Full speed ahead
Conditioning helps Mavs get leg up on foes
They might grumble and groan when they’re going through those early-morning preseason conditioning sessions, but in the final minutes of a close game, they understand.
“You hate it, but at the same time it makes us so much better than everyone else,” senior forward Hannah Pollart said of how hard the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team prepares for the season.
“Those last 10 minutes when you’re grinding, that’s when it’s going to come into it. We’re like, ‘Ugh, don’t make us do it,’ but really, we’re thanking Coach Wags for making us do it.
“We’re giving you dirty looks, but really, thank you.”
With a senior-dominated roster, the Mavericks understand that being fresher in the closing minutes of the game can often make the difference. They’ve seen it several times already this season, especially when their bigs are running the floor and making layups when the other team’s post players are lagging behind.
“If they can get in good shape, it’s a layup, you don’t have to do anything else (to get position inside),” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said of how his post players run the floor. “Aubry (Boehme) is in good shape. She wasn’t when she came in, but you can just tell she’s more comfortable on the floor, and a lot of that is because she’s in better shape.”
The Mavericks weren’t sure what to expect a year ago in Wagner’s system, but they quickly learned, and the veterans were prepared this season.
“Last year it was new to everybody,” senior point guard Christen Lopez said. “We had Dan (Linsacum) as our strength and conditioning coach, and no one knew what to expect, we just sort of went with it. This year we know what to expect.”
There isn’t much down time during practice. Every drill is run at full speed, even shooting free throws. With three players to a basket, one will be shooting, one rebounding and the other running full-court sprints. The shooter becomes the rebounder, the rebounder is the runner and the runner is the shooter, so they’re shooting when they’re tired, mirroring game conditions.
If drills aren’t run with the effort and intensity Wagner demands, well, there’s always full-court sprints to get the Mavericks going. And more often than not, the post players are keeping up with the guards.
“That’s what Wags tells us: If you do the work before, the shot’s the easiest part,” Pollart, a 5-foot-11 forward, said. “If we can beat the girl down the floor, that makes our job that much easier.”
Lopez said the fifth-ranked Mavericks (8-0, 4-0 RMAC) can tell when their opponents hit the wall.
“I think we’re in really good condition, and whenever we run drills we try to run them as hard as we can to keep that up,” she said. “With a lot of teams we’ve been playing, Coach is saying, ‘You can run them, you can run them.’
“As soon as they hit the wall, Coach wants us to get going and capitalize on it. Yeah, hit second gear.”
Guard Sharaya Selsor plays an average of 35.5 minutes per game and Taylor Rock 32.5. Last weekend, Selsor played all 40 minutes of each game. Rock played 40 minutes Friday night and 38 on Saturday night.
Boehme, the Mavs’ starting post, plays nearly 26 minutes a game, Pollart 22 and Lopez 29.
As the bench develops, Wagner would like to see some of those minutes shrink, but he knows his top eight not only can physically play that many minutes, but mentally.
“There’s going to be a lot of close games, and hopefully when it comes down to it, if we’re in better shape, we’re going to make better decisions,” Wagner said. “We’ll shoot it better and guard better and even communicate.
“When you get tired, you stop thinking a little bit about where you need to be. You’re more worried about your lungs and breathing hard than you are the next play.”