EDMONTON – For Mike Connolly, personally, this weekend's visit to the Lethbridge will be a special one.
This will be his first trip back as an opposing coach to the gym that used to be his home base as Pronghorns bench boss from 2002-09.
"There are some good memories there," said the MacEwan Griffins head coach. "I played there, it was one of my first U SPORTS coaching gigs, so it does mean a lot. I'll be able to see some friends, some alumni, some players that played for me, so that will be nice.
"On the other hand, all those guys know we have a job to do and we're going to take care of that job first. Right now our focus is on our team and what we can do, how we can be prepared and play the best basketball we can while we're down there."
The Griffins (0-4) will visit the Pronghorns (1-5) for a pair of games on Friday (8 p.m.) and Saturday (7 p.m., both Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
It will be MacEwan's first action in three weeks, but Connolly notes they've used the break well to continue their growth as a team.
"We still don't know if that will be a correlation to our results as a team this weekend, but I will say we used these three weeks practicing, working on our skills, our game and watching a lot of video to try and learn since we have that time," he said. "We've learned. We're growing. We're doing things better."
Part of that has included filming practices so corrections can be made. Practice makes perfect, so they say, but there is no substitute for game action, so it will be interesting to see where they're at when the ball tips off on Friday.
"Now we've got to execute that in a game, which is a totally different scenario," said Connolly. "People will say 'are you going to be ready to play, are you going to be rusty?' Well, this week we've tried to do some things where we put them at a disadvantage so they have to have extra focus. We'll see if that helps. You've got to come in and play right away. Let's be honest, if you're not ready to play, (the problem) is focus."
To be successful against Lethbridge, the Griffins will need to win the rebounding battle and play well defensively.
"I think we have to defend them well," he said. "They push the ball, they run and we're going to have to stop their transition. One of the things we have to do is they rebound the ball well, so we're going to have to do a good job of boxing out and win the battle of the offensive boards.
"One of our goals is we have to beat the other team on rebounds. It doesn't mean total rebounds, it means offensive rebounds."