Jola Williams rocked in her McKenzie Arena seat and clasped her hands Saturday as if the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team was playing in the final minutes of the Southern Conference championship game.
But the Mocs were just practicing.
UTC coach Will Wade provided the public a quick glimpse into his "Chaos" system by opening practice for the first time this season.
"You should see her during a game," said Jola's husband, Jerry Williams.
The couple were among at least 150 people who attended the showcase, including former players, longtime season-ticket holders, casual fans and some students. One youngster wearing yellow pants and yellow shades shouted encouragement to the team a few times. Players later delivered him a free T-shirt.
"I'm going to be happy coming to games," said Jola Williams, who renewed her season tickets with her husband after taking a break last year. "I'll be happy rooting for my home team. We like the Chaos tempo."
The Williams were immediately impressed by Wade -- not Saturday, but three weeks ago.
"We were purchasing our tickets and Coach Wade was on the phone, and he said, 'Let me call you back,' to whoever he was talking to," Jerry Williams said. "He took time to welcome us and thank us. It was a pretty good first impression."
They were also impressed Saturday morning when the Mocs spent 90 minutes going through several of their typical drills and finishing the public event with a short scrimmage. Sophomore guard Gee McGhee led all players with seven points, including two 3-pointers.
"Energy and hustle -- they seem like a tight-knit group right now," Jerry Williams said. "It's the intensity and tempo of the practice I like."
And it turned out to be slower than most UTC closed practices in the Chattem facility on campus, Wade said, partly due to the different surroundings.
"We're still in the infant stages, and we have a lot of stuff we need to improve on," Wade said before taking the team to the practice facility for more work. "We made great strides over the first couple weeks of practice. Our pace wasn't as quick as it is when we've been in the practice gym, and I think it's good to get in here in front of some people, and I think that led to some of our slowness."
UTC started with a warmup directed by new strength and conditioning coach Greg Goldin, whose official title is assistant director of Olympic sports. He combined stretching with continual talking and players shouting the drill they were going to do.
The showcase also included a handful of passing drills, including a three-man fastbreak drill in which the ball never touched the floor. They worked on half-court drills in whicih all five players wound up taking a shot, thanks to help from the 10 managers on the roster.
They played a fast-break drill in which a two-on-one grew to a three-on-two up until it reached a five-on-four.
The sounds of shoes squeaking on the hardwood and balls bouncing on the floor and whistles chirping never stopped during the public viewing.
"We love the support, so we wanted to show the fans what we're about," sophomore wing Casey Jones said. "We're blue-collar, we're the hardest working team in the SoCon, and we're going to work this year."
The players, the coaching staff, the managers and trainers closed the session by breaking the huddle and shouting, "Appreciation!"
"We always break it down with 'Appreciation,' because without fans we wouldn't be who we are, without teammates pulling for us we'd fall down," McGhee said. "But we're brothers, so we continue to push each other."
Senior Zaccheus Mason did not participate due to a minor knee injury but should be fine by the first game. ... Freshman guard Anthanee Doyle will continue to be out with an undisclosed illness. ... Junior guard Ronrico White is still out with a hip injury but played the role of a passer on a few drills. ... East Mississippi Community College guard Jacolby Mobley (6-0, 160) was in attendance Saturday.
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...