The Tennessee men’s basketball team hit its first week of offseason conditioning Monday with a drill designed to carry a message: Carrying your own weight isn’t enough.
The Vols, strength coach Troy Wills said, will have to carry their own weight on the team and then some.
“I had them carrying 100-pound plates over the football field in the indoor facility to see who could last longest,’’ Wills said. “I told them they could carry it however they wanted, but they had to keep moving.’’
Forwards Steven Pearl and Emmanuel Negedu lasted longest with senior Josh Tabb third.
Negedu may have had an advantage.
“Emmanuel was carrying it on his head,” Wills said with a chuckle. “He said he used to carry water like that back home (in Nigeria).”
Competitive drills are part of an offseason plan that’s stepped up by design.
“The last two years, we’d still been playing (in the Sweet 16),” UT coach Bruce Pearl said. “Our guys know they’re going to have to do things to get us back there.
“I think they’re ready to step up.’’
Wills said that’s what he has seen through the first three workouts.
“I went in there the first couple of days ready to get on them if things weren’t right,’’ Wills said. “But they just keep going about everything right.
“We have an opportunity to set a tone right now.’’
Wills reflected back on last season, when the Vols lost some close games in the final minutes.
“Winning those last four minutes starts now,’’ Wills said. “You need that confidence, that edge.
“Our guys understand those losses. They know the pitfalls of how tired they are going to be.’’
Most incoming basketball freshmen have a naivete when it comes to the weight room.
“Basketball is a little different than football, obviously, because of the different levels of exposure to the weights,’’ Wills said. “After one of our first games, one of our freshmen came to me afterward and said, `Man, you’ve got to go hard all the time.’
“I think now that they’ve had a year of experience, they understand the value of what we’re doing.’’
Pearl insists on it.
“One of the things we’re going to work on is our toughness, mental and physical,’’ Pearl said. “One of the ways you do that is push yourself to the next level and don’t hold back.
“We’re going to train harder than we ever have before, and our guys are hungry enough they’ll do it.’’
Tyler’s Push: Tyler Smith plans to test the NBA Draft waters before deciding whether to return for his senior season. Pearl has told Smith if he is “comfortably” in the first round, he should go.
Smith, however, is working out with the team in the meantime.