Thank You, Mom

By Al Horford: May 6, 2011

She made one thing clear: If I was gonna play basketball, Iíd better be good.

If my mom had her way, Iíd have been a baseball player. I remember this vividly: When I turned six, the first thing she did was get me a pair of cleats and a glove and tell me she wanted me to play ball.

I started out with baseball, but pretty soon I said I wanted to play basketball. She was a little disappointed, but she said ďIf youíre gonna be playing basketball, you better be one of the best players out there. Youíve got to go out and aim for the highest level.Ē

That idea Ė that if weíre going to do something, we need to always strive to be great Ė has stuck with me to this day. And with Motherís Day coming up on Sunday, I just want to say thanks to my Mom, Arelis Reynoso. Thanks for teaching me never to compromise, to never accept anything as just good enough. Thanks for hanging tough and always showing support through all of our ups and downs. And thanks for letting me play basketball.

I think sheís happy with how it all turned out.

But what a journey itís been to get here. For a while, growing up in the Dominican Republic, it was the two of us. My parents split when I was young, and my dad, Tito Ė the first-ever Dominican-born player in NBA history Ė pursued his career in the States. Meanwhile, my mom and extended family raised me, before I moved to America for high school.

It was a great experience, because she was always there. We did everything together, and it made me grow up even quicker because when you live with a single parent, it puts everything in perspective. It wasn't just her, of course: I also had support from both her family and my dadís side of the family, which is why I feel like Iím really family-oriented.

But it was just so cool to be her son. She worked in sports media, so I got to meet a lot of the big baseball players growing up. Watching her, I saw the business in a different light Ė instead of being the sports side, like now, I was on the media side. I learned how to appreciate the media and recognize how important it is to give time to them. Theyíre the voice to the fans and the audience, so itís important to understand that.

[Editorís Note: Al, a telecommunications major at the University of Florida, was the first player in the league to co-direct a night of programming at Atlantaís NBA TV studios]

I moved to the States to live with my Dad after freshman year of high school, and I could tell how tough it was on my mom. But she was never somebody to just sit around and not change things that weren't working. So up she went, leaving her job in the D.R. and moving to Philadelphia so she could be closer to me. Then, once I got drafted by Atlanta, she proceeded to move there, too.

Now, itís just been amazing to have her around. She gets to watch all my games, and if I want to get something to eat or just spend time with her and the family, I feel pretty fortunate that sheís able to live so close. We really try to make the most out of spending time together.

But above all, Iím just very fortunate to be able to have my mom in my life. Weíve been through ups and downs, but weíve always been together Ė and I canít tell you how lucky I am to have her around me to this day.

So Mom, thanks for everything. And sorry about not sticking with baseball.

Happy Motherís Day.

On the Right Track

By Al Horford: May 5, 2011

Joakim Noah hasnít changed at all.

Heís still the same intense guy he was when we played together at Florida. Still the same guy thatís impossible to guard unless you can match his energy and intensity.

And he still hasnít cut his hair.

Heís been growing those locks since senior year in Gainesville, and I donít think heís touched them since. They just get longer and longer every time I see him.

And while itís been great to see him off the court in Chicago (where the first two games of our conference semis against the Bulls are), it is still weird having to play against a former teammate. Especially when it comes to me and him Ė we played the same position, and we played together for so long. We know each otherís games so well. And even though Iím four years into the league, I still feel kinda awkward about it that weíre opponents.

Then again, I do also get to cover Carlos Boozer.

Talk about an assignment. Boozerís one of the best in the NBA, and with Joakim, they make a great tandem on the inside. Then, of course, thereís NBA MVP Derrick Rose at point, whoís as dangerous a scorer and playmaker as there is in the league.

Which is why it was so great that we were able to pick up a win in our two games in Chicago and head back to Atlanta tied, 1-1 in the series.

We had a lot of confidence coming into the series, but with the win, weíre obviously a lot more confident now Ė which helps in such a hostile environment, like they have here in Chicago.

What I love about Game 1 is that we were able to play together from the start, and stick to our gameplan defensively. When we do that, we know we can compete with anybody in the league. We did a great job laying it on the line in the offensive and defensive ends.

Somebody told me that win broke a 15-game losing streak for the Hawks in the conference semis. I wasnít aware of that, but we definitely have had our struggles with that. Then, in the past two years, getting swept both times, itís a good feeling for this organization to end that.

From here, we just gotta make sure we game by game, and just keep building off that win.

We Are All One

By Al Horford | April 11, 2011

Horford, going up for two of his 23 points against the Nets on Mar. 26, when he and a number of other NBA players donated $1,000 for every point scored to the Japan relief efforts. | Photo: NBAE via Getty Images
It didnít really hit me until Houston.

As we watched the tragedies unfold in the days after the earthquakes and tsunamis hit Japan, I couldnít believe what I was seeing. It all just seemed unreal. Some of those images Ė like a boat on top of a building Ė were like things youíd see in a movie, but things youíd never, ever, picture in real life. And that was all before the radiation made everything worse.

But watching on TV is one thing. It wasnít until three weeks after the disasters struck that I really began to understand just how much devastation they caused.

Before our game against the Rockets on April 3, a Japanese reporter approached me. He told me that he was there when the waves struck, and we got to talking about what he saw. He told me how, one minute, he was walking down the street like any normal day. The next minute, he saw the world turned upside-down.

I asked him if he was going to be able to bring some supplies and food back for his family Ė who, thankfully, were OK. He shook his head and said no, he couldnít bring anything into the country, although he was worried about the water supply. He was afraid of how the radiation was affecting what people were drinking. Meanwhile, he said, people couldnít get any rice, a staple of their diet.

Talking to him put a lot of things into perspective. With a tragedy like this, you hear about it and you hear about it, but when you finally hear about it first-hand, the impact is so much greater. When youíre watching from far away, you think about the devastation, but you donít think about the details and the little things.

But thatís where we, as NBA players and fans alike, can help. When weíre given the chance to help, itís so important that we do.

Once I saw everything that was happening in Japan, I wanted to know how I could help. So when my agent, B.J. Armstrong, approached me with an idea of how to chip in, I was all ears. The goal was to have me and other guys represented by the Wasserman Group donate $1,000 to the Japan Relief Fund for every point we scored on a given night.

I thought it was a great concept right away. So did Derrick Rose. And LaMarcus Aldridge. And the Gasols (Pau and Marc), Javale McGee and a bunch of other guys.

So when we took on the Nets on Mar. 26, with $1,000 hanging on every point, I was looking to drop 30.

For those of you who read me on the regular, you know that Iím not usually somebody who cares too much about points Ė Iím about winning (which, fortunately, weíve been doing a lot more lately). But that night, I was trying to be a little more aggressive than usual in getting to the hoop.

I finished up with 23. A little short of where I wanted to end up, but I was happy that I played well enough and that we were able to win the game. But all game long, rest assured, I was keeping track.

And in the end, I was just so fortunate to be able to help. Weíre part of an elite group in the NBA, so if we can make a difference in the community, thatís what itís all about. People enjoy watching us play and perform, so itís great to be able to have impact off the court and have long-lasting impressions on people by doing good.

Thatís what makes it such an honor to be the recipient of the NBAís Community Assist award this month, which recognizes a playerís work in the community Ė not only down the street and around the world. The award comes with a $5,000 donation to the charity of my choice, and I was able to pick the Sandy Springs Mission in Atlanta, an after-school program for kids who come from low-income families.

Coming from the Dominican Republic, it was easy to see just how much need is out there in the world. With what Iíve been given, Iíve always been appreciative of life in general, so Iím glad to be able to give back once I was able to get into a position to do so.

Iíll leave you with one thought from the journalist I met in Houston. After he said he was appreciative and thankful for the NBA guysí help, he told me how glad he was that he could contribute in his own sort of way. It wasnít as much, but he did whatever he could because there was a need. No matter how little, he was just glad he could help.

The Brotherhood of Big Men

By Al Horford, March 25, 2011

"When I was growing up, I always used to play with older kids, and I wasnít the tallest kid. But when I started playing with kids my age, I was the tallest. " Foto: NBAE via Getty Images
With a couple weeks left before playoffs, this is the time of year when every little bit counts Ė especially when youíre a center.

People say the gameís more physical these days, but Iím not sure thatís true Ė the gameís always been physical, ever since I started watching it. I used to watch Charles Oakley and Charles Barkley, so Iíve always seen that as a part of the game, and you just gotta deal with it.

That said, to really get out there and compete, you really have to take care of your body and make sure you get enough rest. It becomes a mental game, but you have to be able to stay in the same routine to make sure youíre ready come playoff-time.

I wasnít always a center, though. When I was growing up, I always used to play with older kids, I wasnít the tallest kid. But when I started playing with kids my age, I was the tallest Ė then I had a big growth spurt, and from then on, I just played power forward and center.

Now, thatís not to say I let that get to me. Thereís still a part of me thatís a guard at heart. Iíve always considered myself pretty versatile Ė Iím one of the few big men who handles the ball on the break. I get the rebound on the defensive end and coach gives me the freedom to make plays off and things like that. I can work in the post and can space out. This year, Iíve been working on shooting the ball from 15-17 feet to make myself a more complete player.

Honestly, I donít know any other way. Iíve been playing inside and outside since high school, when I got to college, Coach Donovan really encouraged me to do that. Well, like he said, ďas long as you donít turn the ball over.Ē

And, day in and day out, Iím lucky enough to play against the best big men in the world. Defensively, I feel like Iím just as versatile (or at least I like to think so), where I can play guys who like to lace Ďem up and throw it down or guard on the outside.

Thereís Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, who are both just powerful. Then thereís a guy like Brook Lopez from the Nets, whoís very skilled and can score the ball from anywhere. You have to throw in Andrew Bogut and Joakim Noah, who are both guys that can play, but end up underrated sometimes.

Then thereís Shaq. The Diesel might be getting a little older these days, but you have to make a case and argument that heís one of the best centers of all time. Heís right up there with Wilt and Kareem, fighting for that top spot. Yesterday, I was watching the 1995 series when Orlando was playing the Bulls and it was Young Shaq. Nobody could guard him.

Heís definitely a guy I grew up looking up to, along with guys like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki. When I watched them play in high school, I couldnít help but admire their game, and now I get to play against those guys every day, which is just crazy.

My advice for younger guys who are looking up to us now is that if youíre lucky enough, you will be playing against us. I think that people mentally donít realize that. Youíd think those guys would be gone by the time they got there, but theyíre not.

And if youíre reading thisÖIíll be waiting.

Thanks for reading, and Go Hawks!

Viva March Madness!

Publicado por Al Horford, 17 de marzo del 2011

Joakim Noah (L) and Al Horford, teammates for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 University of Florida national champs. / Foto: NBAE via Getty Images
I'd be a bad University of Florida alum if I didn't give props to my boys in Gainesville after taking the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Winning the SEC regular season shows how good of a team they have, and I'm looking forward to watch them play in this exciting time of the year.

It seems like yesterday when my Gator teams won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, Tournament runs that have to rank as some of the best and favorite experiences of my life. Just being with my friends and teammates and playing Tournament games was a great feeling. I enjoyed to the fullest the time I spent in college and I was fortunate to be a part of such a special team.

Both of the titles were special to me and I never take them for granted. The time one we caught people by surprise, and the second we did it with all the expectations and the hype behind it. We went through highs and lows during both runs, but we always stuck together.

Thanks for the read, and go Hawks!

What It Takes To Win

By Al Horford, March 16 2011

Man, itís good to pick up a win again.

Until we beat the Blazers on Saturday, weíd been going through a little struggle, dropping four in a row. I do still feel confident in what we have and I think thereís some very correctable stuff that we need to do get back on track Ė but weíve just lost some games against some really good teams lately.

Iíve had coaches that say losses are important because you can learn from them. But Iíll tell you this: Iím the kind of person who would much rather learn from winning. I think losing might hit home a little harder, but I think we know what it takes to get into the playoffs, then to move on and win.

Above all, weíre in the position right now where we just gotta play with a sense of urgency. Weíre playing hard, but we gotta start putting games together. We have to prepare for that playoff intensity, because itíll be at a whole different level when playoffs start.

So, where do we go from here?

Obviously, weíre concerned about losing, but I think the key is that you canít let it get into your head too much. We have to remember that weíre a pretty good team. Weíve shown we can win and be successful, and just because things arenít going our way we canít panic. We already play with an edge, but we have to step it up even more to get out of this skid.

If thereís anything I can point to, itís just that we have to play a little more freely on the offensive end. Weíre showing that we can defend and weíve done a pretty good job this year sharing the ball, but weíre losing sight of how good we were when we moved the ball around and got out on the break. Weíve lost track of that a little bit, but to be successful we need to get out easy and score fast.

Itís really all about us making the effort, then getting out and running on the court Ė just making the game easier. Everybody in the league loves that style of play. For a while, we did it well. But lately, weíve lost sight of it a little.

But in all honestly, I actually feel better going into the whole playoff scenario than I did last year.

I feel confident with the guys we have and that the guys are gonna be ready to go. Itís a slightly different team, but Iím confident because of our mindset. We knowing we have to go out and compete and play against any other team. There mightíve been some teams that had our number last year Ė this year we feel confident going into any situation.

And before I sign off today, I want to send a shout-out to my new crew at Susie B. Atkinson Elementary School in Griffin, Ga. I got the opportunity to head out there a couple weeks ago to meet Danteí Graydon, the winner of an anti-bullying essay contest.

It was great to see those guys and spread the message that weíre against bullying, and how kids need to stick together in schools and not allow bullying to happen. Our message was that kids have to rally stick together with them and not leave your classmates out there on their own. The kids were great, and they really embraced it all.

For me, I just loved the chance to be able to help out in the community. As pro athletes, we can really make a difference in peopleís lives, and Iíve been lucky to help out with the NBA Cares campaigns throughout the Atlanta community.

Now, itís time to prep for a big stretch of games. Iíll check back in next week, but meanwhile, time to take care of business.

Welcome To The Home Stretch

By Al Horford | March 11, 2011

This time of year just feels different. You go into the season and everybodyís playing hard and competing, but now it goes to a whole new level. Teams are starting to play playoff-like basketball, and itís a lot of fun Ė it really is. You really take it to another level. And itís great to have that this time of year, because youíre trying to define what your teamís about as you try to get ready for the playoffs.

"I feel like Iíve grown into a position like that, where if I have to take a shot at the end of the game, if I have to make something happen like that, I can do it." Photo: NBAE via Getty Images
But this time of yearís tough, too. Itís tough on the body, sure, but itís also tough in other ways. And one of the most challenging parts is having to watch teammates youíve known for years go somewhere else at the Trade Deadline.

I think for our team, the trades we made were things that needed to be done. Before the deadline, we didnít know which players were gonna be moved, but the moves have definitely has helped us. A guy like Kirk Hinrich is really solid defensively and we got a big body defensively in Armstrong, so weíre excited about that. At

the same time, you hate to see some of your former teammates go, especially when youíve spent a lot of time with them. Over time, you grow a bond with them. But we understand itís for the betterment of the team.

Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans, those were guys that had been with us a long time. We had real good chemistry. But at the end of the day we understand the business aspect of the NBA.

As far as the other trades around the league go, I actually wasnít too shocked when Melo went to New York Ė I almost expected that one. But Iíd have to say Deron Williams getting moved and going to the NetsÖthen Gerald Wallace to PortlandÖthen Kendrick Perkins going to OKCÖand then Jeff Green going to BostonÖthose all were surprising.

But right now, our focus is on us.

And to get where we want to be, we know we have to get better on defense. Weíve been very inconsistent in the first half of the season, so weíre making a big effort to be committed on the defensive end and share the ball on offense, and thatís what we gotta do to be successful.

But luckily, of the good things about our team is that weíre versatile. We have more than one guy who can score in big situations. I feel like Iíve grown into a position like that, where if I have to take a shot at the end of the game, if I have to make something happen like that, I can do it. But itís a big strength of our team, how you never know whoís gonna be that playing that role.

So, in other wordsÖstay tuned. Thanks for the read, and Go Hawks.

All-Star Weekend: Los Angeles

By Al Horford | March 2, 2011

This one goes out to my man Kenny Smith.

All day before the Shooting Stars Competition on All-Star Saturday, Kenny was coming at me, talking trash, telling me I canít shoot. Now, donít get me wrong. Kennyís a friend of mineÖbut Iíd be lying if I didnít say it fueled me a little bit.

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Meanwhile, former Hawks great and current TV analyst Steve Smith Ė my teammate in Shooting Stars, alongside the Atlanta Dreamís Coco Miller Ė had been telling us all day to just go out and have funÖbut if we wanted to win, to focus on making the half-court shot.

So when I managed to hit both half-court shots to help Team Atlanta win its first-ever title in the event by defeating Kennyís defending-champion Texas teamÖwell, we enjoyed it even more.

A day later, Iíd have the honor of competing in my second career All-Star Game. But that night at the Staples Center in L.A., I got a front-row seat for an unbelievable All-Star Saturday Night.

To be honest, my pick coming into the Dunk Contest was DeMar DeRozan, and I still think he at least should have gotten to the final round Ė his dunks were that good. He deserved to at least be in the finals. Then, once he was there, it was fair game. So, I was a little disappointed he didnít get picked to move on. The choir and the car were cool for Blake, but at the end of the day Iím sticking with DeRozan

But overall, the atmosphere was great. I liked the fact that a lot of the guys tried to make it entertaining Ė a show. Thatís what itís all about with the Dunk Contest. You have to make the dunks, but you also have to bring your audience in.

A day later in the All-Star Game, we came up just short, with the West taking the title back from the East after weíd won it in 2010, but it was still just an amazing experience. And now that itís over, somebody asked me the other day which of my two All-Star Games I preferred Ė the 2010 game in Dallas or this year in L.A.

Dallas, my first one, was really special. We played in Cowboys Stadium, so that was historic. This one was great as well, although we did win in Dallas and lose this game. But I really enjoyed being in LA and going to all the different events. Nike had a great party. Then the NBA Players Association had an even bigger one, with a ton of good performances, like Kanye West, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj. I just enjoyed that to the fullest. Plus, I got to meet Drake for the first time.

In the end, it was all just a blast Ė we really had a great time, spending time with all those guys from the different teams out there. I was lucky to be able to hang out with my family, to do all the activities and everything.

The overall experience in LA was just surreal. We did the Magenta Carpet on Game Day, a red carpet sort of thing where I got to see all the other celebrities that were there already Ė it was good to see people like Chris Tucker and Spike Lee again. I got a chance to see Lilí Wayne, too. It was really cool Ė when you got into the arena, you could see all the celebrities literally all over Staples.

And to my fans, for giving me the chance to experience something that exceeded my childhood dreams, I just want to say thanks.

Go Hawks, and Iíll check back soon.

A Work in Progress

Posted by Al Horford, November 24, 2010

I canít believe the seasonís almost a month old. So much has happened already: We won our first five games, then lost four in a row. A year ago, we couldnít win on the road Ė this year, weíre 5-2 away from home (but only 3-5 in Atlanta). I signed a contract extension. Joe Johnsonís been the star we expected him to be, but weíve also had a ton of guys old and new step up and play big roles for us.

All in all, heading into the winter months, I feel like weíre off and running. Weíve been tested. After starting out the season well, these last few games have really come down to the wire for us. Weíve gotten down, then weíve gotten back in the game, but we havenít yet been able to get over that hump. But I think weíll get there. At this point we just have to keep playing hard and just try to be a little more consistent on the defensive end.

In my last post, I talked about how we have to maintain our focus on the road. Strangely enough, now I think that we have to use that focus weíve been developing on the road at home. Maybe weíre taking some games for granted when weíre at home, thinking weíre going to win, and that hasnít been the case, so we have to get back on track and taking care of our home games. We enjoy playing here Ė itís just a mindset thing. I think that on the road we have been much more focused than in the past and at home we just have to get back to the way weíre used to playing at home to really give our fans a show.

Personally, itís been a nice start. [Editorís Note: Al is averaging career-highs in points, field goal percentage and assists]

I think the way Iíve been playing has to do with me being comfortable enough with our guys and where I fit into the offense. It kind of just allows me to go out there and play and just have fun out there. The first couple years, I was comfortable, but now Iím at the point where I see plays developing. Iím being quicker on my post moves. Little things like that have made me a more effective player.

Iíve also been playing a little bit less than years past, which isnít a bad thing. Coach and I saw that in some of these early games, I was getting in foul trouble, which limited me and held me back from really playing in games. This year, I think that we are a deeper team, and with guys like Zaza Pachuila and Josh Powell coming off the bench that have given us good solid minutes, Iím able to get in my work in the amount of minutes that coach is given me, so thatís all I can ask for.

Also, I was lucky enough to sign a five-year contract extension with the Hawks, the only team Iíve ever played for as a professional. Itís a real good feeling. Now that itís over, I actually feel like I dealt with it all really well, focusing in on just playing and practicing and continuing to get better. I really tried to let my agent handle all of that aspect of the contract, so it was just a relief when the Hawks and I came to an agreement.

Most of my family was here with me when I received the news, so that was a great feeling. Itís one of those things that Iím able to put behind me now and just focus on playing and being the best player I can be and try to get back to my second All-Star Game this year. Taking part in All-Star Weekend is always one of the goals that you set as a player, but above all, itís all about team, and Iím more focused on our team doing the best that we can do.

As far as stories from the road go, I wish I had more for you guys. But with the kind of team that we have, itís just a matter of time. As soon I have something good, Iíll let you guys know.

Meanwhile, thanks for reading, and go Hawks.

Welcome to the Al Horford Blog

Posted by Al Horford, November 3, 2010

This year, the intensityís higher, and weíre more focused as a team. As we open the new season, the team is healthy and weíre all ready to go.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
After one of the busiest and most rewarding summers of my life, spent between Singapore, the Dominican Republic, Atlanta and nearly everywhere in between, the season is finally underway.

But before we get started, I just want to say hi to all my fans out there, and thanks for reading. Iím Al Horford, the starting center for the Atlanta Hawks, and Iíll be running this blog on all season long to give you a glimpse into the world of an NBA player. Iím excited to get going.

And Iím just as excited to be finishing up the preseason. With new coach Larry Drew in charge, itís been intense right from the beginning. Weíve had a lot of two-a-days to get ready for the rigors of the regular season, and even though preseason games give you a chance to prepare and get better, players really look forward to the start of the regular season.

But for me, the start of the season does more than put an end to two-a-days: it puts a cap on a whirlwind of a summer.

It started with a lot of uncertainty after last season, because we had a rough playoffs series against Orlando. Suddenly, our coach, Mike Woodson, was gone and our main player, Joe Johnson, was up for free agency and we didnít know if we were going to be able to keep him. Meanwhile, I was still hurting after that loss Ė I felt like we didnít necessarily leave it all out there on the court like we should have, and that bothered me.

But over the summer, things took shape. We signed Joe, which made us all very happy and excited about being able to put it all back together and get back to work. And when coach Drew, an assistant ever since Iíve been in Atlanta, got promoted to head coach, that made it an easy transition because we knew what kind of person he was.

Personally, Iíve never had an offseason Iím more proud of. First, I had the opportunity to participate in the NBAís program Basketball without Borders in Singapore. That was a real different experience for me. It was my first time in Asia, period, and it was a long flight Ė a super-long flight. But once we got there I got the chance to spend time working with some friends of mine, Francisco Garcia from the Sacramento Kings and Corey Brewer from the Timberwolves, one of my former college teammates at Florida. It was different with the food and the time change, but we made it work, and the camp went well.

Later, I headed down to my birthplace, the Dominican Republic. It was great to be able to see my family and hang out there for a while, but the best part about my time in the D.R. came when we put together two basketball camps, one in Porto Plata and another in Santo Domingo.

Both were very successful. I had great help Ė former NBA players came through, like my dad and B.J. Armstrong, while younger guys in the league, Jon Brockman and Gerald Henderson, they came down and really supported us, too. The camps came out great, and the kids had a great time. Itís to the point where I want to make it a yearly event, running camps down there, with so much hunger for basketball. And I think that being able to see me and other NBA players, it really motivates the kids to keep playing and learning about the game.

I always encourage guys in the NBA, if you get a chance in the summertime, to participate in a Basketball without Borders or go to another country and do a camp. Itís very rewarding. You could see how much the kids love it. They have a high appreciation for what we do and really look up to all of us, so they were super-excited for us to be there, asking all kinds of questions. Any little thing we had for them was the biggest treat for them. They were very appreciative, and that makes you feel good.

But once August rolled around, it was time to get down to business.

While it was easy to roll with coach Drewís coaching style, getting used to his system and acclimating to the offensive end and the plays he wants us to run has been a little different. Itís been a process, but I think weíve been able to pick a lot of things up about the offense and all it entails.

For one, the offense is a lot different when youíre doing it in practice and doing it at real speed in a game. Itís a motion offense, but we also do a little bit of the Princeton system, and itís my first time ever running it. Itís a lot of cuts, a lot of backdoors and a lot of little things that we have to figure out and get the timing right. But the guys are staying positive and weíre gonna keep working at it.

Weíre confident that when we master it, the new offense can help us achieve our biggest goal this year: to improve on the road.

Playing on the road is all about being able to control the tempo and staying focused throughout the whole 48 minutes. Last year, we struggled because we couldnít do those things. Weíd be doing pretty well, but weíd lose the game because of mental breakdowns or turnovers, or we just couldnít score.

But thatís all part of the growing process. I feel the teamís much more mature this year, and with this new style of offense this year that coach has brought, I think we can keep the ball moving and be able to make the defense work.

This year, the intensityís higher, and weíre more focused as a team. As we open the new season, the team is healthy and weíre all ready to go.