way, we'll have a better season than the last one."
Even if things had not gone poorly Tuesday for the Rams, a team meeting was likely to come for the club sooner rather than later. Orapello said he wants his team to develop a "sense of responsibility" for itself and its season -- and that starts with the club coming together on its own terms.
"Locker room time is important for a team," he said. "They've got to jell, they've got to come together, and I don't want to be there for that. That's their time."
Orapello said that part of the cause for Tuesday's lackluster practice was a general restlessness within the team, as the monotony of practicing without ever playing had gotten to the club.
"The preseason is always tough," said Orapello. "It's psychologically and physically draining."
The Rams get their first chance to see some unfamiliar faces on the court Friday at Broadalbin-Perth, where AHS will take on the Patriots in a scrimmage.
"We have to use that as another practice to try to get a rhythm with everybody," Martin said.
Orapello said he had not given too much thought to different lineups he might try Friday. He said the club's offense in a half-court setting would be rough for the first scrimmage, but that he was most interested in seeing if his team could generate turnovers and fast-break opportunities with its full-court press and man-to-man defense.
"I want to see if we can get intense," Orapello said.
"I'm trying to find out who is going to start taking this a little more seriously," he added.
Part of that answer likely began to formulate Wednesday, as the club seemed to have emerged from its team meeting with a renewed vigor. Pritchard said that was the outcome the club had hoped to take from the pre-practice conference.
"We wanted to get talking, get motivated and get ready for the season," said Pritchard. "This season, we have to make a statement to everyone in the section that Amsterdam basketball is back."
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