Basketball Newcomers Adjusting to College

July 30, 2009

By Brentton Walker

Selecting the right college is typically one of the most important decisions anyone will ever make. The choice for high school student-athletes is no different than say a young scholar interested in physics. Which university will best suit me, how will I fit in, and will I feel comfortable there are just a few of the questions racing through any prospect's head.

For the five incoming freshmen on the UA men's basketball team, their decision has been made, and now they're here in Tucson. Now comes the transitional phase: learning how to properly balance everything new being thrown their way. From becoming accustomed to the vast and spacious campus to getting used to living on their own as well as all the weight room and practice demands, much is expected of these student-athletes.

To allow for a smooth transition into the collegiate life, head coach Sean Miller and his staff had the new members of the team enroll in at least one class during the 'Summer II' period of the university's annual summer session of classes. Without the pressures of daily fall practices and a full slate of classes, the freshman can transition to college at a much smoother pace.

'Obviously, college differs from high school, as well as the NBA,' said Chris Rounds, the newly appointed associate director of performance enhancement. 'The athletes are bigger, stronger and faster. A smooth transition to college is essential to their success.'

Some of the things Miller and his staff stress to the newcomers to ensure a better transition to this level of play include nutrition, academics, and time management.

'`Be where you're supposed to be' is a phrase I use quite often to remind them of time management,' Rounds said. 'Time is something that is very important to me.'

According to Rounds, because of the myriad of responsibilities each men's basketball player is expected to handle, time management usually takes precedent and accompanies every aspect of what they're trying to accomplish.

Another factor of importance is nutrition and weight lifting. Rounds' basketball-specific training regime differs from other athletic strength and conditioning programs, in the aspect that his athletes don't use traditional Olympic lifts. He prefers joint-friendly weight lifting, which allows the student-athletes to heal more quickly while lifting weights.

'Most of these kids have never touched a weight,' said Rounds. 'Here I instruct them how to lift weights together [on select days] and individually for four days a week, approximately 25 to 35 minutes a day, depending on the day.'

Sharing the responsibility of helping the athletes with their difficulties adjusting to life away from their families, among other things, is the new director of basketball operations, Jamall Walker.

'Among my other duties of scheduling, travel and appointments, I provide a friendly face the new freshmen can count on. I also help with advice, be it basketball, or general, when I can,' he said.

Walker believes the new players are fully capable of making the transition from high school basketball to college. He also is very optimistic about the upcoming season and believes each player has something to bring to the team.

'These guys are going to be great,' said Walker. 'All of our new freshmen have a common characteristic -- they've all won at the places they've been. They're all going to get an opportunity to play, because Coach Miller likes to play a lot of guys. They all add depth to their positions, and will be effective.'

Building good character among a team is another important issue in, and outside of the classroom and locker room.

'All of these guys are good people...Derrick (Williams) is a great person and a good student,' said Walker. 'Lamont (Jones) has been a winner all of his life, and is a very tough kid.'

With the strength and conditioning help of Rounds and the advice and backing of Walker, these newcomers should transition into great basketball student-athletes and representatives of the University of Arizona.

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