This is Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller‘s primary goal: “I want our team to be the biggest, strongest, best-conditioned team we can be,” he said.
And he’s willing to put him money where his mouth is.
Further imprinting his name and his style on the Wildcats program, Miller and his wife, Amy, are putting up $250,000 toward a new strength training facility at the Richard Jefferson Gymnasium, where the team practices.
“I don’t know if I can have another level,” he said when asked if this takes his commitment to the program to another level. “I feel totally responsible for our program.”
Tucsonans Cole and Jeannie Davis have committed $2.65 million to the project, which also will include a remodeling of the locker room in McKale Center. The Davises donated $1 million in memory of late women’s basketball star Shawntinice Polk to the original construction of the Jefferson Gymnasium.
The new strength and training facility at the Richard Jefferson Gym will utilize existing two-story space and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“What everybody is doing in the year 2010 is very, very competitive,” Miller said.
“It’s a necessary ingredient. When our young people come into our program and grow older, you will really see that physical development as part of their growth. When you have a team full of guys like that, then you see results and winning being a part of it.”
Getting bigger and stronger was a constant theme from Miller in his first year on the job. But so much of his early energy was spent on acquiring a five-man recruiting class. These wasn’t much of an offseason strength plan because, he notes, “we didn’t have a team.”
Now, he can implement an offseason program. He has nine returning scholarship players who can get on the same page. Miller said sophomore guard Kyle Fogg already has added seven pounds since the end of the season.
That’s exactly what Miller wants. He wants to see his young Arizona players grow into the kind of team he had at Xavier — tough, physical and strong enough to play his brand of man-to-man defense, which focuses on ball pressure and stopping penetration.
“When you look at the weight of the players who play in the NBA, sometimes I don’t think anybody realizes how big and strong they are,” Miller said. “I’m not talking about frontcourt players. You look at guards today. It’s amazing.”
The facility will be headed by Chris Rounds, who came with Miller from Xavier last year in charge of the strength and conditioning program for men’s basketball.
Miller said there also is a trickle down-effect to having a spacious facility mostly dedicated to basketball-related strength and conditioning (women’s basketball and volleyball will share the new facility).
It will entice players to stay for the summer, take classes and train under the same philosophy. Miller figures former players who come back for the summer might stay longer because they can meet their training needs.
That helps the current players in terms of competing in pick-up games, while enhancing the “Wildcat family” and potentially growing closer as a team.
“It’s not a small picture, a gift like this,” Miller said.
As it is, Miller says all of the Wildcats, including the new recruits, will be on campus for the second summer session.
And, of course, improved facilities always help in recruiting, as prospects compare schools and try to envision the place when they can have the most success.
“It’s really important, and that’s why this is so exciting,” Miller said.