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Gonzaga notebook: Bulldogs focus on rest, recovery as much as X’s and O’s in postseason

UPDATED: Fri., March 22, 2019

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert (24) fields media questions while wearing a leg recovery system on Friday, March 22, 2019, at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert (24) fields media questions while wearing a leg recovery system on Friday, March 22, 2019, at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

SALT LAKE CITY – After 34 games and 1,360 minutes, Gonzaga players are bound to have bumps, bruises and soreness. But this is the NCAA Tournament, so pain management turns into more of a mental game. That doesn’t mean they don’t treat their bodies with more care.

“I’m good, we’re still playing basketball. Obviously, everyone is banged up in here, but it doesn’t even matter,” Josh Perkins said.

Perkins has played in 1,028 minutes this year, the most on the team, an average of almost 31 minutes a game. After dealing with a broken jaw his freshman year and offseason shoulder surgery before this campaign, he is no stranger to having to alter his workout regimens.

“Don’t lift as heavy of weight, but honestly since the (shoulder) surgery, I haven’t really lifted hard all season,” Perkins said. “Just trying to get my conditioning right and keeping my nutrition right.”

In the locker room Friday, sophomore Corey Kispert was sitting on the floor with his legs wrapped in what looked like giant balloons.

It actually was a recovery tool used to help blood circulate through the legs. It helps work muscle groups in the leg, flushing lactic acid. It’s one of the many tools at his disposal during the season, and one of the things he has to do to keep his body fresh late in the season.

“Especially with working out, it is just an extreme focus on actions I will be doing in-game, and shots I will be taking in the game,” Kispert said. “Much less reps at a higher intensity and keeping the workouts shorter, and more time spent in the ice bath and the training room to get my body right.”

Travis Knight, head strength and conditioning coach for GU’s basketball team, uses unique plans for each player – something Perkins said makes a difference in his recovery and training.

“The cool thing about Trav is he makes it individual-based,” Perkins said. “It’s not everybody lifting the same thing, and that’s what is cool about GU.”

As the season progresses, players make more frequent trips to the training room, getting work done with head athletic trainer Josh Therrien. Knight and Therrien work hand in hand, making sure they keep track of who visits the training room more often, and then adjusting their workout plans accordingly.

The work done behind the scenes allows these student-athletes to perform at their highest abilities.

As players spend more time in GU’s system, they’re given more control over their workouts. For example, freshman Filip Petrusev will have a more scheduled workout routine compared to Perkins.

“They earn it as they go along and we encourage a lot of ownership, which also means they do a lot of extra work and a lot of extra things,” Knight said. “So it doesn’t mean they just get to pick what they don’t want to do. They have a lot of voice in saying what helps and what doesn’t.”

For Kispert, ice baths and the inflatable pants are his staples after practice. He used to hate the ice baths, but has learned to appreciate them as the long season takes its toll on his body.

After a grueling season, March Madness reinvigorates the players, blocking out the nicks and bruises being treated.

“Now during the tournament, it is the most exciting time, and we are high on basketball again,” Kispert said. “The end of conference play is no joke. You have to force yourself to go to the gym, force yourself to be enthusiastic during practices even if you don’t want to.”

Brother of Baylor head coach fired by Vanderbilt

Bryce Drew, brother of Baylor head coach Scott Drew, was fired as the head coach of Vanderbilt on Friday after the Commodores’ worst season in program history. After a night of responding to congratulatory texts about the Bears’ win over Syracuse, Scott Drew woke up to messages about his brother.

“When things happen to you, it’s one thing,” Scott Drew said. “When it happens to your loved ones, your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister, it probably affects you more than them. At the same time, he’s got – he’s blessed to have great friends, great family support and he’s got a great faith, and he knows God has a different plan for him. And as a big brother, obviously whatever I can do to help him, I’m going to do.”

Athletic director Malcolm Turner announced the decision about two months after he was hired at Vanderbilt after being a part of the NBA’s senior leadership team and president of the NBA’s G League.

Drew had three years remaining on his six-year contract, but the Commodores went 9-23 overall and 0-18 in Southeastern Conference play, the first team in the 65-year history of the SEC to go winless in conference play.

But 2019’s class was the highest-ranked recruiting class in Vanderbilt history, and many wondered what could have been with another season to build his team.

Point guard Darius Garland, a five-star recruit, blew his knee out in the fifth game of the season. He is projected to go as high as fourth overall in this year’s NBA Draft, according to some mock drafts.

Another five-star recruit, power forward Simi Shittu, struggled in his development this season, but was also projected to be a top draft pick before the season.

But with the firing, Vandy next must figure out how to keep its newest strong crop of signees and commitments from jumping ship. Two four-star players have signed and Scotty Pippen Jr., son of former NBA great Scottie Pippen, has committed.

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