Charlotte 49ers coach Alan Major said he has turned up the intensity in practice this week as he scrambles to find something – anything – to help end a five-game losing streak.
“We’ve maybe stoked up the competition a little bit more,” said Major, whose 49ers (14-12, 5-8) play Thursday at East Carolina (15-13, 4-9) in a Conference USA game. “It’s about us getting sharper; cutting and moving the basketball. That creates an aggression that we can do things with more decisiveness.”
But Major is also careful about striking a balance with a group of players who might be feeling fragile these days, emotionally and physically.
“You have to be smart this time of year,” said Major. “You don’t want to drive a team into the ground, because you all of a sudden get an injury – and that’s happened because I’m trying to make myself feel better by grinding them.”
Major’s players have their own opinions on the causes and potential cures for the losing streak. Junior guard Terrence Williams says the fundamentally unsound basketball being played by Charlotte’s experienced players can have a trickle-down effect on younger players. Power forward Willie Clayton says the team is not listening to coaches. Senior guard Ben Cherry says each player must “look in the mirror.”
“It’s each guy looking at himself and saying, ‘What can I do to help us improve, what more can I do?’ ” said Major. “It’s not the same for every guy. In how a guy plays, he’s not going to change a ton this time of year. But there are little things that can be tweaked.”
An example: Clayton, one of the league’s top rebounders who is also ranked second in field-goal percentage, is shooting 49 percent from the free-throw line. Clayton, a physical presence under the basket, is fouled a lot and his 153 free-throw attempts are most on the team. His 0 for 5 performance from the line stood out in a two-point loss against Alabama-Birmingham last Saturday.
Major said trying to change Clayton’s free-throw mechanics would be counterproductive – at least for the time being.
“It’s (repetition),” said Major. “Free throws are mental. If I climb in his left ear and walk out of his right ear, there’s only going to be more going on by the time I leave.”
Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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