STERLING – Up and down the floor they went at Musgrove Fieldhouse.
Keith Radcliff led the Premier Basketball League in scoring with 29 points per game for the Indiana Diesels. Kwan Waller scored 39 per game for the Rockford Riverdawgs of the International Basketball Association.
During the Sauk Valley Predators’ first practice Monday night, they went up and down the hardwood mano-a-mano.
After a half-dozen trips, first-year Preds coach Ryan Vasquez stopped the drill to reiterate its purpose.
“We’re going to play defense,” he said. “You’re gonna get your butt down and do it right, or we’re gonna start all over.”
Stern music to Radcliff’s ears.
“Defense is what wins games,” the 26-year-old guard out of the University of Indianapolis said. “You can fill it up, but if you don’t stop nobody, it’s pointless.”
He and the other 11 Predators are in the Sauk Valley to win.
“We come from all over,” Radcliff said. “We’re here on a business trip. We’re gonna handle business. It’s gonna be an exciting season.”
Radcliff hopes to own a literal business someday. He is on course to complete his graduate studies in human resources at Indiana Wesleyan Unversity in April.
Two days before the Predators held tryouts Jan. 27, Radcliff emailed co-owner Leah Grenoble to see if the team had a spot available.
“If he just showed up to tryouts, we knew we were going to sign him,” Leah’s husband and co-owner Brad said.
Sunday night, the Grenobles met with the host families and the players.
“I asked [Radcliff], ‘Why’d you choose us? You’re a proven leader. You’re a scorer,’ ” Brad said. “He goes, ‘Yeah, I’ll score 18 a game, if I can win.’ ”
Vasquez gave his team a packet of plays and defensive schemes, a validating moment for Radcliff.
“I didn’t even see a defensive scheme last year,” Radcliff said. “The structure is huge. I want to be with an organization that’s behind their players 100 percent.”