Duke's Diary: Big Stage, Big-Time Preparation

Every basketball player will experience the feeling. It happens all the time. Sometimes it happens two or three times in a season. From the first time you see the schedule and you look at it and mark the date for the rival game.

In your mind, you say, "It's on!" You mark the date, circle the game, and think about all the hype built up around it. You start to fantasize about the crowd and everything that will go on the big day. Maybe a pep rally, I mean it's a big game right?

The big question is how do you prepare for it? What do you have to do to perform well? All the hype and excitement is great, but you still have to perform well to get the reward of it all.

I can remember it like it was yesterday, the things I would do leading up to the big game. I knew it would be 3-5,000 in the gym on Friday night (Indiana basketball). The preparation actually started in the summer time. All the battles in open gym, and the workouts throughout the summer. Working on your game and all the things people say you can't do.

Fast forward to the actual day of the game.

Breakfast: You must have a good breakfast to get your day started and your mind focused on the opponent. If you don't have some balance throughout the day you could be in for a rude awakening. So eat a nice breakfast.

School/Home: Make sure you are on time for everything throughout the day. Turn in all your assignments. Do all the things your parents have asked of you at home. Be sure everything is on point because you do not want any extra distractions of a "nagging teacher or parent" talking about what you did not do. We need all positive vibes on this big day. Be cool throughout the day with friends and family, but do not exert too much energy. Try to rest and stay focused.

Lunch: Good lunch, not too much...light carbs or something like that. Small pasta dish will do. It helps with stamina for the 4th quarter push. Don't eat too much because you might be looking like a snail on the court. Peanuts are good brain food and a cool snack before the game.

Hydration: Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the week. Drink plenty of water and sports drinks throughout the week. The body needs at least 3 days to get fully hydrated. We don't need you with crams in the 4th quarter, champ!

Practice: You must have an excellent week of practice. You must go as hard as you can leading up to the day before the game. You must prepare the mind and body for the battle. The Army doesn't go to war without practice. Listen to the coach, and perfect everything in practice. It becomes second nature by the time the game is played.

I know this is what you've been waiting for, the meat and potatoes of what to do, and how to prepare for the big stage. Let's go!

Here is what I used to do before the big game: I always supported the younger/JV team and watched the first half of their game. It was a chance for me to see what the other team might try to do for the varsity game.

Then came time for the preparation. I always had some music. Music is like a must before any big game, or any game for that reason. 2Pac was my music of choice. My blood would begin to boil and I would get hyped listening to his music. I had the headphones for the entire time as I got my gear on, and stretched in the locker room.

Not gonna tell a tale, but I had to make sure I looked good. So my shoes were straight and uniform was straight. I learned that from the great "Prime Time" Deion Sanders, who said "If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play good." 'Nuff said right there. Besides, Michael Jordan was always neat on the court. I took pointers from them.

I usually didn't say much before the game because I was in a zone of what was about to happen. I would visualize the plays in my head during my locker room stretch. I would focus on what coach had written on the board and where everyone was supposed to be on the floor and what we had to do to be victorious. Visualization was the key.

One of the key things I focused on was the week of practice. What happened in practice all week? The battles all week. The coach's passion all week. Those things are what made the game more than just a game.

Details. I had to remember the little things about details of what was going to take place. It's the little things that get you beat. Details!

The battles I had already been through with my teammates. I would tell myself, no way the other team was tougher than my team. We went hard in practice for the big game. We challenged each other. We had pride about our school, and our team winning. Nothing was going to stop us but ourselves.

The headphones were then removed and the music stopped. We all came together with one common goal and that is to destroy the other team, by any means. We would huddle in the locker room for a small pre-game speech. Hyped is an understatement. To hear the band outside the locker room and the fans waiting on us to come out was a rush to the body to make you want to run through a wall.

Now it's time to go warm up and be great for one night. Layup routine was so important to our coach, he would always tell us to be "rim high!"

We came out ready and the fans pumped as we went through our routine. It's game time now! It's time to perform! Coach gives his final speech, and nothing's left to be done but go out and execute.

The best advice before the big game or any other game (in basketball or life) is to be prepared. There is no pressure; pressure only comes when you don't know what you're doing.

Until the pages of the diary are unlocked next week...peace!

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