It was all new for Cliff Tucker.
There were the 6 a.m. conditioning sessions, initially midsummer morning nightmares foreign to the Maryland basketball team.
There was always something different to haul back to the dorm room to try - foam rollers, massage sticks and more.
There was the lifting strategy, instituted when Paul Ricci was hired in June as part of an initiative to improve the Terrapins’ conditioning.
“He had us doing 80-pound weights, and I couldn’t believe it,” Tucker said. “I even called my mom and said, ‘This guy’s crazy.’”
Perhaps. More importantly, he’s the Maryland basketball program’s first full-time strength and conditioning coach, a priority last after the Terps wilted in the closing stretches of games - and, ultimately the season.
Take a look around the roster, and Ricci’s influence is everywhere. Landon Milbourne, already athletic, is now exceptionally muscular. Adrian Bowie’s amplified strength and quickness helped him earn a spot in the starting lineup. Braxton Dupree, though struggling, reshaped his body over the summer.
The Terps (6-2) have not collapsed late in games entering Friday’s meeting with Delaware State (2-10). To get there, Ricci found a different challenge at Maryland than what he faced while working on the Baltimore Ravens’ staff for nine years.
“It’s been - and still is - constant teaching,” Ricci said. “If you can get guys to have good, consistent work habits, it doesn’t matter what type of workouts you do. You’re going to have success.”
The dreaded 22s
Pound for pound, Bowie is the Terps’ strongest player. At least once a game, the sophomore will writhe into a seemingly impossible and almost certainly punishing predicament and still uncork a shot.
Even he shudders at the mere mention of one of the first things Ricci introduced - the 22s.
“I don’t even want to hear that word,” Bowie said. “That was the worst. We died on the first day we did that.”
The 22s are a drill of running the length of the court four times in 22 seconds and repeating the process 22 times with 40 seconds of rest between each sprint. They were also the first of many signals that Ricci would almost instantaneously change Maryland’s conditioning program.
The commitment, though, came from above. Coach Gary Williams saw enough last year to know the Terps could ill afford a rerun of last year’s collapses. Six times, Maryland lost despite holding a halftime lead - the most memorable and most damaging when the Terps yielded a 20-point lead at home to Clemson two weeks before Selection Sunday.View Entire Story
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