GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - With his young team now younger with the departures of two seniors that had combined to play over 250 career games, Green Bay head coach Brian Wardle knew this spring would be important for his program. After numerous individual workouts over the course of the past few weeks, the coach is pleased with the progress his players have made both on the court and in the weight room.
"One of the biggest emphases for every offseason but especially our team is getting in the weight room and adding strength," Wardle said. "I have been excited to see their bodies change already in three or four weeks. On the floor, we are working to improve our skill level with footwork, ball handling and shooting the basketball."
Four players that started a combined 95 games are transitioning into new roles for Wardle. Jarvis Williams (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Steve Baker (St. Paul, Minn.) are moving from junior college newcomers into seniors expected to lead. Seniors Rahmon Fletcher and Bryquis Perine are no longer on the roster, meaning Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) and Daniel Turner (McCordsville, Ind.) are no longer true freshmen but the two most experienced players in the program in terms of games started.
"I think Daniel Turner has taken a huge step in terms of leadership, which he expected to do and I think his teammates expected him to do," Wardle said. "Jarvis and Baker have a sense of urgency about them that I think is contagious. You want your seniors to be hungry because it is their last go-around."
That core group of returning players has led the Phoenix through spring workouts focused on a variety of facets of the game, with offensive improvement and competition being key aspects. The players regularly finish workouts with intense games of 1-on-1 and 2-on-2.
"We are cleaning up fundamentals and trying to get more consistency and confidence with our shooting, and we have been shooting the ball really well so that is encouraging," Wardle added. "We will always have competitions at least once and normally two or three. We needed to get better at scoring off the dribble and making plays for ourselves because one thing we do lose is two playmakers. So we are working a lot on creating off the dribble. It is has been very competitive."
Maybe more importantly than the on the court improvement has been the work Green Bay is doing in the weight room. This holds especially true for Brown and Turner. The frontline players held their own by combining to average 16.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in 2010-11, but as 18-year olds having battled with upperclassmen like Butler's Matt Howard, Wisconsin's Jon Leuer, Marquette's Jae Crowder and Detroit's Eli Holman, but they understand the benefits of adding strength.
"We try to tell the guys every day that we have to work towards our goal of a conference championship, and we can only do that one day at a time," Turner said. "Being in the weight room now is a key part for us in accomplishing that goal."
Turner has used his experience to develop into more of a leadership role for the Phoenix, and having a year under his belt has made that easier.
"I think it has been a good transition," Turner said. "We know what is expected now, and we know how to go about our business every day."
A third freshman, Kam Cerroni (Sussex, Wis.), had a more roller coaster season than his classmates after planning to redshirt before being activated for the final 22 games. This spring has been important to him after he spent all of last offseason recovering from a knee injury.
His team is still nearly six months away from officially starting practice for the 2011-12 campaign, but Cerroni is excited about the way his team has come together this spring.
"Our chemistry is really good right now," he
said. "We have a lot of guys who have not been around the program for that long
so it took some time throughout the season to gel, but we are really getting a
feel for each other both on and off the court."