Thursday, September 15, 2011

There's a reason that college basketball players are in such good condition

Every team at every level of college basketball has some form of 'Hell Week'.

When I was in college, Hell Week was the first week of official practices in mid-October. That week always ended up being the same week as our Fall Break, meaning that our coaches had free reign at us without having to worry about class schedules. Obviously, that meant double sessions. The mornings consisted of conditioning -- sprints, two-mile runs, weights, plyos -- all before lunch. The afternoons were reserved for our actual practices, which were just as intense and physically demanding. Six days of this was brutal.

That, however, seems like a cakewalk compared to the 6 am Navy SEAL training Shaka Smart has his players going through. From's Matt Norlander:

The workouts go from 6:30 to 8 a.m., though can feel three times as long. Burgess said at some points it was absolutely brutal, as you’d imagine. I spoke to him early Wednesday morning, and he sounded tired as hell.

“We carried each other, did a lot of push-ups,” Burgess said. There was also ab work, tug-of-war and sled-tugging. Wednesday morning was more individual workouts. “We had to run, do bear crawls, crab walking. It was a lot of long-distance running. ... He’s trying to get our mental aspects of the game right. He teaches us to battle fatigue just like our coaches have all along."
Frankly, any conditioning workouts you go through early in the season are going to be brutal, whether they are based on Navy SEAL training or not. That Navy SEAL factor only adds to the level of anxiousness the players have when they crawl into bed early in order to be able to wake up for pre-dawn bear crawls. (If you have never done a bear crawl, try doing a lengthy sprint crawling on your hands and feet, not your hands and knees. Not fun.) . But the cool part about VCU's workout are that everyone on the staff -- including head coach Shaka Smart all the way down to the Director of Basketball Operations -- is taking part. Its a team building exercise, learning to overcome adversity and legs made of gelatin as a team.

"The great, great thing instructor McGuire preached was, when you get done, you don’t stand and rest. You go back to last. You go back to the last guy in line and help him finish," Smart told Norlander.

There may only be one team in the country that would trade their conditioning sessions with VCU: the Memphis Tigers.


Because they are spending their fall working out with the terrifyingly mysterious Frank Mastriciano. How intense are his workouts? Freshman Adonis Thomas has already put on 25 pounds of muscle, going from a 6'7", 205 lb kid to a chiseled, 230 lb beast.

How intimidating is he? The Memphis players won't even talk about him.

"Is that Frank yelling?" Memphis beat writer Jason Smith asked Preston Laird at a late-August workout he was allowed to attend.

"I'm not saying anything," Laird answered, smiling.

Later, after Smith thought he caught a glimpse of Mastriciano, he asked Ferrakhon Hall for confirmation. Hall simply "smiled and shrugged his shoulders".

And you think cross-fit is tough.

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