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Strength and conditioning coach Reilly brings new attitude, deepens Red Raiders team bond

Posted: July 8, 2017 - 7:12pm

Even before the first player arrived, John Reilly was preparing for what turned out to be a grueling Friday morning lift for the Texas Tech men’s basketball team.

The second-year Red Raider men’s basketball strength and conditioning coach picked up a dry-erase marker and started to write down the workout schedule on a large whiteboard placed in the middle of a modest weight room under United Supermarkets Arena.

One phrase stood out at the top, though: Strain and you will grow!

Junior college transfer Hyron Edwards, freshman Jarrett Culver and transfer Brandone Francis stroll into the weight room, smiling, and giving handshakes to all of the rest of the graduate assistants and others in the room.

“We ready,” Francis said, cracking a smile.

A few moments later, graduate transfer Tommy Hamilton IV, and seniors Keenan Evans, Zach Smith, Justin Gray and the rest of the squad walked through the doors and began to fuel up, stretch and get ready for a 7:50 a.m. workout.

Everyone is on time.

“Consistency, it’s one of the things I preach to the athletes,” Reilly said. “If you’re persistent, you’re going to get what you want. But if you’re consistent, you’re going to keep what you want.”

Developing consistency

Early mornings are no bother to Reilly.

While he can recall countless times he’s had to wake up before the sun is up, usually to workout with an athlete, Reilly feels as though it became a positive habit more than a decade ago.

Right before he competed with BYU’s the track and field team, Reilly elected to go on a mission to trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 2005-2007. Learning to read and speak fluent Portuguese may have been highlights for most from the two-year calling, but they were just a footnote compared to a couple of life lessons Reilly developed while serving the natives.

“Every single day you wake up at 6:30 a.m. and went to sleep at the same time. For two years, seven days a week. There were no off days,” Reilly recalled. “You woke up, exercised, did your studying, partnered up for bible study and went out and served people.

“(It) showed me how much you can grow when you’re focused and consistent. A lot of guys can work hard for one day, but what about every day? That’s a big thing for our athletes.”

Reilly’s attention to detail – revolving around being on time and making sure workouts have correct form – are several reasons the basketball team has enjoyed positive gains in strength training and significant losses on the weight scale.

“I’m a big believer that you can’t get stronger without lifting,” said Reilly, a decathlete at BYU from 2008-2011. “You don’t get better at shooting without shooting more. That’s the approach we took. Justin (Gray), Keenan (Evans) and Norense (Odiase) have seen the benefits.”

Helping others

Hamilton and Odiase are just a few examples.

One year ago, Hamilton stepped onto campus at 300 pounds before he entered a workout regimen — which included a lot of cardiovascular training — that helped him reach his current weight of 253 pounds around the end of June.

“Those were more of a mental thing, too, because when you’re running it’s not like you have to have to physically stop,” said Hamilton, who is hoping to close in on 245 before the regular season begins. “Obviously, it helped me drop some of the weight that I was carrying. Coach Reilly was really focused on the times, trying to lock me in on getting better times each week.

“After a while, I wasn’t really running for time. I realized I was kind of fast.”

Under the watchful eye of Reilly, Odiase trimmed down to 235 pounds with seven-percent body fat. Those weight losses will be huge gains when he returns, following a foot injury last season, to the hardwood in the fall.

“He was at 265 pounds and 14 percent body fat when we started,” Reilly said of Odiase. “Now he’s 235 at seven-percent body fat. That’s significant improvement. That’s like a guard weight or a guard body fat.”

Gaining trust

In some ways, Reilly likes to joke around when he talks about his specific role as it pertains to the Red Raider men’s basketball team.

“I don’t think anybody comes to Texas Tech saying I want to come here because of the weight room: I want to lift,” Reilly quipped. “They come here to play the game of basketball. … Building a relationship with athletes that typically don’t like the weight room is crucial to what I do.

“We have great facilities and shiny equipment, but that’s not what makes Texas Tech. It’s about the relationships and the investment in the athlete. That’s where I feel we separate ourselves from other schools.”

Before the basketball team started its Friday morning weight session, accompanied by beats from DJ Loren England, Reilly made sure to say hello to each of his players.

Just a few minutes afterward, everyone huddled up for a quick word.

After explaining expectations and some of the specific workouts, Reilly let the DJ do his thing by blaring Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” along with some other music worthy of a workout playlist that even got Smith to pause a few times to dance or sing along.

But before he got too into a song’s chorus, Evans reminded him that he needed to finish a rep – a small example in the 24/7 attempt for Reilly to develop a community of accountability.

“Culture was No. 1,” Reilly said of what he wanted to establish in his first season. “I wanted to make sure everyone was working, not cheating reps or sets. And having high energy, getting after it every single day.

“That and having consequences for winners and losers. And the guys really bought in.”

After more than a year of work, Reilly feels like he’s gotten a firm grasp of the job.

His affirmation has come from seeing players such as Evans, and others, keep teammates in check during workouts.

“They understand how to work and now it’s about improving their movement efficiency,” Reilly said about what he’s doing in his second season. “Making sure they’re squatting a little bit better, they’re cutting better, all of those things to make yourself one percent better like coach (Chris) Beard always says.”

Future success

Speaking of the Red Raiders head coach, Beard dropped in along with Brian Burg, Chief of Staff, to check out the workout.

It was one of a many times the Texas Tech head coach has kept tabs with Reilly on the progress of his team in the weight room.

“He’s a workaholic,” Reilly said, cracking a smile. “Sometimes I’ll get a random text at 2 a.m. about a new workout or something else that he’s found. It’s always about learning and winning for him. He backs it up 24/7.”

More so, Beard hates to lose and it’s permeated into the rest of his players and staff.

It’s a trait Reilly has done his best to incorporate into workouts to keep the players on task. And it’s also been a solid litmus test to see which players are ready to deal with adversity on the court, or in life, as well.

“Coach Beard wants them to hate losing, but I’m looking for how are you going to come back after losing? That’s what I’m looking for on the court and in the weight room, as well,” Reilly said. “How are you going to respond? Are you going to be sad and a sore loser, or are you going to come back and compete. … I feel like competition teaches our athletes that.”

Hamilton showed that resolve Friday morning, pushing through the pain as he finished off a pair of reps with 100-pound free weights with his teammates gathering round and cheering him on.

Afterward, Reilly could only crack a smile.

“This is my dream job, I’ve always wanted to be in a position to be around athletes and to see what the elite can do,” he said. “And, what can I do to help the elite get better. It’s all about serving others. That’s what I try to teach the athletes, there’s always somebody you can uplift.”

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