Lori Bjork is ready to get the season started.
Throughout the season an Illinois women's basketball player will post her thoughts on fightingillini.com in a weekly blog. In the first installment this week, freshman Lori Bjork talks about the start of basketball season, the "shooter" label and being knockout king.
Nov. 16, 2005 - Lori Bjork
Well, it's official; the college basketball season has begun. I suppose I should have seen it coming (our daily practices for the last month were a subtle hint), but it wasn't until I saw the Duke-Boston men's game on ESPN Monday night that I registered the beginning of a new season. I swear sometimes it seems that Duke hoops has its own national TV deal - like Notre Dame football. Nevertheless, you won't find me complaining about having to watch J.J. Redick torch the nets. See, when you are a shooter, you are always watching, evaluating, admiring (or abhorring if it is Shaq at the foul line), the shooting strokes of other players. Like a car fanatic who knows the make, model, dimensions, and engine of every automobile, shooters study each other. We label different shot types - the wind-up, the heave, the knuckleball, the line drive (Shaq is Exhibit A) - check out each other's range (limitless in the case of J.J. Redick), and analyze the setup - the inside pivot, reverse pivot, or two-foot jump stop.
In the above paragraph, I think I may have inadvertently labeled myself a "shooter." This description is suspect for several reasons: (1) a self-proclamation should never be trusted (2) I have yet to make a shot in a college game (3) if all I can do is shoot, I might have some trouble playing at this level. While hitting open shots is certainly a part of my game, I need to make sure I am not one-dimensional. On our day off from practice yesterday, I went to our practice facility to watch film with one of our assistants, Coach Frese. Already, in just the second exhibition game, I had been "identified," meaning that the other team recognized that I could hit the three-pointer with some regularity. So a defender was wildly flying (think kamikaze) at me every time I came off a screen to catch a pass. Let's just say a little shot fake might have gone a long way. So, now I am working to add a new shot to my repertoire: the one dribble pull-up. The new shot is currently in development, meaning that it gets worked on a lot on our off days on the shooting gun.
Now, to put the "student" in "student-athlete," here is the academic update. My academic mindset at this point can be summed up with the following: only two more days until Thanksgiving break. Freshman teammate Danielle Gratton had the best line of the week the other night at our study center. One of the monitors opened a window to bring in some cooler air and Danielle thanked her because she said she had been studying so hard she was sweating. At this point in the semester, I think just about any student feels this way. But I did have a "welcome to big-time college athletics" moment last week in my Math 242 lecture that I attend with 300 of my closest friends. For those of you keeping score at home, this is "Calculus of Several Variables," which is code for "math you will never use in real life," and for those of you mathophobes at home, it really isn't that bad. A fellow student - my teammates and I usually call them "regular" students, which one could take as an omission of our own abnormality - wished me good luck in our first game. I was so stunned and proud that someone would recognize me and take the time to say something. But you don't have to worry about me getting a big head, because ten minutes later I was climbing onto my old Huffy bicycle from Target, hunkering down against the rain. My head had to shrink back down so I could get my hood on.
As I bring this column to a close, I will let you in on one of my goals for Friday's game at Loyola. I hope to make it two straight victories in knockout at our Friday shootaround (in layperson's language, this translates roughly to "light practice"). The last thing we do at our shootaround is get together managers, staff, and players for one big game of knockout (some people in the hinterlands of Iowa call the game "lightning," but I'm in Illinois now, so probably no need to translate). When I won at our last shootaround, I had the privilege of going through the buffet line at our pregame meal first. Needless to say, when someone of my girth goes through a buffet line first, no one really notices. (If they listed the weights of female players in the program like they do for male players, you would see what I mean). But Coach Patterson told us that a new rule will be implemented beginning Friday. Whoever wins the game of knockout gets to bring their entire class (or in the case of that rare coach victory, the entire coaching staff), through the buffet line first. So, if I win, I will get to bring five people through that buffet line with me, so maybe we can leave a dent in it. All I can say is that the freshmen had better start working up an appetite. Go Illini!