The No. 1 team in the nation needs a little competition to stay sharp. More than it could get in a normal game. That’s why the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs play against each other every week.
Senior Corey Kispert said regular practice can get old, but the scrimmages that the team refers to as Competition Mondays inject energy back in their routine.
“It’s really fun, It’s nice to spice things up,” Kispert said. “We are a really competitive group, so Competition Monday rolls around and we really go at each other.”
Head coach Mark Few believes in giving his players freedom and making them use their basketball IQ. The Bulldogs are in good shape and can play at a fast pace, but Few doesn’t usually make them run lines in practice. Kispert said one of his favorite parts about the program is the approach of learning the game and getting better by just playing as much as possible.
When asked how his team has managed to stay consistent through such a strange season, Few said it was probably because the players really like each other and don’t want to let their teammates down. They’re also showing maturity and how much they truly like the game of basketball. But another big reason was simply the personalities in the roster.
“They are all innately competitive, so I think I and the staff try to tap into that daily,” Few said.
Kispert explained that he doesn’t get to play against his own teammates during the season, so it’s fun to face them in practice. Competition Mondays might not be official games, but that doesn’t mean they get taken lightly.
“Our practices are just brutal, without getting hurt obviously,” the 6’7 forward said. “We come out of there with scratches and bumps and bruises. We’re going at each other.”
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few does practices a little different. The Zags play against each other often, and they’re not afraid to get physical. Here’s what Corey Kispert (@corey_kispert) told me about Competition Mondays. pic.twitter.com/0Ob7562a9q— Isabel Gonzalez (@cisabelg) February 20, 2021
Gonzaga already clinched its eighth consecutive West Coast Conference regular season title, but the job is not done yet. The WCC tournament starts on March 4, and as of now, Gonzaga still plans on making the trip to Las Vegas. But of course the Bulldogs’ main goal is to win a national championship and everything they are doing right now is helping them prepare for that.
Kispert expects the Big Dance to have a lot more running than the regular season and also to be more physical. He said their practices help, but that the team as a whole is also trying to do all the little things during conference games such as winning the glass, taking charges and getting deflections.
Junior guard Andrew Nembhard has the same big picture mentality. He said it doesn’t matter how much success Gonzaga has had so far, the Bulldogs can’t take anything for granted.
“I think we are just becoming more mature and understand that just playing these games doesn’t mean we are going to get a guaranteed national championship.” Nembhard said. “We have to raise our level and keep improving every game.”