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Gonzaga tweaks training methods with interruption to usual routines, gym time

UPDATED: Sat., April 18, 2020

The weight room is photographed at Volkar Center at Gonzaga University on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
The weight room is photographed at Volkar Center at Gonzaga University on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The Zags are still playing a lot of basketball. On video game consoles.

They are still training, minus the access to facilities, weight rooms and gyms under Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Gonzaga is adjusting to modified workouts with players eligible to return taking online courses from home and international players remaining on campus because of travel restrictions.

“I send them workouts every morning,” assistant strength and conditioning coach Travis Knight said. “We try to FaceTime or have contact on a weekly basis and check in with how they’re doing. Some of the guys on campus probably have the least amount of access to stuff compared to the other guys.”

The McCarthey Athletic Center and Volkar Center are closed. Knight can’t lead workouts virtually or in person, so he’s relying on the players to take care of business. That doesn’t worry Knight at all.

“What’s nice is our guys are already wired to be internally motivated and driven toward a goal they want to see happen,” Knight said. “I think if we were having to do this for another couple of months, it’d be harder to manage because we’d need to ramp them up.”

Knight said his emphasis is for players to heal from previous injuries and improve range of motion “if they have tight hips or other tight spots. We get them out and have them run a couple days a week.”

The Zags are doing what they can to maintain strength, but it mostly involves using their own body weight or resistance bands.

Aaron Cook, a Southern Illinois grad transfer who signed with Gonzaga earlier this week, has access to a gym inside the home of his former AAU coach in St. Louis. Cook made four visits last week and was planning a fifth.

“He built it for his sons,” Cook said. “He lets us get some work in, get some shots up. He said we can use it whenever we want. I’ve been trying to do some things at home, but I definitely need to go out to the track.”

Jalen Suggs, who signed a letter of intent with Gonzaga earlier this week, has been training with his father, Larry. That’s been the case since Jalen was a toddler.

“We’ve always done that,” Larry said. “He’s the quarterback, and I’m the receiver or running back. Same for basketball – I’m playing defense, he’s posting up. His sisters help out if we need it.

“We have only worked out and trained in the driveway. We don’t go to a gym. We’ve got a hoop in the backyard that he shoots on, and we’ve got a weight bench downstairs in the basement.”

Incoming players who have signed letters of intent have access to the team’s training plans, Knight said.

Separation of players from gyms and coaches from players is the new normal.

“It’s been great being with my family, amazing, but I’m ready to get back in the gym,” GU assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. said. “We’ve got a Peloton bike. This thing is saving me. I pretty much do some really hard classes on the Peloton and sit in the sauna.

“I’ve got a weight machine, dips, pullups, and I’m doing that in the garage. I can stay in shape riding a bike, but I miss being in the gym.”

Knight, whose creative approach has helped numerous Zags make impressive gains in the offseason or during redshirt years, usually has specific training strategies for individual players at this time of year.

Those plans won’t be as detailed under the current circumstances, but Knight still has lofty goals.

“It’s definitely supposed to be the time you can work them the hardest and not manage their loads as much, but there’s always positives with it,” he said. “It’s a chance to heal, and they’re getting mental breaks with the day-to-day.

“Everyone is in the same boat, so it’s not going to be like some people are making these giant jumps and we’re spinning our wheels.”

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