Toppers enjoy practice with full squad

Lucas Aulbach

You might think the men’s basketball team would get bored with a week between games, but junior guard Brandon Harris said the Toppers have enjoyed some of their best practices of the season during the time off.

Having more players at practice helps, he said – while the Toppers have struggled to cope with injuries, the WKU lineup has gotten much healthier in the past two weeks, with two of its most important guards, senior Jamal Crook and junior Caden Dickerson, returning to the court.

“Practices have been a lot more competitive now,” Harris said. “When a lot of guys went down with injuries, coach (Ray Harper) did his best to supplement guys in. With everybody being here, it’s a lot more competitive.”

Practices are so competitive, he said, it can be hard to distinguish between the starters and players who rarely see playing time in games.

“A lot of times you don’t see the work the guys put in during the game, they may not get an opportunity to play,” Harris said. “But if you come to our practice and just watch, you can never tell the difference between guys that don’t play and guys that do play because everybody is just competing.”

WKU’s extra effort in practice has even caught the eye of Harper.

The coach said the influx of healthy players helped make Monday’s practice one of the best of the year.

“I thought we were very good and we competed,” Harper said. “I think part of that is we had everyone. It helps so much.”

It had been difficult for the Toppers to simulate game experience with such a depleted roster.

Now that WKU is two-deep at every position on the depth chart, Harper said practices have become more competitive and better for the team.

“You’ve got everyone and you’re able to simulate some game situations and have guys really compete against each other,” he said. “That’s how you get better.”

Last night’s road game against North Texas, which ended after the Herald’s press deadline, was the first time WKU hit the court since last Thursday’s win over Troy at home.

While the Toppers are probably happy to make it a week without a loss at this point – they recently dropped six of seven games and have suffered through three separate three-game losing streaks this season.

Harris, however, said the win over Troy last week, Crook’s first game since breaking his foot in early December, was a refreshing way to end the recent skid, especially with WKU preparing for its stretch run – the Sun Belt Conference Tournament begins a month from today.

“I wouldn’t look at the negative side of it, I look at the positive side of it,” he said. “It lets me know how good we can be.”