Bruce Weber hired Strength and Conditioning Coach Jimmy Price when named head coach at Illinois in 2003. Price discussed his background recently.
"I went to school at Texas Tech. I got a degree in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition with a minor in Psychology. I volunteered for two years as a strength coach there, and I was a paid assistant two years. Then I came here. This will be my seventh year."
Price has responsibility for helping his Illini charges gain strength, flexibility and conditioning to maximize their performance on the court. The actual drills vary.
"There are differences based on the different times of the year but also based on individual needs and individual preparation," Price explains. "When you look at what's called the Periodization Cycle, summertime is development. Strength development, correcting any kind of muscle imbalances, speed training, plyometric training, everything we can do to get the kid more athletic.
"Now during the preseason, it's more conditioning. You're still going to do those other things, but they're not going to be as much as anaerobic conditioning, interval conditioning, all those different factors to prepare our players to be able to go through a practice.
"And then obviously in season you're just trying to maintain as much as possible. One thing we've done the last few years is lift before practice, which is very helpful in maintaining your strength, power, stamina and everything else. The last thing you want to do after a three hour practice is go lift. So that's one change we've made.
"Postseason is more recovery modalities, correct everything that you can from the season. You know, get guys healthy and prepared to train in the summer."
Players are obligated to spend a certain number of hours weekly with Price during the school year.
"We start preseason when school starts in the fall. And that runs until the end of second semester."
However, summer workouts are voluntary. Price and his equipment are available for the players, but they must demonstrate a personal responsibility to benefit.
"There are blocks of time they can train and lift. It is a longer period in the summer. They have to come in on their own.
"Our guys do a good job because they understand what you have to do to compete for championships. They know it's not enough just to be middle of the pack. Any team that's gonna be good, you have to train in the summer. That is a big time to improve and get better.
"If you want to be good, you're putting in the time in the summer. You get out what you put in it. You can't expect to play if you don't train and try to get better. It's the older guys saying, 'If we're gonna be good, we need you here.'"
The summer school session ends in early August. The players have a couple weeks off before returning for fall semester. That is the time Price helps the players develop their overall endurance to withstand a long season.
"We'll do speed training. We won't do a lot of linear sprints, things like that in the summer. Once the preseason comes, you have about 15 workouts that prepare them for the start of practice. That's more running-based than anything else.
"Basketball is conditioning in and of itself. Even in the individual workouts, there's a strong conditioning component. If they're doing dunks for one minute, that's very taxing."
Price can help basketball players improve their overall athletic ability. But he can't force them to do the work. Some players are more dedicated than others and do everything Price asks of them and more. Others look for ways to avoid work, to do the minimum necessary to get by. Price says it is up to the individual to take the necessary steps to improve.
"It's based on individual drive. What drives and motivates an athlete? Is it looking at a championship and saying, 'I want one of those?' Is it looking at an individual award? If you get team awards, individual awards will come.
"I can tell them they need to eat, but I can't be there to make sure they do it. I try to follow up with them. We weigh in every week. So what I can do is guide them, help them do it. But at the end of the day, I cannot be there to put the food in their body. They have to take that upon themselves."
Part two of this report will discuss the some of the specific drills to help overall athleticism. Part three will talk about some of the individual players and the new freshmen.