A Q&A With Strength Coach Richard Akins

Mississippi State basketball strength coach Richard Akins talks one-on-one with Gene's Page.

What are you able to do with the guys right now?
"We've had them since the first term of summer school has started. What we are trying to do right now is develop some strength and agility. We do a lot more lifting than we do conditioning. We are trying to develop explosiveness in them, give them a good first step, make them stronger physically. And, hopefully, work on their mental toughness."

You've been able to work with them for the first term. You probably didn't get to work with many of them except for half a summer last year. Have you been able to do some different things with them this summer due to working with them before?
"We've done a lot of different things with them because, number 1, all the guys who were freshmen last year understand what we are trying to do. Since we aren't having to do a lot of teaching, we are able to do a lot more work with them. And they have responded real well with everything that we have asked of them. Their attitude has been really good. And I don't see it changing when the second term of summer school starts. We'll have a few new kids in then and have to do some more teaching."

Some of the guys are returning from injuries. What are you able to do with them during the summer?
"We are close with all of them. Jalen (Steele) is the one guy that is doing some catchup right now because he was the last one to be injured. But the rest of them are back and we can do what we need to do with them. But anytime you have a guy in the weightroom who has been injured you want to make sure everything you do with him is right. Due to that, we bring them along slowly. But, as of right now, everybody is back to full force other than Jalen. Jalen is close to being back full force and close to being able to rock and roll."

What is it like to have almost all of them back together and healthy?
"They are very enthusiastic. Everybody is getting healthy and enjoying being around each other. This part is never totally enjoyable because it is work, hard work every day. But with that being said, all of our kids have bought into what we are trying to do. And they are all doing a really good job."

You have one new guy in, freshman point guard I.J. Ready. How has he handled your workouts?
"We spent the first term of summer school teaching him. But he picks things up really well. Right now, he is in there doing what everybody else is doing. The thing with him is he absorbed everything that we told him. The second week with him and he was wide open."

Did he surprise you how quickly he picked everything up?
"If you have ever talked to I.J. it wouldn't surprise you. He is very attentive and concentrates on what you tell him to do. He's a point guard; he sees everything around him. I've been really excited to work with him. He's been a pleasure to be around."

It sounds like you can see some leadership ability in him.
"I do. I think he will be a good leader for us when we get everybody in here and he gets used to everybody. It's tough for a freshman to come from high school and into this type of environment. But he has picked it up real well. I have been exceptionally pleased with everything that I.J. has done. And really all of the guys have been working hard."

This is your second summer to work with Rick Ray. Are you two on the same page now that you have worked together for awhile?
"Oh yeah. He and I have sat down and had several conversations about things that he wants to do and things that I want to do. He and I have meshed very well together. It boils down to discipline and hard work and I think we both think along the same line in regard to those two things."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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