Bloomington – Bobby Capobianco isn't about to take Derek Elston's word for it when it comes to how much progress he's made on the scale.
The two incoming freshmen are in the midst of a head-to-head, off-season competition to get to 230 pounds. For Elston, it's about gaining more than 25 pounds from the 203 pounds that he weighed when he first arrived on campus, and for Capobianco it's about getting down from the 248 that he was at shortly after he got to Bloomington.
Both have made significant progress, with Capobianco saying he's slimmed down to 238. If we're to believe each players' self-report, though, that puts him slightly behind Elston, who said he has gained more than 20 pounds and has only five more to go.
Of course, Capobianco isn't about to take Elston's word for it, especially with a steak dinner on the line for the winner.
"Derek weighs in with his backpack on, and I'm sure he has a 10-pound weight in his backpack," joked Capobianco.
All joking aside, the couple of months leading up to the start of the 2009-10 season is a particularly important one for each of IU's freshmen. After last year's 6-25 campaign, a lot will be expected from each member of the six-man class that was ranked among the nation's best. All six could play a significant role on this year's team if they're physically ready to handle it.
For everyone other than Capobianco, that's meant putting on weight – and a lot of it – before the start of practice to get ready for the rigors of college basketball. Running has continued to be a big part of the summer conditioning work, but there's been a special emphasis on getting in the weight room everyday to add as much muscle as possible.
"Coach (Jeff) Wat(kinson) said we had to work on putting on weight," Elston said. "He said he could tell form last year how much of a difference weight can make in a game."
To a man, the freshmen have been making significant progress. Besides Capobianco and Elston, Jordan Hulls said he's gained 12-14 pounds to get to 174, just six pounds shy of his goal of 180. Christian Watford, meanwhile, has gained eight pounds and is at 220, five pounds short of his stated goal of 225.
While the players are unable to workout with IU Coach Tom Crean just yet, they've clearly gotten a healthy dose Watkinson, IU's strength and conditioning coach.
"Me and Coach Wat, we have a love-hate type of relationship," Watford said. "One moment you love him, then next moment you hate him. But it's all for the better and I know that he does, too."
Hulls said he's known for some time that getting stronger was going to be one of the biggest things he'd have to focus on to get on the court early in his career. The reigning Indiana Mr. Basketball said he played at 165 pounds last year at Bloomington South and that weight lifting was never a focus of his high school program, but that's changed now that he's on the north side of town.
"It's been good for me to be able to guard people who are going to try to post me up – that's going to happen," Hulls said. "I can't control my height (6'0"). It's been good to get here and get the weight situation taken care of."
By adding the weight in the preseason and then finding a way to maintain it once practice starts, the 2009 recruiting class will give itself a chance to play a significant role in helping the Hoosiers take a big step forward as far as wins and losses this season. There are plenty of quality players returning from last year's team that will once again play significant minutes, but there are high expectations for this group of newcomers and the role they'll play immediately.
None appear ready to shy away from that.
" I love it," Capobianco said. "We aren't guys that are going to back down. It's an awesome responsibility, but it's going to take a lot of work."
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