April 30, 2007
The calendar reads April. The clock says it is 11 p.m. All is quiet in Allen Arena.
Well, not entirely.
Shattering the late night quiet and emptiness of the arena is the thump, thump, thump of a basketball hitting a hardwood floor. A subtler, but more important, sound is the swish of nylon netting as the ball goes effortlessly through the hoop.
These are the times when players get better at their craft. For rising Lipscomb senior forward Eddie Ard extra work is no big deal. But driven by the need to be a leader in the 2007-2008 season and a need to forget the inconsistencies of last season Ard is spending even more time
"Eddie has always been a guy who stays in the gym for long hours at a time," Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. `As good as he is he still has a lot of room to improve. I think he is going to have a breakout year.
"I want him to have the same type of passion for work that he had two-and-half years ago when he was trying to get off our bench.. He did everything he could do to get better."
Ard is quiet by nature. But he joins center Jason Hopkins and guard LaKory Daniels, who both transferred to the program, as one of only three seniors on the team next season. With five newcomers arriving in what many consider to be the best recruiting class in Sanderson's eight years as head coach, the need to lead has never been as important.
"We have had team meetings and individual meetings with our players," Sanderson said. "The one main theme from everybody was that `I hope he is our leader...I hope he evolves into being our leader.
"Eddie is an easy guy to follow. He is going to do all the things necessary to be a better player. He is going to lift weights. He is going to practice hard. He is going to work out in individual workouts. The guys want to follow his lead, but he has to learn to be a more effective leader. That is one of the things we are working through right now."
Ard, a Marketing major from LaPlace, La., knows he has to become a better communicator with his teammates both on and off of the court. Last season senior guards Trey Williams and Brian Fisk ran the show and Ard was content to let them.
"With those guys gone I have to step up," Ard said. "I have to be a lot more vocal on the court. It is an honor when people want you to be a leader.
"As of right now I am kind of uncomfortable about it because I really don't talk a lot. When I talk to my teammates I usually do it directly. There are a lot of things you have to work on that are uncomfortable at the start, but they become a part of your game."
Ard. 6-foot-5, earned second-team all-conference honors in the Atlantic Sun last season. He averaged 15 points per game, fifth in the league and 5.8 rebounds per game, eighth in the conference. He also led the conference in free throw shooting hitting 122-of-146 attempts (83.6 percent). Most players would be thrilled with statistics of that magnitude, but for Ard, who was the preseason pick of the A-Sun coaches for Player of the Year, it was a disappointment.
"Last year was a setback," Ard said. "I didn't perform to my capabilities on a consistent basis for various reasons. To make up for last season, and then some, I have to put in a lot of extra work and get better every day.
"I have to be a good leader to set the tone for the new guys. But I have to set a good example so those who lead after me will be even better leaders."
No one questions Ard's ability to shoot the basketball. But his ability to play without the basketball is the key to taking his game to an even higher level.
"Good players help to raise the level of play of their teammates," Sanderson said. "He can do that if he learns how to play without the ball more.
"Everyone was keying on him last season. If that happens this season his ability to get the ball to his teammates will really help him. He also has to work on his ballhandling and limit his mistakes and work on his defense."
Ard knows his shortcomings as a player. His primary concern is to make sure he is better in all of those areas.
"I don't want to take anything lightly," Ard said. "Leading this team next season is the opportunity of a lifetime. They say a good leader makes those around him better. That's the toughest part of it all."