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It was one of those drives where all is right with the world. Warm enough to have the window down, but still enough of autumn in Indiana for the trees along Highway 37 to be changing colors. The radio playing songs entertaining enough to listen to but not so great that they were distracting.
I was on my way to die.
OK, “die” is a strong word to use. But part of my subconscious knew there was pain to contend with, so in some way, I suppose the drive to Bloomington was so nice because of that pain to come.
I was taking part in my second IU basketball media challenge. The idea is that the various beat writers and TV sports personalities who cover IU would come to Assembly Hall to work out and play against each other, while also getting preseason access to the players.
Just like last year, this event falls in the midst of my half-marathon training. As an added bonus this year, I’ve got a trainer to help me work on other body parts that need improvement.
A lot of improvement.
So I was preparing myself for sore legs, knowing full well that, before we got to the basketball, we would be doing warm-up exercises under the watchful eye of IU strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson.
Now, I’m sure Jackson is a wonderful guy, and he did geuninely want us to warm up properly so as to avoid seriously injuring ourselves.
But oh my God these exercises hurt. Case in point: there’s a drill called “6 and 60.” You’re lying on the court, and when he calls out “6”, you raise your feet six inches off the floor. And keep them there.
So what’s the big deal? You try it, tough guy.
The “60” part comes into play with Jackson calling out “60”, at which point you raise your legs to a 60-degree angle. Not 90 degrees. Not 45. Sixty.
Again, I encourage you to try it yourself before casting aspersions on me and my fellow writers. Suffice it to say, you’re not holding your feet up for a couple of seconds at a time. I knew my core needed work — hence, the trainer — but clearly it needs a lot of work.
Jumping back a bit for a little confession. For someone who grew up in Indiana — the self-proclaimed greatest basketball state in the country — I suck at basketball. And I’m not being self-deprecating in an artistic license sort of way.
I am no good at basketball.
I can’t shoot, I don’t have the height or hops to be a good rebounder, my dribbling is horrible … there’s a reason I write about sports instead of playing them.
But knowing that there was going to be a 3-point shooting contest among the writers before the games, I decided I should get to Cook Hall — IU’s training facility — early to get some shooting practice in.
I quickly decided that I would not actually be participating in the 3-point shootout. Too many airballs to let that happen.
So I cheered from the sidelines as my peers shot 3s, after our grueling warmup session.
Next up: the games, over at Assembly Hall.
The less said about the games, the better. Here’s the thing, though: without knowing specific ages, I believe five of the six players on my team were at least mid-30s or older. Nothing wrong with that, of course. With age comes wisdom.
Of course, wisdom means nothing when you’re playing basketball against a team full of 20-somethings.
It got so bad that at halftime, former IU basketball player Kory Barnett was added to our team. It helped, but not enough for us to overcome a 29-point halftime deficit.
Looking back at what I’ve written, one might get the impression that this was a miserable experience. It wasn’t. I had fun, I really did.
Now, it’s a little challenging interviewing players when you’re the one dripping sweat. Fortunately, my recorder didn’t short out from the perspiration.
So there’s that.