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BOGACZYK: D'Antoni's Herd Happy with Big Loss - Body Fat

Joe Varga
Nov. 7, 2014



HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Today, we’ll tackle a weighty subject … but one much less weighty than it might have been.

From the late April day when Dan D’Antoni arrived back at his alma mater as men’s basketball coach, he made it obvious that when it was time for Marshall to "Bring on the Herd," it would be done at a pace at which the word "uptempo" might be an understatement.

Five days after D’Antoni’s hire, his Herd team underwent body composition testing. The MU Exercise Physiology Laboratory did the work. And what D’Antoni inherited was a bunch of players who could in no way play with the kind of verve the former Herd point guard desired and demanded.

A grueling summer of conditioning ensued, and anyone who has viewed preseason practices can see how Marshall will be able to transition to more transition play. And when Dr. Terry Shepherd and his Marshall Exercise Physiology staff checked the players again, D’Antoni had a team that was trimmed down and toned up.

"This is, by far, the best shape I’ve seen a men’s basketball team in here," said Joe Varga, the fourth-year director of strength and conditioning for Herd men’s and women’s basketball and Olympic sports. "Coach D’Antoni laid down a very specific challenge, with very specific expectations for the group overall and individually as well."

Varga said the Exercise Physiology staff did a body composition assessment on the men’s team, first on April 30 (pre-testing) and then again on Sept. 2, after summer workouts. The MUEPL used a "Bod Pod," which utilize a concept called "plethysmography," which measures air displacement and accurately predicts body fat within 2.2 percent.

The numbers for the eight returnees to the program were stunning in their improvement in body fat, or to lean fat. Several players cut their body fat percentage in half.



"Coach challenged guys to get under 10 percent (body fat)," Varga said. "That might not be realistic for some guys. Someone like JP (Kambola, 6 feet 10), someone his size and weight (234), doing the cutting that quickly and cutting in half is significant for a guy of his size. Coach understood that.

"I thought a big thing was getting down to 10 percent (body fat), average. The NCAA (men’s basketball) average is 9.4 percent. We’re close to that (9.59)."

Kambola’s body fat went from 19.2 percent to 11.2. Guard Justin Edmonds, who sat out last season after multiple right knee surgeries, went from 15.0 to 7.5. Forward Ryan Taylor, whose weight gain through last season was noticeable, slid from 18.3 to 9.7. Point guards DeVince Boykins and Tamron Manning made significant strides – Boykins from 13.1 to 6.1, Manning from 16.7 to 9.7.

Austin Loop’s percent of body fat went from 13.2 to 8.2, Shawn Smith from 16.1 to 10.8 and 6-9 Cheikh Sane from 16.9 to 13.5

On average, the eight returnees dropped from 16.06 percent body fat to 9.59. The group’s "fat weight" fell from 286 pounds to 165 (or 35.8 to 20.6 per person). All dropped at least 3.4 percent fat weight.

"I think the strides are huge," Varga said. "Sometimes, one of the biggest mistakes a sport coach or an athlete can make is focusing on the body weight number itself. While you still want to monitor and gauge that, surely, the body fat gives you more concrete evaluation.

"These guys have lost weight, and the weight they’ve kept is good weight."

Varga said the Exercise Physiology Lab works with men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and women’s soccer at MU.

"It’s not so much what you weigh," he said. "It’s the more lean weight you have, the better off you are. It was a combination of things for those guys – the weight room, running, eating better, being smart.

"We tried to have an overall balance for their conditioning, whether we were in here (the weight room in Gullickson Hall), down at the soccer stadium running, or at Ritter Park. Some days we did straight mileage, other says straight sprinting."

Varga sees how much the offseason work mattered every day in the Herd practices prior to the season, which starts with a home exhibition Saturday against Concord and regular-season opener Nov. 14 against Jacksonville State at the Henderson Center.

"You can see they’re much better in their energy levels," Varga said. "Taking a guy like JP, the way he can get off the ground now, his lift. Ryan Taylor, you can see him get lower on defense. Tamron, he gets up-and-down the court much better, faster.

"And a guy like Justin Edmonds, coming back from his kind of injury and surgery, any weight loss helps the process of coming back by taking some of the pressure off his right knee. Justin also was one of best guys in his eating. He was in here day-to-day, updating us what he was eating."

The 6-4, 216-pound Edmonds went from 184 to 201 pounds in lean body weight.

The seven newcomers to the team have a 13.2 percent body fat percentage. That number will come down with D’Antoni’s urging and Varga’s work, too.

As for those veterans, was there any beef to get them to buy in to reshaping their bodies as well as their games to play D’Antoni’s style?

"It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I really credit Coach. He came in, set the tone from Day 1. Guys bought into what he was doing out on the court and bought into what I was doing in here.

"I think Coach came in, it trickled down to the guys and that helped us do the job."