There is more to basketball -- or any sport -- than Xs and Os.
Weber State (1-3) won its first game of the season Saturday night against San Jose State, giving coach Randy Rahe a tangible result after what he said were weeks of working on intangibles.
"What we've done these first three weeks, we did team-building for two weeks," Rahe said. "We've got so many new guys that we were worried about our team and the identity, how hard we've got to play, how tough we've got to be. Even though we worked on Xs and Os, we had to develop those intangibles."
In all those aspects, Rahe said, the Wildcats took a step backward in the second game of the season when they went to Colorado State and got thumped 88-67 on Nov. 16.
"I'd been so worried about just fighting for each other, playing for your teammates, being tough, playing hard, believing in yourself, that's what we've done for three weeks. Now we've got that and I thought we got that (in Game 3 on Nov. 26) against Utah State."
There were no "trust circles" involved, no corporate team-building exercises.
"There's no exercises," Rahe said. "I just talk to them. I just tell them --this is the way it is. We're gonna start playing for each other."
Early in the season, both newcomers and veterans, are focused on their own play, he said, and for an understandable reason.
"Kids sometimes try so hard and they worry about themselves more than the team-- not because they're selfish, it's because they're just trying really hard to do a good job," Rahe said. "Once we took the focus off of themselves and all these guys started focusing on their team and their teammates and not worrying about what was happening to them, all of a sudden the pressure is lifted. They go play harder, play tougher because they're playing for their teammates, they want to have their teammate's back and not let them down. That's all it is."
Freshman guard Richaud Gittens said the Wildcats wanted to do that Saturday night when San Jose State erased their double-digit lead midway through the second half.
"Our main emphasis as a team is just staying together at all times, no matter what happens, good stuff, bad stuff, whatever," he said. "So at that point in time, we just told each other we've got to stick together, fight through it and get past it."
Rahe said he delivered a severe message to his team after the Colorado State loss.
"I got pretty harsh with them in a lot of ways," he said. "I told them we are not this and we are not that and if we don't solve this, we are going nowhere."
Rahe is looking for a different stat or measuring stick to reflect teamwork and team-building players.
"In practice, it's about the enthusiasm -- when kids dive on the floor, teammates picking them up," he said. "Kid makes a great play-- who's going to lead our team in high-fives and buttslaps? There's no better feeling for a player than when you do something well, or even when you do something poorly, there's no better feeling than when you have a couple teammates come up to you and slap you on the butt or give you a high five and say, 'Hey, that's a great job, man, I'm happy for you.' Or you didn't do so well, you made a mistake -- 'Hey, don't worry about it, we got your back. You're fine.'"
The Wildcats worked on that chemistry, now it's time for the next step, Rahe said.
"It's a lot of talking, it's a lot of using examples in practice and I thought we got it at Utah State," he said. "I think we've got that. Now we've got to get better at some Xs and Os and defense and rebounding, some of those things. And we'll get there."
Contact sports writer Roy Burton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @RoyBurtonSE.