Season of Strength

Chances are that during any WVU men's basketball game, you can find Andy Kettler sitting quietly on the end of the bench, taking in the action and more or less keeping to himself throughout the game. However, don't let Kettler's stoic in-game demeanor fool you. When it's time to work, he's as intense as they come.

Kettler, a Cincinnati native, is in his first season at the helm of the strength and conditioning program for West Virginia's men's and women's basketball teams. He joined the staff this past summer after serving two seasons as the head strength and conditioning coach at Winthrop University.

In the preseason, Kettler's role in the program is pretty self-explanatory. In short, it's his job to get the players in the best possible physical condition before handing them over to head coaches Bob Huggins and Mike Carey. Both coaches are noted for their tough – if not demanding – practices. Kettler's strength and conditioning sessions are no different.

"There is a mentality that (the players) are asked to have by the coaches on the floor," Kettler explained in an interview for a story in the October 11 edition of the Blue & Gold News . "I would like to think that the mentality and mental toughness that they have on the floor is being carried over in (the weight room). I put these guys in a lot of situations where they are forced to fail or see how long they are going to go before they quit. I try to do a lot of things that push them to their limits. I think they've done a good job of understanding and learning that."

Under his watch, several Mountaineer players added noticeable bulk in the offseason. Freshman forward Kevin Jones added 17 pounds of muscle in the time between his first day on campus and his first preseason practice. Wellington Smith added 15 pounds after returning from the Jones Cup. John Flowers put on 12 pounds.

Once the season begins, Kettler's role changes. The players go from spending a couple of hours a week with the coaching staff in the preseason to spending three hours a day in practice, six days a week. And once games begin in mid-November, the activity level of the players expands not only to basketball, but to traveling as well.

As the long season naturally progresses, it begins to take a noticeable toll on the players' bodies. It's not unusual to see players lose weight as fatigue sets in. To the credit of Kettler and his staff, a proactive approach is now in place to ensure that fatigue and weight loss are minimized in Morgantown.

"It's been pretty good so far," Kettler said last Friday. "We've gone with a combination of using our dietician and making sure that they get their (nutritional) shakes in after workouts, whether they're basketball workouts or in the weight room with strength and conditioning workouts.

"We've just been staying on them about their weight and what they're eating," he continued. "When we're on the road with them traveling, we make sure they eat right and get their calories. We've been doing all of those things and slowly take them and build them together to educate the kids. It's been pretty good so far."

In addition to his time at Winthrop, Kettler has worked on the strength and conditioning staffs of the San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians. When it comes to travel and in-season wear and tear, baseball is even more demanding than basketball. Having spent a considerable amount of time in both sports, Kettler has a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't.

One constant -- no matter what the sport -- is that every athlete is different. For example, the same dietary strategy that works for Player X might not work for Player Y. Under Kettler's watch, each athlete has a specific plan tailored to what works best for the particular individual.

"I've done this before, but you've got to watch because every player is different and every player responds different," he explained. "Some guys you can jump on right away and some guys you can't. You have to take your time, but you have to stay on them so that you can educate. You pick your battles and kind of learn when you do have to hit the guys up to make sure that they are taking care of themselves."

In addition to making sure that the players in uniform are in the best possible shape, Kettler is also responsible for keeping injured players in good condition while they recover. Currently, guards Joe Mazzulla (shoulder) and Jonnie West (foot) are sitting out indefinitely. Just because they aren't playing, however, doesn't mean they're simply hanging out around the Coliseum all day while their teammates grind it out in a three-hour practice.

"They are doing more work than everyone else right now. What type of work we do with them, though, just depends on their injury," said Kettler, who works alongside head trainer Randy Meador with the injured players. "Anytime we have an injured athlete, what we try to do is to do everything that we possibly can (from a strength and conditioning standpoint) while working around that injured part."

During the game, Kettler's activity is more or less limited to making sure all the stools for WVU's on-court timeout meetings are properly retrieved and put away. Don't be fooled, though. Behind the scenes, he's hard at work keeping the players in shape over the course of a taxing season.

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