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For Phoenix Rising’s Marcus Epps, there’s an extra edge in Saturday’s clash against San Antonio. Epps joined Rising from the Texan side over the offseason, and scored in the teams’ only clash since that move.
“For me personally, it’s something that’s exciting,” Epps said. “I get up for games like that because not only do I know what to expect tactically on the field, it’s just always exciting to play former teammates, former staff.”
Rising coach Rick Schantz has long touted the potential benefits of including players in games against former teams, and the upcoming clash with San Antonio looks to be no exception.
“Sometimes players really do well in that and they cherish those opportunities,” Schantz said. “Other times, players get too much in their head.
“I’ve been really impressed with Marcus lately. He’s starting to play extremely well, but I think in general, when you play against a former team, hopefully at this level, you want to show them what they’re missing. “
The benefit goes beyond just added motivation.
“Marcus gives us a lot of information about how they train, how they approach their games, what their coach is like,” Schantz said. “I’ve spent some time with him talking about it, but now it’s a new season. They’ve got new players. They’re eight games in, and we’re all kind of starting to figure out who we are.”
“Obviously they talked to me, and other guys when we’re playing former teams,” Epps added. “Rick and the rest of the staff, they already do an excellent job studying the other team. I think this week they’re more than prepared, and I think we’re all more than prepared.”
That information does help, but more so is scouting of recent matches. In recent weeks, the return of players such as PC from injury has led to minor tactical tweaks.
“For us at home, we have to take the game to them a bit,” Schantz said. “It’s our responsibility, but at the same time knowing that they’re a very good team. They’re very aggressive, good in the air. They’re good at second balls in transition. Marcus has been fantastic.
“Any time we play a team where there’s a former player it’s helpful, but I think in most cases it’s usually one of our players that’s playing for the opposition, so they probably have just as much information on us.”
Now, it’s time for Phoenix to put the information it has to use and claim a second victory over its Texan visitors. If Rising can complete the season double, some San Antonio players may find their phones lighting up on Saturday night.
“There’s a few,” Epps said, laughing. “I’m not going to point them out, but they know who they are. There’s a lot of guys in that group that I respect and have good relationships with, so it’ll be fun to put in the work on the field and then joke around afterwards.”