GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - With a core group returning with a lot of experience and four players settling into their first college offseason, a change in the NCAA rulebook came at a perfect time for the Green Bay men's basketball program.
The summer used to only be a time for classes and strength and conditioning work for the Phoenix, but the NCAA rules changed this spring, allowing for players to spend two hours per week in the gym with the coaches. That is where Green Bay was on Monday, back in Dick Bennett Gym for the opening session of summer individual workouts.
"Our staff loves the new rule change because it gives us a chance to get in the gym with the guys and help them all improve as players, which should really help our team when the season rolls around," said head coach Brian Wardle. "In the past, the summertime has been more about recruiting, scheduling, being out in the community and preparing behind the scenes for the next year while hoping our players were improving.
"Now, at least for a few hours a week, we can be in the gym with them helping that process. We have some good experience on the roster now, but we also have a handful of guys entering their second seasons here, so this is an important offseason for them."
Wardle's squad returns an upperclassmen post duo in 7-foot-1 Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.), a first team All-Horizon League selection, and 6-foot-9 Brennan Cougill (Sioux City, Iowa), now the team's lone senior. The offseason workouts provide an opportunity for Brown and Cougill to get in prime shape and develop chemistry on the court heading into next season.
The rule change will be just as beneficial for the roster's freshmen-turned-sophomores in their first offseason - Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.), Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.), Josh Humphrey (Chicago, Ill.) and Jared Dimakos (Schaumburg, Ill.). Last year was a whirlwind with the group trying to fit into the system and learn their roles, while this summer focuses more on improving their individual games and skill sets.
"Coach Wardle just basically just told us we are doing a lot of skill work," said Mays. "It is always exciting to have a chance to get to work on your game with the coaches. When you have to do it, you are a little bit more motivated to do it."
Monday also marked the first workout for junior transfer Alfonzo McKinnie (Chicago, Ill.), who joins the Phoenix after two seasons at Eastern Illinois. The 6-foot-8 McKinnie started 28 games a sophomore in 2011-12 while averaging 10.2 points and seven rebounds per game, and Monday was his first workout with the coaches after a couple of weeks on campus.
"It was a good workout. I have been in college for two years so you get used to the workouts, but it was a little more intense than workouts I have done in the past," McKinnie said. "After being in the weight room four days a week for two weeks straight, it felt good to touch the court."
A Chicago native and high school teammate of Sykes, McKinnie will have to sit out the 2012-13 season per NCAA transfer rules. The next year will allow the proven commodity to improve his game and get stronger while getting to practice with the team.
"Getting more skill work is always good. Trying to get better," McKinnie said. "I have a couple of individual goals [while I am sitting out]. First of all is to gain a little weight and get a little bigger. Also just to get better overall with skill work on the perimeter and in the post. I'm just going to take this year and get better, so when I am able to play I can help the team win."
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