Cat Scratches Feature: Offseason program pays dividends in first individual workouts

Sept. 2, 2009

Matthew Mitchell made a point to his team before the summer to take the offseason more seriously.

The third-year head coach encouraged the Cats to hit the gym, lift weights, stay focused, and he even instituted an offseason dribbling drill, where the players were required to take a ball with them wherever they went.

They got the message.

After the team's first individual workouts Tuesday, Mitchell came away extremely impressed with the progress UK has made, especially with the freshmen, senior guard Amani Franklin and junior All-Southeastern Conference forward Victoria Dunlap.

 “We had a great first day of individual workouts,” Mitchell said. “I think it's a credit to our offseason program. Our strength and conditioning coach Stephanie Tracey-Simmons did a great job this summer of getting our players in better shape for when they come back.

“It was the best first day we've had since I've been the coach.”

Mitchell admitted that it was only the first day of workouts and that there are still plenty to go, but he said there was a noticeable difference in the work regimen of the players.

“Our players did a great job on their own this summer,” Mitchell said. “They really spent a lot of time in the gym this summer so they were ready to go. We were really pleased and all the coaches noticed it. There is a very good atmosphere and a good energy surrounding the team, and we need it to be like that every single day.”

The Cats will undergo a fairly large roster overhaul this season as they welcome six new players – three Division I transfers and three freshmen – to the squad, but that doesn't make individual workouts any different this year, Mitchell said. As is always the case, the workouts are a time for evaluation and individual skill development.

Mitchell is allowed two hours a week with the players in small groups of four or less until Oct. 16. The Cats will practice three days a week for 40 minutes each until the first team practice.

During the workouts, Mitchell will place a heavy emphasis on improving each player's weaknesses. Workouts will be tailored to the player and the position, and generally speaking, Mitchell will divide the groups into each position (point guard, shooting guards, power forwards, etc.).

The Cats will be back on the practice courts Wednesday afternoon and will finish up the week Friday.