April 1, 2009
After playing a school record 33 games, most players would take a week off, maybe a couple weeks off when they are named the conference player of the year and just led the country in the regular season in total rebounds, rebounds per game and double-doubles. But not Santa Clara senior center John Bryant. Bryant, who will officially graduate in June, finished all his classwork a quarter early so right now it's all about basketball.
Bryant flew back with the team on Monday, March 9 after finishing the season by falling in the WCC Tournament semi-finals to eventual NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 participant and WCC champion Gonzaga. Bryant then slept in on Tuesday and Wednesday.
At 7:52 am on Thursday, March 12 he walked into Bronco head strength and conditioning coach Joe Siara's office and said "I'm ready to take the next step. Let's go." Since then, Bryant has worked out six days a week, three times a day.
Bryant will have a chance to see where he stands this weekend after three weeks of intense work. On Fri., April 3 Bryant will suit up as one of 10 college seniors on the Reece's All-Star team in the Hersey's All-Star game on Final Four Friday at Ford Field. One of Bryant's teammates? None other than the Zag's Josh Heytvelt. Bryant will be coached by Illinois head coach Bruce Weber, who led the Illini to a runner-up finish in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Weber will be assisted by Purdue head coach Matt Painter. Tip-off for the all-star game is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. (Pacific) and the game will be televised live on CBS College Sports.
Bryant is excited about the next few days, especially about playing with some of the top college seniors in the country. Because he leaves for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament on Tues., April 7, playing four games in five days, Bryant has chosen to fly back on Saturday and skip attending the Final Four.
"This is a business trip," said Bryant, smiling. "It will be a real honor to play in the all-star game, but afterwards I need to refocus my thoughts on going to the Portsmouth Invitational."
Bryant self-describes his schedule as `Sleep, eat, workout; Sleep, eat, workout; Sleep, eat, workout'. Get it?
In the early morning he does about an hour of conditioning with Siara. At 9 am, he meets one of Santa Clara's assistant coaches to go through an hour and 15 minute shooting work-out. One of the Bronco assistant coaches, which includes Sam Scholl, Dustin Kerns and James Ware, puts Bryant through ball handling, low-post moves and shooting drills. It's patterned after an NBA workout.
"He has improved dramatically because he is going five times a week intense in the gym shooting," said assistant coach James Ware. "He has really improved his ability to score the basketball in multiple ways. He is really focusing on the longevity of his career by being able to hit the outside shot. He is the first person there to every workout - he beats the coaches. He comes stretched and ready to go. He then stays after and shoots free throws."
Later in the day, Bryant meets Siara to lift weights and do more conditioning. Right now Siara is working to increase strength and power in his legs for the vertical jump test he will do at the NBA Combine in May. He is also working to improve his muscular strength and endurance in the bench press.
"John is working on three things right now specifically," said Siara, who attended Indiana University as undergraduate and University of Florida for graduate school, working under college basketball strength guru Matt Herring. "He is working to lose body fat percentage. We aren't worried about what he weighs as much as we are concerned about decreasing his body fat percentage. While losing the fat mass and increasing his lower body strength and power, we are looking to build on his vertical jump. We are also working to increase his reps for the 185lb. bench press test at the NBA Combine.
"John has also been working to improve his running mechanics. He ran for 21 years with that heavy weight, so he is working to improve the way his body moves at a lesser weight," said Siara, who helped Bryant lose 30 lbs. in the off-season prior to his senior year.
"The goal is to be in the best shape of my life going into this weekend, the All-Star weekend, and keep moving forward. Keep going up," said Bryant. "I want to keep getting better and better through the Final Four, the Portsmouth Invitational and at the NBA Combine in Chicago in late May. And then continue to build on my fitness and shooting ability through the NBA work-outs with various teams after the NBA Combine."
Bryant sometimes sees a glimpse at the end of the tunnel, but he won't let himself do that more than a second or two. And don't get Bryant wrong, it's hard.
"Hell yeah it's hard," said Bryant. "Everyone would be doing this if it wasn't hard. That is a real sacrifice. I have to really thank Joe Siara and all the coaches for all their help. Coach Keating and his staff have been so supportive and really helped me a lot."
"No classes, the fact he will graduate in June, has really helped him tailor his entire day to working out and getting ready for basketball," said Siara. "John set a great example for a young team this past season and working out this spring with the team, he will be able to continue to do that," continued Siara.
All 6' 11, 275 lbs. of Bryant then stands-up and says to Siara: "Time to get after it."
John Bryant: Sleep, eat, workout ... Sleep, eat, workout ... Sleep, eat, workout.