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Basketball players stay busy in offseason

Strength and conditioning program lets players stay on campus, focus on improvement

By Michael Martinez
On August 31, 2011

The UDM men's basketball offseason technically runs from March to October, but the Titans have taken few days off since they lost to Valparaiso in the Horizon League tournament semifinals on March 4.

The team makes most of its improvements during the summer months under the watch of Joe Tofferi, assistant AD for strength and conditioning.

"We sit down at the end of the season with coach (McCallum) and our sports medicine staff and figure out what each guy's strength and weakness is, and we'll develop their summer program around that," Tofferi said.

Tofferi said that while each program is individualized, they are linked by a common thread: hard work. He does realize it's a year-round program, though.

"I wouldn't say it's as intense as it is in the preseason," he said. "We don't want to plateau in July and then burn them out by October. Our main goal is to win the Horizon League championship, so our main goal is to work all the way up until that."

Tofferi said a recent change in where the players stay has made the summer program possible.

"We now allow our kids to stay (on campus during the summer)," he said. "It has been a huge benefit. It gives us 14 extra weeks to train the players on campus to make sure they're doing the right things."

Not all players stayed at UDM the entire summer.

In June, sophomore point guard Ray McCallum participated in the Deron Williams Skills Academy in Chicago as one of only 10 point guards selected from around the country. In July, he participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy as a counselor.

In early August, McCallum earned his most prestigious recognition to date. He was named to the USA Basketball World University Games team. He flew to China to compete against teams from all over the world.

McCallum averaged 4.5 points and shot over 48 percent from the field in eight games for team USA. The squad finished in fifth place after posting a 7-1 record.

Tofferi said he was impressed with McCallum because, while some athletes would look at the three-week China trip as time off from workouts, McCallum didn't.

"Ray is a coach's son, but one thing is that he understands what it's going to take (to improve)," he said. "He never takes days off. He was in the weight rooms and calling me about what to do in China. That goes to show how bad he wants it."

Tofferi said he feels such dedication will help McCallum make it in the NBA.

Senior Eli Holman has that same level of dedication, and Tofferi believes he will make it to the next level, too.

"He's my weight room warrior," Tofferi said. "He comes in Saturdays, Sundays; he's never not in here. When we're on the road, he's lifting in hotels. He bases his game around the weight room."

Tofferi said Holman's summer program was centered on improving his conditioning level and lateral movement.

"We've really worked hard on getting him to have a motor for 40 minutes," he said. "He works out very hard, so I want him to feel he can play 40 minutes."

McCallum's program wasn't centered on one specific area of his game, though Tofferi said he's worked hard at improving his footwork and three-point shooting.

 "He's doing all the right things for himself," Tofferi said. "Now his challenge is ‘Can you make somebody else better?' It's hard as a freshman to do that, but now he's had a year to adapt. Our challenge to him is to be a better leader."

Injuries could derail everything Tofferi has worked on with the players, but, at least for now, he said the team is "as healthy as we've ever been."

Tofferi said he's proud of the strength and conditioning program he's overseen since 2006.

"Even former UDM athletes come back here to train," he said. "They can really go anywhere, but it's special for us because they come back to us. It really says a lot about our program."

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