UCF basketball will pick up the tempo next season, and conditioning is first on the agenda.
Johnny Dawkins, the new men's basketball head coach, has stepped in and brought a new philosophy. He said in a May interview that he intends to play a fast brand of basketball this upcoming season, and the players’ conditioning will have to be up-to-par for Dawkins’ vision to come into fruition.
“Everything we do is design for our kids to be put into a position where we’re thinking about pace,” Dawkins said. “No matter what they do, even when on their own, they’re thinking about pace.”
The Knights finished the 2015-16 season with a record of 12-18, the same mark from the previous year under former head coach Donnie Jones. The Knights can benefit from a new style of play.
“To play fast, you have to have a commitment level,” Dawkins said. “It starts of course now ... It’s not going to happen if we start this up in November. They have to think that way this offseason and they are.”
UCF officially started its summer strength and conditioning program on June 15. The new director of sports performance, Alex Parr, is in charge of getting the players in top-notch shape. Parr was previously the associate director of sports performance at Old Dominion University, and he is a certified strength and conditioning specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
“It starts from the top with what coach Dawkins talks about, the culture he wants to establish on the court,” Parr said. “I try to take his lead as best I can and help to implement that same type of philosophy. We’re really trying to establish that culture, and it's one of just grinding and working hard. We’re not going to have anything handed to us. So we’re preparing in that same manner.”
Parr analyzes and screens the players individually and gears the workouts and nutrition toward their personal goals. Returning redshirt sophomore forward A.J. Davis has established a number of fitness goals he hopes to achieve during the off-season under Parr's guidance.
“Gaining a little more weight and getting stronger,” Davis said. “I just want to make sure that I’m playing at a high level and just competing every game.”
Redshirt sophomore point guard B.J. Taylor, who is returning from a deep bone bruise injury in his right foot that caused him to miss the entire 2015-16 season, said the workouts have been going well.
“They’ve been real intense,” Taylor said. “The guys been focused and just been trying to get better every day.”
Dawkins said it is already setting in with the players on how he intends to play this upcoming season.
“We’re in shape,” Taylor said. “[Dawkins] is big on being in shape, and you need to get your conditioning to a level that you can play up-tempo.”
UCF's first game action of the 2016-17 season will be in the Gildan Charleston Classic, a preseason tournament consisting of 12 games over three days. The Knights will first face-off against Mississippi State on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.
Jean Racine is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @jeangracine or email him at JeanR@CentralFloridaFuture.com