Skip navigation

As a strength and conditioning coach I often say “The day I go into the gym and think I know it all is the day I stop helping my athletes” and with that in mind I am constantly in continuing education mode, talking to other strength coaches, reading and traveling. I recently had the pleasure of spending a week in Austin with the Longhorns Men’s Basketball team at the University of Texas. Head strength coach Todd Wright, and his assistant Logan Schwartz have created a very unique approach to training basketball athletes (and all athletes) and over the past few years have developed talents such as TJ Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge, DJ Augustin, and Kevin Durant.

Within my first 30 minutes in their strength and conditioning facility, Todd and the guys had blown my mind with their depth of knowledge and ability to get the best out of their athletes. Their training philosophies are based on science by physical therapist Gary Gray and as far as I know only 4 other schools utilize the same system; Richmond, UCLA, Florida and Alabama. Good company, and all employ strength coaches who have worked previously with Todd.

Because of NCAA rules basketball athletes are only allowed so many on-court hours in the pre-season but have almost unlimited time to do strength and conditioning work…and work they did! Morning workouts started anywhere between 6-8am and athletes were grouped by year, position or need. Groups of 4-6 busted their tail for about an hour, were provided some (NCAA approved) post workout nutrition and headed off to class and right behind them was the next group ready to go. On a few days they returned later after class for some recovery, regeneration, stretching and hit the court for individuals which were in reality small group (4) workouts lasting 45 minutes or less. The intensity and effort remained high for the entire workout and though the players were gassed afterwards it was clear they had been well prepared.

A drill I really enjoyed was when Todd spent some time one day teaching their help defense principles and incorporated that into a conditioning workout. It’s sad to see in this day and age coaches still having their athletes run long distances or for long periods of time. It was refreshing to see Todd take a basketball concept, and add another level by demanding ultimate physical effort in each repetition. Todd often repeated a phrase while I was there “The only thing non-neogtiable in this program is effort!” and consistently demanded, and got, the most out of his guys.

A hilight of the trip was watching TJ Ford, Royal Ivey and some other former Longhorns play some pickup ball with the current group of players. It was special to watch TJ and Royal competing hard with the young guys, picking them apart but at the same time constantly teaching…pointing out their mistakes, correcting them and offering valuable advice.

It was a pleasure to spend a week with another group of people who clearly love the game of basketball and have worked extremely hard to develop a successful program both in the win column and in sending players to the NBA and Internationally. A huge public thank you to everyone at UT and I look forward to implementing some new strategies with our team at Ryerson as we move forward in developing our own winning culture!


We did it!  A few things that people should know. In a country where we perhaps don’t show our patriotism enough. These 12 young men displayed a passion for our country that should make everyone proud!

-Coach Rautins who has carried the huge weight of this team and our program for years did a masterful job of keeping that pressure solely on him and deflecting it from our players when we needed it most. Our guys were loose, focused, prepared and most importantly believed. It is powerful to understand that he has given up so much of his life to our NT program making his debut at 16. I am very happy for him!

-Bench Energy- I believe that every clutch shot we took down the stretch we took we believed we would make. To me it was directly related to the incredible bench energy we had last night. Our guys on the court fed off the support the received from the bench. It felt like we all took those shots together. 

-it was out there for all to see that our CIS talent can is effective at this level. Aaron Doornekamp was huge in this game. hopefully this can begin to educate the masses on the quality talent that exists in the CIS. Talent can merge from anywhere at any level and his success is good sign for many ball players in Canada.

-As the talent drain grows at the high school level to preps throughout the US. It is important to point out that 95% of this teams formative years developed in our Canadian School and Club system. If we want to strengthen the sport in Canada it is my belief we need to put our energies to developing our system,coaches and athletes here.

-On a personal note last night was very special for me as I got to share this moment with Jermaine Anderson who I started my career at Eastern Commerce with in 2000. Most Canadians have no idea how much it means to him to play for his country. An inner city black kid from T.O. Who bleeds for his country. I could not be prouder and as usual Rock just balled when the stakes were at the highest!

And were off! Beat Mexico by 55 to open the tournament. Shot 55 % from 3 and had 30 assists, broke some records but we all know it did not mean s&^%. To be honest if anything it was a major concern because you would hate to play your best game in your first one., but something interesting has happened this summer. Our group is taking on a veteran feel and the experience of the past years is paying dividends. Today’s victory was much more of what we needed against the Virgin Islands. A better test in a game that we did not shoot the ball particularly well. Coach Rautins has done a great job managing minutes as the real tests will begin tomorrow. Right now there is a calm confidence and our prep for the opponents has been excellent, but we fully understand that the next two games will be wars. Uruguay having scouted them twice now is a tough, disciplined, physical and well coached team who have former NBA Center Esteban Batista. Batista is a beast and will be handful. Puerto Rico at home is tough anytime, but with Carlos Arroyo playing at a very high level, 7’4 Peter Ramos ruling the paint  and the 6th man in the stands. This has the makings of another classic Canada-Puerto Rico battle. All of us cant wait!

On a side note just finished our coaches meeting in prep for tomorrow and its incredible to be sitting with a Canadian legend in Coach Rautins, the Cavs lead asst Mike Malone and former Vitrus Bologna Head Coach Renatto Pasquale and being encouraged to provide input, speaks volumes about all of there humility and desire for us to get this done using every resource we possibly can. To be honest, I’m just a fly on the wall 90% of the time and loving it.

Finally, I am more and more a Jessie Young fan everyday, he is our captain and embodies what it is to be Canadian. A true veteran warrior and in my opinion someone every Canadian kid should know about. His sacrifices to represent our country are endless and he does it with with a warm smile on his face off the court, and intense focus on it.

On top of all that he can flat out ball!

We are now officially in tournament mode, today’s practice took us to the historic Roberto Clemente Stadium the site of all our tournament games in San Juan. This arena has been the site of many historic games in Canada Basketball history, the most recent being the 2000 Olympic qualifying victory,where the legend of Steve Nash was cemented. No easy task defeating Puerto Rico at home. Coach Rautins himself has many fond memories of this arena where he left blood and sweat on the court battling for Canada with his many teammates. It is incredible how arenas themselves can have such a powerful emotional effect on people. Luna Park in Buenos Aries Argentina, is sacred due to the many great battles that the legendary middleweight boxer Carlos Monzon fought there. It is a hallowed ground that must be respected anytime there national team takes the court. For the Puerto Ricans, Roberto Clemente Stadium which tonight will seat 12,000 rabid fans is there sacred hoops palace. It also speaks volumes for all the battles that our Canadian men have successfully won here. I love to hear the stories and am so honored that I too can now be part of one.

There is a different feel and level of focus amongst the players and staff and we are all in serious preparation mode, it has now become real as the roster has also been finalized. Today’s practice was short and again intense. Once again we were delayed because the times for practice were screwed up, but the team is not phased as this is all part of the normal routine. After practice it was on the bus for a lift at the Golds gym in San Juan, not bad place for the guys. We ended the day with the opening ceremonies which quit frankly dragged on for too long and again started way after the scheduled time. The highlight of the opening ceremony was the ribbing that the guys gave Joel Anthony. They gave it to him pretty good and he took it all in stride, The reason I will keep inside the team but it was nice to see that regardless of his NBA status, he is treated and acts like just another teammate proud to rep Canada. 

Today I will be in the gym for all games advance scouting. I will then return to the hotel and assist our video co-coordinator in preparing the edits to show our team. It has been great being around to learn,get a feel for the team and I have been have embraced me with open arms,but now is the time for all of us to make our contributions. It will be increasingly difficult for me to share my thoughts from here on in, but I will try my best. Special mention must go out to my incredible staff at Ryerson who are working 24/7. More to come on them soon.

It has been an eventful summer and I have just arrived in Puerto Rico to be part of our Senior Mens National Team coaching staff for the FIBA Americas qualifier. 

After a research trip to Berlin for the Euroleague Final Four. I was then in Mendoza, Argentina where I coached our Cadet National Team to a bronze medal and qualified for the first ever U17 World Championships. Next stop Portland, Oregon where our Canadian U19 entry lost in the Nike Global Challenge to the US in the Gold Medal game by 1point. 

Now it is time for the main event. 
To have any opportunity to represent your country is an honour but to do it at the highest level is a dream come true. Just being part of the training camps in the Air Canada Centre and learning from our Head Coach Leo Rautins, Cleveland Cavaliers asst Mike Malone and European coaching guru Renatto Pasquali has helped my own coaching immensely. I am looking forward to an exciting two weeks and hopefully in some small way contributing to our goal of qualifying for the 2010 World Championships in Turkey.  

Just finished my first practice with the team. It was  95 degrees in a Indoor/Outdoor High School gym, needless to say the warmup and cooldown led by our lead therapist and strength coach Sam Gibbs takes on new meaning. Even at this level in international basketball the elements of where and when you practice can be completely unpredictable.  I coached our Sr Mens “B” Team in August of 2007 at the Super 4 Cup in Santa Fe Argentina. We were in the midst of their winter and we all had to wear multiple layers of clothing. It was 6 degrees in the gym and it felt like we were in a hockey arena.  During our game against Uruguay I looked over and their Head Coach was wearing a parka, it was surreal.  

Today’s 1st practice has been focused on individual development and speaks volumes about the desire for our most accomplished basketball players to continue improving. That our coaching staff continues to stress the development piece so close to a major competition is powerful. The athletes also appreciate the time for some extra work polishing there games. This am session is half skill work and a half session in the weight room, keeping there bodies in prime condition. 
It has been great to work with seasoned pro’s like the Miami Heats Joel Anthony and European veteran Jessie Young who are still eager to learn and have a strong desire to improve. The players here display no ego and are all trying to improve every way they can. What a great start.

The evening practice moved us to an air conditioned gym a good 45min drive from the hotel. When we got there due to a time mix up ,we had to wait an extra 45 min to get on the court as the Luis Scola lead Argentinean squad finished up. 
We came out a little flat and Coach Rautins quickly addressed the energy issue.  As we got into the competitive part of practice it got chippy and then the guys really played hard.  The two CIS reps on the team Ryan Bell and Aaron Dornekamp continue to show that they  belong at this level and have established defined roles for themselves that they carry out with passion. As we walked off the court to get on the bus, the Brazilians led by Anderson Varrejao and Leandro Barbosa were waiting in the wings. This is going to be one hell of a tournament.