The following article is an excerpt from the story published in the November issue of the Pack Pride magazine. To learn more about the publication and how to subscribe, CLICK HERE.
When you think of college students and summertime, images of beach parties, cookouts and other fun activities usually come to mind. But the summer has a completely different atmosphere for members of the NC State men's basketball team. Although the various players each did different things this summer, they all had the same goal: to prepare for the upcoming season.
Here's a look at how some of the Wolfpack players spent their summer:
SOPHOMORE FORWARD ANDREW BRACKMAN
The start to Andrew Brackman's "offseason" has been well documented. On the night of Friday, March 25, the Wolfpack lost in the Sweet 16 to Wisconsin. It was close to 11 p.m. when the team got back to the hotel in Syracuse, N.Y., following the game and the bus left to go to the airport to head home early the next morning. However, by Saturday afternoon, Brackman was decked out in a different Wolfpack uniform, in the dugout at Doak field while the Pack's baseball team faced Lehigh.
"I called and asked Coach Avent if I could dress," he says. "I just felt like being out there. We were coming off a loss and I felt like I needed to be outside to get my mind off of it."
Brackman competed with the baseball team through the first of June, appearing in 10 contests and posting a 4-0 record on the mound. As soon as baseball season ended, he was able to go home to Cincinnati for a long visit.
"I was home for a day and a half at Christmas and two and a half days at fall break, so I couldn't wait to get home for a longer time," he says. "But all my friends were gone and I was actually kinda bored. I was just kind of lazy for a couple of weeks."
Brackman admits that he probably gets bored more easily than most people. He even acknowledges being a bit hyper.
"Yeah. I can't sit at home and do nothing. I feel like there's always somebody out there working harder than me. If I don't get my work in for the day, it's hard for me to sleep at night. Even when I'm at school, after study hall or on Friday and Saturday nights, I go to the weight room."
Besides taking classes during the second summer session, Brackman spent time lifting weights, playing pickup ball and throwing to keep his arm in shape. His only true break this summer was a four-day beach trip.
The Wolfpack's two-sport star says that he did accomplish one goal this summer: to gain some weight. He's gained about 30 pounds since the beginning of his freshman season, about 15 since the end of the year. "I just ate whatever was in front of me all summer," he says. "I basically spent the summer eating and trying to get better."
Courtney Fells was the first rookie to arrive in Raleigh this summer, but
he started preparing for the upcoming season as soon as his prep season ended in
March. "I got a weightlifting
program and started doing the same workouts the guys were doing here," he
says. "When I got here in June, I
just spent all of my time lifting and trying to get to know the guys ... trying
to fit into the system."
Courtney Fells was the first rookie to arrive in Raleigh this summer, but he started preparing for the upcoming season as soon as his prep season ended in March. "I got a weightlifting program and started doing the same workouts the guys were doing here," he says. "When I got here in June, I just spent all of my time lifting and trying to get to know the guys ... trying to fit into the system."
Fells said that his summer was not filled with play, but filled with work and preparation. "I got up, went to study hall, went to class, lifted weights, played ball and went to sleep. That's my whole summer. That's what my goal was this summer: to work and get prepared."
SOPHOMORE GUARD GAVIN GRANT
Everybody who watches Wolfpack basketball knows how proud Gavin Grant is of his hometown: The Bronx in New York City. After the spring semester ended, he couldn't wait to get home for a couple of weeks.
"My favorite thing to do when I get there is go shopping on Fordham Road," he says. "Besides that, I love to just hang out in the neighborhood."
Parkchester, the area where Grant lives, is divided into four areas, with each area having its own park. His park is East Park, and he says he frequently goes there to play basketball with the neighborhood kids.
"I'll line them up and play them all, one on one. They're all 13 years old or under and I'll play like 10 of them. They like to play against me when I come home, but I never let them win. They always want to know what it's like to play college ball. I'm kinda a hometown hero in some way. A lot of people show me love. Everybody knows I go to NC State and they all ask me how it's going."
Once he came back to Raleigh, Grant also says that his summer was spent in the gym with his teammates. When asked if he had any fun, he replies, "That is fun. Playing basketball and hanging out with the guys. Trying to get better."
JUNIOR GUARD ENGIN ATSUR
Engin Atsur logged some frequent flier miles during his summer ‘break,' with two trips from Raleigh to Turkey and some more travel once he got home.
"After the season, I was exhausted mentally," he recalls. "I took about 10 days off from lifting and working out and tried to get caught up with classes. It's nice to have time, but after a while you don't know what to do with yourself. You get out of class and you eat and ... no more! Of course, socially it is better, but when you are used to working so much it is hard not to be working."
After the end of the spring semester, Atsur was able to take advantage of a free ticket and go home to Istanbul for 10 days. It was his first trip home since last summer. "That was good. I spent some time with my family and friends."
After coming back to the States for the first session of summer school, Atsur went home for an extended visit during second session - staying a month and a half.
Not long after he got home, he and his family went to visit his brother, Emre, who was working an internship with Daimler-Chrysler in Stuttgart, Germany. From there, he and his brother took a road trip. "We went for a little bit…maybe a week," he says. "We went down to Switzerland and Italy and stayed in cheap hotels. It was fun. The best place was in Italy. It was called Cinca Terra and it was five little villages next to each other on the coast. It was beautiful. The nature was really nice. There were all of those, how do you say…wineyards? Vineyards? It was relaxing. My brother and I are really close and that was the first time I'd spent that much time with him in a long time."
When he went back to Turkey later in the summer, there was no such relaxation. Every day, he would get up and drive an hour across Istanbul to a gym. There he would lift for an hour, shoot for an hour, take a shower and then drive an hour back across town. "I worked on lifting, quickness. It was a long day."
Atsur says that his goal for the summer was to get stronger. "The summer before I got bigger, so now my plan was to get stronger. I think I'm a little thicker now, but my body fat is lower. So, I know I've gained some muscle."
One thing he also gained over the summer was a mane of curly locks. He's since gone back to his close-cropped hairstyle, but when he first returned, his hair was long and curly. "I had my hair long before, but people here didn't know it."
Atsur was surprised at how ready he was to return to Raleigh after his visit home. "For some reason, I was ready to come back. I am more comfortable over here. My life is more organized here. Except for my family, there was no more reason to stay there."
FRESHMAN FORWARD BRANDON COSTNER
Brandon Costner didn't experience much homesickness when he came to NC State from New Jersey back in July. "It really wasn't too hard for me to be away from home," he says. "I was away a lot when I was playing AAU ball, but I'm also so used to traveling because I didn't grow up there. "
Costner lived in France for two years, in Italy for two years and spent seven years in Greece, while his father was playing professional basketball. He also knew exactly how much work went into preparing for a season.
Costner says he might have relaxed for a little too long after his high school season ended in April. But he more than made up for it once he came to Raleigh in July.
"I tried to work out before I came, but I really started when I got here. My goal was to work as hard as I could. I knew that it wasn't going to be fun, being on a schedule and a strict regimen every day; lifting, going to study hall, playing, going to class. Sometimes I wouldn't get done until 9 at night. It was like being at camp for a year. I knew what I had to do, but I didn't realize how much work I was going to have to put in, so I had to learn to adjust."
That adjustment has already paid off. He says he was well prepared for the academic crush of the fall semester after getting into a study routine this summer. He also says that the preparation will pay big dividends once practice starts and his free time gets even more scarce.
The team's annual 6:00 a.m. mile-run on the first day of classes loomed large in Costner's mind for much of the summer. "I was really thinking about that mile-run," he laughs. "I really worked hard to be able to make that time. I ended up making it two weeks before, so by the time the real run came, it wasn't a big deal any more."
Costner says he definitely feels that his hard work has paid off. "I came in at 236 and had 16% body fat. Now I'm done to 233 and my body fat is 9%. It feels good to see the results and knowing the summer wasn't wasted."
This article is an excerpt from the story published in the November issue of the Pack Pride magazine. To learn more about the publication and how to subscribe, CLICK HERE.