Training Camp Notes: Week 1

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: May 5, 2010

As the first official week of training camp comes to a close, Iím ecstatic to say it completely validated the excitement that many Mercury fans have been feeling for a while. In fact, newly acquired superstar Candice Dupree was one of the first players to arrive a couple weeks back, demonstrating her dedicated work ethic and desire to win; thus, setting the tone for the entire training camp.

I made a point to watch Candice Dupree closely. I wanted to see how she approached the game, how she prepared for practice, and how she interacted with her teammates. On all accounts, I was completely blown away. If you didnít know anything about the league, you would think Candice has been a member of the Mercury for years.

I know it has only been a week, but watching Candiceís focus on the details of learning Gainesí offense is not only encouraging, but awe-inspiring to see first-hand. For Dupree, itís the little things; perfecting her footwork, watching the way guards come off screens, knowing when to plug the lane and when not to, and most importantly getting a feel for her teammates. Although over half the team isnít here yet, sheís already developed a noticeable camaraderie with Ketia Swanier that was easy to spot during a multiple drills yesterday.

Okay, okay - I probably need to tone down my excitement since the rest of the team hasnít arrived and with it being just a few days of practice.

Actually, forget that.

Iím excited, Iím encouraged, Iím surprised, and I cannot wait for everyone to see what Iím seeing.

With so many new faces, I made a few notes for Mercury fans to get caught up on the first week of training camp.

Candice Dupree: Unreal. I canít think of a better word to describe her. We know sheís a great player, but seeing her throughout each practice focusing on the little details was surprising for me. Clearly, sheís committed to fitting in with the team seamlessly. She even took a vocal role during the week being the first to slap her teammateís hands, encourage the rookies, and spend extra time working with the coaches to get a grasp of the offense.

Ketia Swanier: The first thing that jumped out to me was how much her shot has improved. We know she worked tirelessly in the off-season with a personal trainer and I could certainly tell that her hard work has paid off. Sheís also more confident in herself and more vocal on the court. She even through an alley-oop to Candice Dupree off the backboard, but Candice was fouled. Either way, believe me, it was awesome to see.

Sequoia Holmes: Save for Dupree and Swanier, Sequoia Holmes impressed me the most and made quite an impression on me, which I didnít expect. I knew she was a good player but if Iím honest, I didnít know how amazingly athletic she was. Holmes is in great shape and proved how much of an energy boost she could provide the Mercury off the bench. She was incredibly quick along the baseline and can easily create her own shot. She seems to fit that slashing-guard type of player the Mercury is looking for. Most importantly, she has a great attitude and gets along well with everyone.

Ashley Paris: She hasnít had the opportunity to prove herself quite yet, but it is obvious that she has a high basketball IQ, especially in the post. Sheís tough, gritty, and knows what her role would be on the team Ė rebound and defend.

Yuko Oga: Anytime you get to see Shin play, it puts a smile on your face. She has such a fantastic attitude and goes a hundred miles an hour at all times. She is clearly more confident and less hesitant now that she has fully recovered from her injury that forced her from a spot on the roster last season.

Tyra Grant: The Mercuryís first-round pick undeniably showed why they selected her Ė scoring. Wow, she can put the ball in the basket. She still has a learning curve ahead of her which is the case for all rookies, but her outside shot looked great.

Nyeshia Stevenson: Similar to her days at Oklahoma, Stevenson is a little ball of energy that seemingly never ends. She has a team-first attitude and listens intently to the advice from Gaines, Pettis, and Hairgrove at all times. Itís nice to see a rookie so appreciative of the opportunity that Stevenson has been given. In terms of her playing ability, her quickness and tenacity on defense could be a great asset for the Mercury.

Taylor Lilley: I see Taylor as a Laurie Koehn type of player, but with more versatility. Lilleyís range is, literally, anywhere on the court and in spite of her small stature she clearly has a good feel for the game itself.

As for the rest of the team, Brooke Smith and Nicole Ohlde were due to arrive in Phoenix today and the rest of the squad (Taurasi, Taylor, Johnson, Williams, and Bonner) are due in Phoenix within the next week or so. The Mercury should have a full roster by the second week of May, just in time for their pre-season home game against the Chinese National Team.

Random NotesÖ

  • Not surprisingly, every drill was up-tempo. It reminded me of how John Wooden used to focus on doing things the right way. Then, once they did that successfully for a period of time, he would make them do it faster and quicker while maintaining the fundamentals and integrity of the game.

  • Rather than scoring on offense, some of the scrimmage drills were scored based on how many stops each team got on defense.

  • There is always an uplifting tone to each practice, and Gaines keeps it that way. Plus, Bridget Pettis is one of the funniest and kindest people on the planet.

  • Although it was training camp, numerous players took a charge at full speed, raced back on defense after a score, and were physical during the defensive drills.

  • As always, every practice ended with spot shooting in groups of three.