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Basketball prepares for season

By Kevin Mohanram     10/7/14 4:54pm

After the Rice University basketball team went 12-48 over the last two seasons, the athletic department hired Mike Rhoades, a former head coach at Randolph-Macon College and former assistant head coach for the Virginia Commonwealth University team, which made it to the Final Four in 2011, to be its new head coach. Rhoades helped guide VCU to a 26-9 record last season and a spot in the NCAA Tournament and is instituting his own system and training regimen, which includes the same training that the Navy SEALs go through.

Although official practices did not begin until Saturday, Oct. 4, Rhoades has had the team working hard since summer, including having them train with Navy SEALs. According to Rhoades, undergoing rigorous training is the first step in changing Rice’s basketball culture to a culture of winning.

“We needed from day one to change the culture of the program and get it to be an overachieving, hard working approach,” Rhoades said. “We did Navy SEAL training, and it just gets you out of your comfort zone; it puts you in an environment that’s really hard. It’s taxing on your body [and] taxing on your mind. We thought that if we could do this stuff outside of basketball, it will help us when we get on the court.”

Senior forward and team captain Seth Gearhart said the coaches also participated in the training.

“Our whole staff and all of our players did it,” Gearhart said. “Most coaches wouldn’t put themselves through Navy SEAL training if they’re the ones in charge. It’s different.”

According to Rhoades, the training was split into two hours. The first hour took place in the pool, conducting strenuous water-based activities.

“We had to be at the pool at 6 a.m.,” Rhoades said. “From 6 to 7 [a.m.], our instructor put us through water exercises like sit-ups in the pool and human canoes where [we] connect five or six guys together and we have to learn how to stroke in the same direction at the same time. And we raced. Everything was a competition, [such as] swimming [and] jumping off the high dives. Some guys couldn’t swim. We had to help each other across the water.”

Rhoades said the second half of training took place across campus.

“We were running to a place to do exercises,” Rhoades said. “We had seven places on campus where [the instructor] had hoses and filled up mudpiles and water holes. We were in there, and we were dirty and grimy.”

Rhoades said he thought the intensive training was necessary for the team’s work ethic and ability to overcome adversity.

“It just made us very uncomfortable,” Rhoades said. “Our big thing was that we [have] to become comfortable when it is uncomfortable. We had missions we had to do and complete. There was competition, and your team had to win and you had to do your part.”

Rhoades also said that the SEAL training is critical to rebuilding Rice’s basketball program and instituting a winning mindset in the players and coaches.

“We’re rebuilding this,” Rhoades said. “We’ve struggled the last two years. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re trying to build it one block at a time. You’ve got to build the foundation first of a great work ethic and a team-first philosophy and get better after that.”

According to Gearhart, the SEAL training was difficult, but not unenjoyable.

“The SEAL training was pretty hard,” Gearhart said. “There is a little bit of a fun aspect when you’re doing stuff like crawling through trenches and mud tunnels. But it’s also harder than a lot of people realize. It’s just two hours of whatever grueling things the SEAL [instructor] could come up with.”

According to Rhoades, SEAL training was not a one-time deal. He said he plans to make it a customary thing for the basketball team to do before each season in order to bring them closer together every year.

“[It will be a] new tradition,” Rhoades said. “This is going to be what we do. We did it at VCU and it really worked. Our guys took great pride in it.”

The Rice basketball team opens their season Nov. 8 against LeTourneau University at Tudor Fieldhouse.

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