CHURCH HILL – Mike Poe’s young Volunteer Falcons are growing up fast.
Last week, the team traveled to the Hurricane Dorian-ravaged Bahamas, where they competed in a tournament against super-athletic squads, played international rules with a shot clock, then learned what college and pro basketball is all about: taking the practice floor and resuming a regular-season schedule with jet lag.
Monday, the Falcons shuffled onto their floor at Volunteer straight off a trip from the airport to prepare for a visit to West Greene Tuesday night, seven days after leaving for the islands.
“My plan was to give them a taste of what it was like and what it’s all about as young as we are,” Poe said. “It was outstanding, probably the best thing for this team at this point in time for where they are in their career.”
Poe is coaching a predominantly young team.
“We’ve got four seniors, but we’ll get most of this team back,” Poe said. “To go down there and play against the type of athleticism and quickness that you see down there, there’s no way to simulate that and it forces you to make a play quicker than you are accustomed to make it. It was a great experience for everybody.
“We got down there and won a game. We won our last one. We competed in two other games and had chances to win both of them and didn’t. And then we got blown out pretty handily by one team,” Poe said.
“You’ve got to learn how to win. We were playing international rules – we had a shot clock. So, we’re having to play with a shot clock. We got a lead late in the game and we couldn’t hold the ball because we’ve got a shot clock,” he said.
“So that is different than what we have here and it forces you to make a play at that point in time of the game, which is good experience, too,” Poe said.
“The last game we won, we made a last –second shot to win. Jon Wes (Lovelace) made a three-point shot at the buzzer. The buzzer went off while the ball was in the air. We were glad that we got a win while we were there.
“At this point, if you told me we could be 4-4 at this point, I’d have taken it, starting two freshmen, sophomore and you’re playing two more freshmen and sophomores coming off the bench. I’m very pleased with where we are,” Poe said.
Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas on Sept. 1, then lingered over the islands the next two days. With winds reported to be 185-mph, winds and storm surge caused an estimated 61 deaths and $7 billion in catastrophic damage.
“Where we were staying, it didn’t get hit very hard,” Poe said. “There were some roofs damaged and stuff, but the devastation was on the other side of the island. We didn’t have transportation to go over there to that side.”
While the Falcons didn’t witness first-hand the devastation, they heard from those who did.
“They had an opening ceremony in which all of the teams that were there were all represented. They got to hear them talk about what they had been through and what the people had been through. I think they got a pretty good idea what kind of tragedy that was,” Poe said.
“It humbles you, without a doubt. We’re the most fortunate people in the world and you get a pretty good idea what that truly means and how truly fortunate we are,” Poe said.
“They’ve got eight high schools on the island and two gyms. That’s it. They practice outside. That’s normal – the way it always is. It was truly an experience that I think they will always remember. I hope to go back in two years,” Poe said.
How much the young Falcons grow between now and then remains to be seen, as does how they’ll compare. Poe believes the experience will pay immediate dividends.
“We may have some jet lag,” Poe said. “But when we play people back here, they’re going to look like they’re in slow motion.
“You cannot explain how fast and how hard those teams play down there. They force you to play harder than what you’re accustomed to playing, which I hope, over time, we can do this on a daily basis.
“If we can get to that, then you can start winning the battles. That’s the main thing what it’s all about,” Poe said.