Englehart building up ’Bows
Conditioning key for UH in grueling Rainbow Classic
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Before Hawaii basketball coach Bob Nash began building the Rainbow Warriors into a team on the court, Steve Englehart was charged with laying a foundation.
Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic
» Stan Sheriff Center
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Englehart, the Rainbows strength coach, pushed the players in the weight room over the summer and continues to work with them to maintain those gains.
"My body feels in much better condition," UH senior Riley Luettergerodt said. "I got a lot stronger this summer, everybody did, and it's paying dividends.
"With the rigors of practice and travel, I feel a lot stronger. Steve got us great shape for the season and is continuing to keep us in shape."
Conditioning will be a key this week as the team plays three games in four days in the Outrigger Hotel Rainbow Classic.
The 44th annual tournament opens tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Ohio plays St. John's in the opening game at 5 p.m. UH then begins defense of the Classic championship by facing Louisiana-Lafayette at 7:30.
Tomorrow's first-round games are Tulane vs. Saint Mary's at 5 and East Tennessee State vs. Georgia at 7:30.
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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
UH strength coach Steve Englehart and Kareem Nioto worked on leaping with resistance provided by elastic bands.
Ask Hawaii basketball players about Steve Englehart's impact on the program and the praise flows freely.
Weight room leaders on the UH basketball team:
Bench press (repetitions at 185 pounds)
Stephen Verwers 21
Jared Dillinger 21
Alex Veit 20
Riley Luettgerodt 20
Approach vertical (in inches)
Kareem Nitoto 44.0
Conrad Fitzgerald 40.5
Alex Veit 39.5
Riley Luettgerodt 39.5
Gary Satterwhite 39.5
Bobby Nash 30
Matt Gibson 28
Jared Dillinger 27
Riley Luettgerodt 375
Jared Dillinger 335
Bobby Nash 330
If he's doing his job right, though, the Rainbow Warriors strength coach knows there'll be times when those same guys don't like him very much at all.
"During the preseason, 'In like 7 in the morning, we've got weights,' " Englehart said. "When they come in in the morning they do not like me. I have a good relationship with them and, man, they don't talk to me the whole weekend."
Those feelings tend to be fleeting with the understanding that the labor expended in the weight room has benefits during the season, particularly on weeks like this.
The Rainbows' conditioning figures to be tested over a stretch of three games in four days starting tonight in the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic, especially considering four players average more than 32 minutes per game.
"That's where the things we've done in the weight room, all the conditioning stuff we've done, now is the time where it shows," UH head coach Bob Nash said. "Now we'll see if we get the fruits of our labor."
Several players made significant gains while spending much of their summer working with Englehart, a graduate assistant, and head strength coach Tommy Heffernan in voluntary weight-training sessions.
The Rainbows have continued lifting during the season, going into the weight room at least three times a week before practice, with the emphasis shifting to maintenance and injury prevention.
"We're not lifting to get any bigger or any stronger," Nash said. "We're just trying to maintain our flexibility and maintain our strength."
To build strength and explosiveness, Englehart had the players concentrate on Olympic lifts -- power cleans, hang cleans, push presses and squats among them -- and a program of plyometrics during the summer and in the preseason.
Endurance came with running 300-yard shuttles, a series of 25-yard sprints to be completed in less than a minute. They also focused on core strength with a variety of daily routines designed to punish their abs.
"Coach Nash gave me the green light," Englehart said.
"The trick was not to overtrain them in the offseason and preseason. You don't want your plateau to hit in the middle of the season. When your conference starts, that's when you want your plateau to hit. So these guys are still building."
These days, the lifting is lighter and the squats have been taken out of the routine to reduce wear on the players' knees. They'll also work on a Vertamax platform, with a player tethered to the base with elastic bands to provide resistance while performing a series of short jumps.
"They're going to be doing their running and jumping during practice, my thing is to maintain the fast-twitch fibers so they can go hard and keep that vertical up," said Englehart, who is responsible for getting the team stretched and warmed up before games and practices.
He is also quick to dispel the notion that adding muscle can affect a player's shooting stroke.
"A lot of old-school people will say weights will mess your shot up," he said. "Weights will not mess your shot up, it's not shooting after you lift weights. That's what we did in the offseason, they come in and lift, then I'll go in the (gym) and toss them the ball."
The training has had tangible results for several players.
When senior Bobby Nash was tested at the start of last season as he returned from a shoulder injury, he could perform one repetition of 225 pounds on the bench press. A year later he was up to eight reps.
"One of the biggest knocks on me was my size and strength, so that's what I wanted to concentrate on this summer and be able to take the punishment of a long season," said Nash, the Rainbows' leading scorer.
Riley Luettgerodt was also among the regulars in the Alexander Waterhouse Training Facility over the summer and added three inches to his vertical while improving his overall strength.
"You don't get bumped off cuts or if you're going to the hoop and finishing," Luettgerodt said. "It wasn't about just getting stronger, we did a lot to improve our quickness and flexibility."
Englehart is confident freshman guard Kareem Nitoto will own most of the program's weight-room records by the time he finishes his career. Nitoto, who has a football and track background along with basketball, has already tied Erin Galloway's mark for the highest vertical leap -- with a three- or four-step approach -- at 44 inches.
Although the numbers can be fun to track, Englehart makes sure to remind the players that "their job is on the basketball court, it's not here being a power lifter."
Sometimes finding a place to train can be a challenge on the road and maintaining a routine can require a bit of improvisation. Such was the case when Bill Amis wanted a workout prior to last month's game at New Mexico and Englehart crafted a session in Amis' hotel room.
"Steve's the MacGyver of lifting," said Amis, who plans to spend the summer here working on putting more muscle on his frame. "He can take you anywhere and show you exercises you can do with just body weight or (resistance) bands."