Konkol, LA Tech taking it day by day as season approaches
RUSTON – It’s been six months since Eric Konkol had to tell his team the crushing news that the Conference USA Tournament was being canceled. A few hours after that, the bus (and the season) was being packed up to head home from Frisco.
“It feels in some ways like yesterday, but in other ways it feels like many years ago,” said the head coach about the day he admitted was the hardest of his professional life.
Then came the repeated gloom of not being around each other. Not being in the Thomas Assembly Center together. Not hearing the sound of a basketball swishing the net or pounding the floor.
Relief came in July though when the team was reunited after months of being apart.
“The time apart definitely made me realize and think about the game of basketball and how it has affected my life,” said senior guard Amorie Archibald. “It made me appreciate the game more and how much of an impact it has on me.”
The challenges certainly haven’t stopped since then. One could argue the challenges have guzzled energy drinks only to intensify since the return to Ruston.
“So much has happened from the abrupt end to last season,” said Konkol who enters his sixth season at the helm. “Everything from navigating the pandemic, bringing our team here and doing all of the things needed to keep everyone safe and healthy. And then to try to get better.
“It has come with different challenges. It has come with different times where guys have missed time which can be frustrating. But through any type of adversity, it gives us a chance to attack something a little bit differently. I give a lot of credit to the staff and players for being creative and being persistent and just trying to get better each day.”
There is no more DayDay on the court anymore, but day by day has quickly become the approach for the Bulldogs. Simply because you never know when that daily, weekly or monthly schedule is going to get ripped up because of players being out for safety reasons. Or the NCAA and C-USA are going to hand down different rule changes to preseason workouts and schedules.
“It is definitely hard to get into a rhythm right now,” said Archibald. “I’ve just been taking it day by day, trying to stay safe, wear my mask.”
“Like everybody, you like structure,” said Konkol. “You like putting a plan together and executing that plan. Then if a guy or two is out, and sometimes he is out the day before, it has been all of us taking a deep breath and just saying what do we need to do today. We have to be flexible and creative and just find a way to get better each and every day.”
Now two days into official fall workouts, things are finally starting to become somewhat “normal” for Archibald.
“Just being out there, hearing coach blow the whistle, it’s a great feeling,” said the Florida native. “Running around with the guys, joking around. Having that family environment again is everything. The guys mean a lot to me and we mean a lot to each other.”
And don’t worry, even though Archibald’s recognizable hair locks are gone, his quick trigger from three and slashing ability in the lane are still spot on.
That’s the only drastic hair change of note (Cobe Williams is still rocking the red hair thankfully). You’ll still be able to quickly spot him and other returners like JaColby Pemberton, Exavian Christon, Kalob Ledoux, Xaiver Armstead, Stacey Thomas and Andrew Gordon.
Can’t forget Isaiah Crawford as well who is back at full speed after suffering a season-ending injury in January.
“We are excited about this group,” said Konkol. “We have brought in a lot of youthful energy and then we have a lot of experience back, experience that is excited about propelling themselves into a new and greater role on this team.
“Right now, we are really focusing on our defense and full-court play. We have had very few bad days when it comes to energy and I think that has been a staple of this program for a long time. Guys have been enthusiastic. We have guys that love the game and that love has only been magnified.”
The Bulldogs will open the season on Nov. 27 at home against UT Arlington.
For all the latest in Bulldog Basketball, follow them on Twitter (@LATechHoops), Instagram (@LATechHoops) and Facebook (LATechMBB).
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