By Cody Soto
Offseason never looked so fun.
The Baylor men’s basketball team experienced a much different offseason training over the past month. The Bears cross-trained with seven other teams, which included football, rowing, gymnastics, tennis, lacrosse, soccer and baseball.
This is the first time the program has participated in such an event, and the mastermind behind it all was Charlie Melton, the director of men’s basketball athletic performance. Melton coordinated practices with each team, and in turn the Bears learned the dynamics and fundamentals of each sport for a day.
“I just finished my 10th year here, and for we’ve done postseason the same way for 10 years in a row,” Melton said. “This is the only chance we get to step out of basketball, get outside, do something a little bit different. We still want to get better, but we don’t just want to be in the weight room going for sets and reps, doing the same old reps, the same old monotony.”
Training with other sports teams has allowed the players to condition in a different way this offseason, and it is a different type of soreness when the team wakes up in the morning, Melton said.
“(Taurean Prince) said he had to use his hands to pick his legs up on Saturday to get in the car,” Melton said. “It’s kind of the feeling for it, to stay in shape, to work on athleticism, create new relationships and see the campus.”
While the cross training allows the basketball team to get out of the weight room for a few hours to do a different type of workout, the meaning behind it is also very simple: have fun.
“Anytime we can compete and laugh, I think it’s a great thing,” Melton said. “That’s part of the focus now, just relax and let the season go and shift gears for the summer. It was more successful than I ever imagined it was going to be.”
What is interesting about this concept is not only the peculiarity of it, but the valuable relationships that the players are building with other student-athletes.
“This was my first time being on a tennis court,” junior forward Rico Gathers said. “It made us challenge ourselves and our minds to compete. It’s a lot of footwork, a lot of detail, a lot of skill, so I really admire these dudes.”
Most recently, Baylor men’s basketball met up with No. 2 men’s tennis at the Hurd Tennis Center for some one-on-one lessons on the basic fundamentals of serving, hitting and returning. Senior men’s tennis player Mate Zsiga will not forget seeing a tennis ball sailing out of the park on Wednesday afternoon, he said.
“Rico came in here and hit the first ball out of the stadium, and at the end he actually made a few serves in, so he made quite a progress,” Zsiga said. “They tried hard, and it was great. It seemed like they enjoyed it.”
Not only is this cross-training proving to benefit the men’s basketball squad, but the tennis team enjoyed the company on the court. The men’s tennis team is busy preparing for the 2015 NCAA first and second rounds, so a break from routine was well worth it, Zsiga said.
“The grind can be a little tiring, so it was good to have a little fun,” he said. “Right now we are practicing for the NCAA’s, so we didn’t have to take this seriously. It’s good to mix it up a little bit. We never did this before. It was awesome.”
The basketball team has even invited the men’s tennis team to play a competitive five-on-five game in the fall, during the tennis team’s offseason. Wonder who would be the starting five for tennis? Zsiga has an idea.
“For point guard, I got Diego (Galeano) for sure,” Zsiga said. “He is good, he played basketball before. I got Vince (Schneider) as a center because he’s a tall, strong guy. For power forward I got myself. Maybe Will (Little) can be another point guard, and (Felipe) Rios we can put in there.”
Although the men’s tennis team may have a starting lineup, the massive size of the men’s basketball team may overpower them just a bit. Gathers against Zsiga in the paint? That might not be pretty.
“I don’t know if we could score at least. They are way too tall for us,” Zsiga said. “To go up against Rico would be painful I would feel like. It’s not an easy task. On the half court maybe we can make money shots, but it’s a different level out there.”
The Bears’ most successful sport, besides basketball of course, was flag football with junior quarterback Seth Russell. Melton said fans might not see the hidden footage of Gathers on the field, but Gathers was not quiet about his abilities.
“I was in the pocket like I was Bryce Petty working on my arm, moving the sticks and focusing on getting the ball to receivers and scoring touchdowns,” Gathers said. “I put the ball in other people’s hands but they cost us the game. I’m not saying any names.”
With the success of the offseason Olympics this year, Melton and the team are planning on making cross-training an annual ritual at the end of every season. The team will look to add different sports to its schedule as well, some that would entertain fans.
“We’d like to do equestrian but we’ll see about that,” Melton said. “Rico on a horse, it better be a Clydesdale.”