By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 5, 2014) — On Monday and Tuesday, Mercedes Lane will play the role of Raijon Kelly while Curtis Woods does his best impression of Omari Gudul.
And as soon as Wednesday night’s Lone Star Conference opener against Angelo State is complete, the scout team leaders for No. 4 Tarleton State will switch guises, spending the rest of the week acting as Texas A&M-Kingsville’s Troy Jones and Jordan Jahr.
“We study the other team a lot because we have to be able to give our guys a good look in practice,” said Woods, a redshirt sophomore forward from Dallas. “We have to know everything they do on offense, defense, even their inbound plays.”
Lane says it’s the scout team’s job to know the opponent even more than the first and second-teamers who get the bulk of the playing time.
“We have to do our job so they can do theirs,” said Lane, a redshirt junior guard from Midland. “We have to be ready to go out in practice and play whatever style and run whatever plays teams are going to run against us in the games, so that the guys who do play are ready for it.”
Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman says the scout team’s role, while far from glorious, is a key piece to his team’s success. He should know. The game at Angelo State is the 800th in his 27 years at Tarleton, and he’s won 570 of the previous 799, a win percentage of .713. His club is currently 12-0 this season, and is 40-3 since the start of last season.
“Players like Curtis Woods, Mercedes Lane, Sawyer Kipp and Jacob Morales are so crucial to our success,” Reisman said. “You won’t succeed unless you’re prepared, and we couldn’t prepare the way we do without them.”
For Woods, Lane and the rest of the scout teamers, that could mean executing a slow, grinding offense that works the shot clock one day and pressing all over the court while running and gunning offensively the next. And while opponents only have to deal with the talented Tarleton lineup when the schedule dictates, Lane and Wood face the likes of Mo Lee, Malcolm Hamilton and Davene Carter on a daily basis.
“It’s our job to make them better, but going against them makes us better, too. I know it’s made me a lot better,” said Lane. “We have a lot of talent, it’s not easy going against them everyday.”
Woods bangs in the paint and fights for rebounding position against Carter, TaShawn Mabry, EJ Reed and other Tarleton forwards, learning first-hand while opponents struggle down low against the Texans.
“It’s tough against them, you have to earn everything. And I know they’re even more intense out there in games,” Woods said. “It’s hard to get good looks against our defense.”
Especially when they are prepared for whatever the opponent throws at them, something both Texans say associate head coach Chris Reisman specializes in.
“Sometimes it’s like Coach Chris knows the other team’s offense better than they do,” said a laughing Lane. “We just have to listen to him and get in it and try hard to use the same tempo and style they do so our guys are ready for them.”
“I don’t know how (Chris Reisman) does it all. It’s like we come to practice the day after a game and he already knows all the plays for the next team and is teaching it to us,” Woods said. “He knows their tendencies, who they’re shooters are, if they play fast or slow, everything.”
While Lane and Woods clearly take their roles in the Texan program seriously, the fact remains, nobody hopes to stay on the scout team.
“That’s always what you’re hoping is that you get better while helping them so you can earn your time on the court,” Lane said. “Whenever we’re winning and we do get to go in late in the games, that’s like reward time. That’s why we always have so much fun out there.”
“Everyone wants to get in the rotation, but you have to pay your dues,” said Woods. “You gotta show you can get it done in practice, so that’s what we try to do everyday.”
Regardless who he’s impersonating that day.