Wake Forest men’s basketball is officially on the map. The Atlantic Coast Conference map. The NCAA map. The All-American map. And it’s all happened over the last few years.
Here it is. In the 2003-2004 season, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons won their first ACC championship in almost 40 years. That same season, they appeared in the NCAA Sweet 16, became the first ACC team to lead the nation in rebounding and freshman guard Chris Paul was named ACC Rookie of the Year. In the 2004-2005 season, the Associated Press ranked the Deacons No.1 for the first time in school history and Wake returned to the big dance.
The Demon Deacons’ turnaround wasn’t just a work of God. It was the work of the Deacons athletic department and its decision to bring in head coach Skip Possner and a new strength and conditioning staff. Head strength and conditioning coach Ethan Reeve and assistant Mike Tolloti revolutionized Wake’s in-and off-season training, which plays a huge role in the team’s recent success.
With this new squad of coaches and a full crop of seniors who have spent their entire college career under Reeve’s and Tolloti’s direction, it’s of little coincidence that Wake men’s basketball garnered their first No.1 national ranking and runs among the fastest teams in the nation. Led by Chris Paul, the Deacons use their speed to create scoring opportunities and play shut down defense.
To understand what it takes to place among the nation’s fastest teams, Tolloti explains the speed training Wake endures in the off-season. “We like short sprints that begin with some type of athletic movement such as belly sprints or back sprints, which help improve reaction time,” says Tolloti. Belly and back sprints effectively simulate game situations such as diving for a loose ball, popping up and then sprinting down the court.
Tolloti also mentions Shuffle sprints, which is starting in a lateral Shuffle and then sprinting forward. Because basketball players never start from a sprinter’s position to run down court, it is this type of exercise that enhances actual game speed.
Tolloti suggests choosing three of the following start variations to develop a workout that implements belly, back and Shuffle sprints:
- Lying on your stomach;
- Lying on your back;
- Bounding three times in a row;
- Shuffing for five yards no pivot;
- Shuffing for five yards with pivot.
Perform three reps of the chosen three start variations. The first rep is a 10-yard sprint, the second a 15-yard sprint and the third a 20-yard sprint. Following each sprint, walk back to the starting line and start the next sprint. Once three reps are complete from the first starting position, perform three more reps from the second and third starting variation. The only rest between the nine sprints should be the time you are walking back to the starting line. There is no extra rest between the different starting variations.
As your conditioning and speed improve over the off-season, add an additional starting variation to the workout. With this addition, a total of 12 sprints will be completed.
Wake’s strength and conditioning assistant suggests that your off-season training program include speed training three days a week, weight lifting and pickup games. He recommends after lifting as the best time for the sprint training. “We do ours generally after we lift. So I think, depending on the time available, after the lift is always good,” Tolloti says. He also recommends tapering off the speed training as the season approaches. Go hard during the heart of off-season, but ease up as the season approaches.
To perform this drill, start on the ground on your stomach. Place your hands fat on the ground next to your chest similar to a push-up position. Flex your feet up so your toes are pointed toward your knees and can dig into the ground. To begin the sprint, push up with your arms and drive one knee forward to your chest. You should be in a position similar to a sprinter’s start in track. Then explode forward into the sprint. Make sure to perform these movements as fast as possible.
To perform this drill, start on the ground on your back. Place your hands on the ground near your sides. Your first movement should be a rapid rotation of your upper body to get both hands fat on the ground in a push-up position. Bring one leg over the other to begin turning your body completely over. Next, get yourself into a position similar to a sprinter’s start in track. Then explode forward into the sprint. Make sure to perform these movements as fast as possible.
Three Bound Start
To perform this drill, perform three bounds in a row. Each bound should resemble an exaggerated running motion, hopping as far and as high as possible with each leap. If you leap off of your right foot first, then you should next land on your left. After the third and final bound, explode into a sprint.
Shuffle without Pivot
To perform this drill, Shuffle to the right or left for five yards. Then, explode forward into a sprint. Make sure to keep your hips low, and drive off your back leg to get the most out of your Shuffles.
Shuffle with Pivot
To perform this drill, Shuffle in the direction of the sprint for five yards. Then, pivot 90 degrees in the direction of the sprint, and explode into the sprint. Make sure to make a clean pivot without extra steps or wasted movement.