Todd Wright talks Texas hoops – Part 1

The Texas Longhorns basketball program features one of, if not the very best strength and conditioning coach in college basketball in Todd Wright. On Thursday in Austin, Wright took the time to speak with Burnt Orange Beat on a variety of subjects, including the Texas basketball team and plans for new transfer Jai Lucas.

Todd Wright is as important to the Texas basketball program as anyone from top to bottom. The renowned strength and conditioning coach is key in laying the foundation for the players from their first day on campus. Wright, now in his eleventh season at Texas, has earned a reputation that has garnered respect from coast to coast.

In recent years, Wright has become a well-respected speaker in the strength and conditioning field. During the summer of 2006, he spoke on the subject of "Vertical Core Training", which is training the core in the upright position. He was a featured speaker at the Perform Better Training summits in Long Beach, Calif., Chicago and Providence.

A summer later in 2007, Wright spoke on the subject of "Juhoplepsking". Wright discussed using ground reaction to enhance functional performance by jumping, hopping, leaping and skipping at the same Perform Better Training summits.

Along with being a valued speaker in the industry, Wright has also written chapters in books and various magazine and print articles.

On Thursday, Wright sat down with Burnt Orange Beat to talk about a variety of subjects including this year's team and his plans for transfer Jai Lucas.

Q: What are your thoughts on the team and where they are at physically right now?

A: We are an older group of guys, so the guys like Mason, Damion and A.J. are in a good place. Unfortunately, we have a handful of guys that need some work. Connor has had some injuries that have really hurt his health here the last little bit, but we are in a good place and moving in a better direction in the last ten days. Dexter hit a great stretch there for a while and then his health took a step back. His back started locking up on him a little. Clint Chapman is a guy that over the next three weeks will improve physically as we get back to a regimented schedule.

Overall, we're in a pretty good place. Gary Johnson is in a pretty good place physically compared to last year. If I can get each guy individually better, the team will be better. Coach Barnes has done an unbelievable job of picking times to work them and rest them.

Q: The lone true freshman on the team is Varez Ward. Have you seen anything from him physically that you feel like he can improve from year one to year two?

A: I think that Varez is probably the most gifted freshman physically that I've ever had. As a freshman, there is a lot that goes into this. The ability to create a routine when you are traveling, the ability to understand where to get your shots in games and how you can really help the team. I feel like he is in a position now to help the team, as he is understanding where his shots should come from and how he can help defensively. I would think that over the next month you'll see improved play from him like you've seen from Dogus.

Obviously, in the last four games Dogus has really started to understand our schemes and where he needs to get guys the ball and where he's going to have success.

Q: What have you seen from Jai Lucas in his first week and what type of plan do you have in place for him?

A: Obviously, he comes from a family that has an incredible basketball mind. Watching him, he's been a great addition to our program chemistry wise. The players love him and you can see how smart of a player he is.

He's small, but we've had some great success with small guys here. He came in from a program that I respect tremendously in how they develop their kids on the court and in the weight room, so his body is actually in a really good place. We have started to train him three extra days a week compared to the other guys with lifting him a little more. We'll begin to spend more time with Jai to figure out how we can really help his game. It's going to take some time watching him move to figure out how we can help him performance wise on the basketball court.

Q: You have about 15 years working with college athletes. What changes are you seeing in young guys when they enter college?

A: I think that Coach Barnes' recruiting philosophy and the guys that we have are different. We have not necessarily gone out and got every piece of best talent we could, but have gotten pieces that would be vital for the existence of our program, which requires recruiting good guys.

We are very lucky right now. Our future is unbelievably bright right now because we have incredible talent coming in, but they are very high character kids. That is a direct compliment to our staff that we have had the success we've had with good guys.

The only thing I've really noticed over the years is that the kids are really coming in beat up (physically). As the years go on, kids are going to come in more beat up, so my ability to keep getting better and understand how to fix tendinitis, lower back issues with the ability to evaluate a kid and working to find a problem before it becomes a major injury is important. There will be a premium on that skill so I have to continually find a way to get better because that's the biggest factor.

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