Articles & Resources

The Journey Through The NIT by Andy Weigel

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on May 22, 2011 2:47:00 PM

by Andy Weigel



basketball resources


It was December 18th, 2010 in Oklahoma City and we had just walked off the court at the Ford Center.  We had lost our 6th game of the young season, this one to Oklahoma State, dropping our record to 5-6.  This loss unlike the others had a different feel.  Although it was a loss, it was a step in the right direction.  After the game, we came together as a team and for the first time all year there was a sense of optimism.

We went on to win 16 of our next 21 games, win the SEC West, finish second overall in the SEC and get knocked out in the semi-finals of the SEC tournament to Kentucky.  That brought us to selection Sunday.  We gathered as a team and watched as all 68 teams were selected, several who we had beaten and others who we had lost to.  However, for this tournament we wouldn’t be selected.  That moment was a tough one as most coaches know.  The dreams of playing in the NCAA tournament for four seniors was now over for good.

Later that night we were selected to the NIT tournament as the overall top seed.  The rollercoaster year we had endured was continuing on the same path.  This would prove to be another big test of character for our team.  The emotional letdown of not making the NCAA tournament is huge!    However, we still had a chance to once again come together as a team, continue to advance the direction of the program and compete for a championship in Madison Square Garden.  

Our first challenge was hitting the practice court to prepare for our contest against Coastal Carolina.  The limited time to prepare for the Chanticleer’s was probably a good thing.  We found out late Sunday night that we would be playing at 6 pm on Tuesday.  During this time motivation and focus were obstacles.  Our team’s vision of being selected into the field of 68 was so strong that not getting in was certainly going to affect us.  It was just a matter of how much and for how long.  Could we refocus and readjust our vision to a different prize? During the next 48 hours, Coach Grant did a tremendous job of communicating to our players the opportunity we had and what his expectations were.  This was coaching at its finest and if you want your athletes to display great character they need to be led by great character.

A different concern we had before our first round game was the atmosphere we would be walking into at home.  We had become accustomed to loud sell-out crowds of 15,000 plus for our SEC season.  Now, not only was it the NIT, it was also Spring Break! We all predicted dismal attendance numbers but to our delight, over 5,000 of the rowdiest die hard Alabama fans packed Coleman Coliseum.  The great thing about the NIT is that seating is general admission, so all of the fans packed the lower portion of the coliseum creating quite an advantage.  This spirit gave all of us a great unexpected boost.  We went on to beat a very competitive Coastal Carolina team 68-44.

With the NIT, there is some uncertainty of when you’ll play based around ESPN’s broadcast schedule.  There are a handful of possibilities, but you really do not know.  The waiting game had begun and with that we had a couple days off before preparation for our second round opponent New Mexico.   Eventually, our schedule was set for a tip-off at 8 PM on Monday night and the winner would advance to play again on Wednesday with a trip to New York City on the line.  After two days away, we came back and had a team lift that went pretty well considering it was Friday at Noon during Spring Break.  A few years ago I heard Vern Gambetta speak and he made a comment that has resonated with me ever since.  Vern said, “You need to win the workout!”  That was a very powerful concept.  For the circumstances that we were in, I knew that we needed to “win the workout,” it would have a tremendous impact on the rest of the day.  With that in mind, I threw a “game winner” in the workout; bench press.  I also added a few cheese and broccoli (great exercise in disguise); clear the hips to curl and press.  They get the curl and I get some front butt hip extension with a 1-arm vertical press, we all win.  I also threw in a challenge of switch grip pull-ups. One of our player’s strong qualities is that they are ultra-competitive.  When they hear “challenge” it gets them excited and that is exactly what switch grip pull-ups will bring out; a competitive challenge.  I felt we won the workout which helped us transition into a good practice as well.  

After Saturday and Sunday practices we came back Monday ready for a physical and explosive New Mexico team.  Our passionate fan base was out in full force again as we prevailed 74-67.  Next up were the Miami Hurricanes.  The stakes were much higher with a potential trip to New York City and the chance to compete for the NIT Championship in Madison Square Garden.  Our new prize was becoming clearer and we were starting to distance ourselves from the heartache of missing out on the NCAA tournament.  Not only were the NIT semi-finals at stake but we also had a perfect record at home on the line.  Once again Wednesday night, Coleman Coliseum was rocking and we brought home the victory, 79-64 and capped off an undefeated season at home, finishing 19-0!  The next step was New York City.

Thursday we let the guys recover physically and mentally with an off day from workouts.  On Friday we reconvened and went with a post/guard split.  The post players would start in the weight room and get in a 30-40 minute lift, while the guards would be on the court doing skill work.  Eventually we would flip flop and I would finish with the guards.  The focus was a lot better now as the reality of a championship and playing at “The Garden,” were only a few days away.  We practiced Saturday in preparation for our Tuesday contest with Colorado.  Sunday morning we flew to New York and checked in at the NIT host hotel, Marriott Marquis.  It was conveniently located in the middle of Times Square which has both its advantages and disadvantages.  After quickly dropping off our bags and grabbing a snack we headed to practice at NYU in Manhattan.  If there is one challenge I haven’t mastered yet, it’s the “post plane practice.”  Sitting on a plane for 2 ½ hours, bus for 1 ½ hours, then practicing in an unfamiliar setting with a different, older floor is the recipe for a poor practice.   This makes the warm-up really important.  Even if practice is not great, their bodies need to be turned on and ready to go.    However, this doesn’t guarantee a good practice.

Monday we practiced at Baruch College and then later on headed to an NIT dinner in Central Park.  For a tournament banquet to be a success it needs to be short in length, have good food and run smoothly.  This one was a success.  It met all of those qualities and we even had a chance to take a team picture with a great back drop.   

Tuesday was game day and we finally had the chance to shoot around in the Garden.  If you’ve never been to the Garden before you’re in for a shock.  This was my 2nd time so I knew that it was an older building and currently undergoing renovations.  I would say most of our players were shocked by the freight elevator we took from ground level to court level.  What makes it special is the history, the atmosphere and the face that it resides in the greatest city in the world.  Eventually we made our way onto the court and had a good shoot around.  Our semifinal game that night was against an explosive Colorado team, who a few weeks earlier went through the same tournament letdown we had endured.  It was a back and forth game and we were fortunate to hang on for the 62-61 victory as Colorado missed a shot at the buzzer.  Now our season would end on Thursday night in the NIT championship game.

Wednesday, Coach Grant wanted the players to experience New York while they had the opportunity.  So several of us got on our team bus and toured the city for a couple of hours.  We viewed Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge.  We finished off the trip with a ride to the top of the Empire State Building.  Later on we had a walk-through on Wichita State, our opponent in the championship game.       

Thursday marked the end of our season and wild ride.  We lost a tough one to a really good Wichita State team.  I give them tons of credit; they were the better team that day.  This was a team who earlier in the season took UCONN to the final minute in Maui.  The Shockers, just like us, could have been in the NCAA tournament.

When I look back at our experience, I feel there are a lot of misconceptions about the NIT.  It is a good tournament and there is a lot of value to gain.  I think it will help our players and program in the long run.  I also believe that it will be a confidence boost for our player’s that leads us into the future.  The experience can be really rewarding if you approach it the right way.  Most importantly the NIT gives you an opportunity to continue playing.  Regardless of the heartache of missing the NCAA tournament, if you truly love the game, it won’t matter what tournament you’re in as long as you’re still playing.

Topics: Basketball Related, Andy Weigel

Movement Prep: Making The Most Of It

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 21, 2010 7:23:00 AM

By Andy Weigel

Whether it is a 2 hour practice or 45 minute weight training session, proper movement prep (MP) is an essential part of our basketball routine. This short session of stretches can have a big impact on your team's physical and mental well-being. There are many factors that need to go into devising your MP. I will explain 4 Elements of MP along with other factors to take into consideration when designing your MP plan. In my case I have to specifically come up with a plan for basketball. Now the needs for my basketball team and are very different from what another team or sport may need. Therefore, it's vital to identify what my needs are.
When I design a MP, the first thing I ask myself is, what are we doing it for? Well that's easy, basketball, duh! True, but I need to get more in depth than that. Some days we will practice for 2 or more hours and it will be at a high intensity. Another day may be getting shots up for an hour. We may do individual work in a ¼ court setting with moderate intensity. The MP may be after we got off a plane or bus!
Now that I know what I'm using the MP for I can ask myself a few more questions. How long do I have for MP? Coach usually gives me a timeframe to work with, it's important to know. If I have 5 minutes, I have to use exercises that give me the most bang for my buck. If I have longer, I better know what to do with my time. I can't exhaust the team with my 10-15 minutes.

Where are the players at mentally? If I have great exercises but mentally the players have cashed out on me, it's something I need to take into consideration. The great MP I designed won't do its job, unless I get them doing it with some level of alertness and focus. Over the course of a basketball season the mental part is huge! After talking with a colleague this year, he calculated all of the movement preps over the course of a year at over 300! Your players may lose some interest; the question to yourself is what can I do to get them ready today?
How many players will I be warming up? If I have the entire team, how specific and difficult can I get with exercise? It's difficult to view 15 players trying to do a split stance lunge with 3-way uni-lateral upper body drivers with 3 angulations. At another time I may have a 4 man group, who moves well and understands exactly what I want. Timing is important for whatever you're flowing into.
Will I have any implements? It can be a very specific piece of equipment such as a tri-stretch or something much more basic as a box. You can get very creative and expand your toolbox of exercises with implements. Something else to consider are your resources when you travel. It may be wise to travel with some equipment but size is an issue. I've also found bleachers and railings are hidden gems when looking for implements on the road.

After you've answered those it's time to get into the actual MP. With each MP I believe you need to incorporate 4 Elements into its design. I did not create these 4 categories but I was fortunate to study under, Matt Herring at the University of Florida for nearly 3 years and take away these organized ideas about MP from him.

1. Increase muscle temperature (Warm-Up)
• Dynamic flexibility
• Multiple joints & muscles
• 3-planes

2. Clear dysfunctions and improve mobility
• Identify dysfunctions & issues
• Mobility vs Stability - what needs what
• 3-planes
• The big 3 - Ankle, Hip, T-Spine

3. Turning on the CNS
• 3-planes
• Ground based
• Gravity
• Proprioception

4. Movement
• Basic movement patterns
• Basketball movement patterns

There is a 5th category I have as well but I don't include it with the previous 4 elements. The last one is a needs category. This category is unique from the others. Most often it turns out to be an energy and enthusiasm category. I don't always use it but if I can see we need it, I'll include it. These exercises are sometimes very specific to basketball but not always. I may view the need for communication and incorporate that into a drill. There have been days where the staff has gotten involved with category 5. This category is always last; so it is right before the guys are handed over to coach.

Below is an example of a pre-practice warm-up that will last for 2+ hours at a high intensity. It is done in the pre-season so the guys are fresh mentally. The entire team will be involved and I'll have all of my normal implements. Coach has given me 10-12 minutes.
Muscle Temperature - 4 Dynamic Flexibility

  • Knee Hug
  • Heel to Butt
  • Straight Leg March
  • Sumo Squats

Dysfunction/Mobility- The Big 3

  • Ankle - Tri-Stretch
  • Hip - Hip Rockers w/ 3 stances
  • T-Spine - T-Hugs/T-Swings


  • Jump Matrix or Pivot Matrix w/ Arm Drivers


  • High Knees/Butt Kicks - Forward/Retro
  • Skip Matrix - Forward/Retro
  • S-Pattern Runs/Shuffles

Category 5

  • Star Passing

Here are a few other things to consider:
• Recording and dating each session
• Creating an encyclopedia of exercises
• Grading the MP, ex. too long, confusing, lost focus
• Reuse a MP, probably not every day but maybe once every few weeks
• When Coach says, "We won't go hard today, do we need to stretch?" Say yes, 5 minutes won't hurt!
• In-Season this is the only thing you may get to do with them for a week or 2 stretch (hopefully not)
• It's ok to ask the players what they need, they'll often tell you. Doesn't mean you have to conform! They're mental needs of, "I Feel It," are important
• If you can get a copy of the practice plan, it can help with design. It helps to know if practice will start with a 5 on 5 full court or defensive skill work.

Topics: Conditioning-Agility-Speed, Andy Weigel

Andy Weigel, University of Alabama

Posted by Kate Gillette on Aug 17, 2010 5:14:00 PM

Alabama Strength Coach


Andy Weigel

 How and why did you get into the field of strength and conditioning?

I moved out of Wisconsin in 2001 to Daytona Beach, Florida.  After a short stint working in a deli, I started working at a health club and soon became a personal trainer.  I knew very little but I worked hard and made good money.  However, I knew that this wasn't going to be long-term thing.  I had a passion for sports, especially basketball.  If only I could find a way to combine the two.  I finished my associate's degree in Daytona Beach and transferred to University of Florida.      
Fast forward to the summer of 2005, I was a physiology and kinesiology major, sitting in a coaching class.  The kid sitting next to me was a basketball manager, Kyle Gilreath.  We spoke on a daily basis about the basketball program and I had no clue the structure or how a college team worked.  After Kyle explained they had their own strength and conditioning coach I asked if he'd introduce me.  I went to the Florida Basketball facilities where I was introduced to Matt Herring.   We spoke for almost 2 hours and Matt offered for me to be a "fly on the wall," for the rest of summer.  I took that opportunity to heart and 5 years later, I'm the basketball strength coach at Alabama.

How has your training philosophy changed in the last 3-5 years?

My philosophy hasn't taken a 180 in the last 3 years but I have solidified and enhanced my knowledge of my beliefs.  I have also widened by horizons by looking at a lot of other coaches.  I truly believe that basketball players need to be trained functionally; using the ground, gravity, momentum through tri-plane movement.  That gets misinterpreted as crazy lunges, reaches and jumps.  I even thought that at one point.   I really think it's following our anatomy and functions of how we're programmed and training it efficiently and effectively.  That doesn't have to be crazy; it can be kept very simple and organized.  For a while I had a huge toolbox and was willing to try every tool to see what it did.  Now I have a huge toolbox with organization and purpose.   
I also have seen that no matter what style or philosophy you have it truly isn't the most important thing.  How you do what you do is by far the most important thing.  If all you do is squat and bench than do that with all your heart and make your players believe that it's getting them to be the best.  I now realize that X's and O's are important but how I implement those is more important.
What are the 3 biggest mistakes a basketball player makes when it comes to strength and conditioning?

I'm going to pace myself for conditioning to make it through; last set best set, I'm giving 110%.  This is a huge pet peeve of mine.  We'll be doing a conditioning test where the players are struggling to make their times at 35 seconds.  Our head coach will yell out, "If you make the last run in 32 seconds than you don't have to run the last 2.  And magic, guys are making their runs in 28 seconds. 
Give your best as much as you can.  It is impossible to give 100% all the time, impossible in my eyes to give 110%.  You'll be in better condition in the long run if you give that type of effort all the way through.       
I don't want to get too big!  I'm too skinny I need to get huge!  Another huge mistake players confuse themselves with is body weight.  Is their size inhibiting them from being better?  I think each individual has their own zone of body weight and size that is optimal for themselves.    I also believe body composition is just as important as body weight.  The guy who gained 15 pounds has now increased his body fat percentage by 3 has probably not helped himself.  Let coaches help determine the best needs not a guy on a school blog or NBA draft guru.
I want to get on LeBron's plan!  I heard Dwight Howard does this!  That's great; do you have LeBron's skill or athleticism or Kobe's desire, work ethic, and discipline?  LeBron, Kobe, Dwight, and others all have their workouts for them.  Your individual needs are very different.   Some of the things they do may be great but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's what you need.  

There has been a lot of debate about the squat and single leg training?  In your opinion, should basketball players squat?   Year round?  Only Summer?  Never?


Players love to compete whether it's on the court or in the weight room.  How do you create a competitive environment in the weight room?

I like to use competitions when appropriate.  I'll also use themes for whoever we'll be playing a certain week.  I think that negative comments all the time do not work.  I'm trying to focus on building a culture of intensity through positive and rewarding words.  I'm afraid that if I bring up the bad that's all my guys will remember, what they can't do or how they got beat.  I need them believing more in themselves and what they can do, than they even know.  I continuously try to create a vision for each workout.  Recently I've told the guys Friday's will be tight shirt day.  I even put my Nike Pro on with them.  Freaky Friday's are some of our best workouts! 
This is an underrated category; this is an area that speaks about how you do things.  If used correctly I think this can create an immense mental advantage of your players.  

I think squatting is great.  I also think it can have negatives.  If it's in your philosophy to squat then squat!   With basketball players I think it's essential to understand the differences in body size and therefore the impact a squat has on the player.  The current group I have has 4 really good squatters and 4 who are not so good.  I'm working on improving their form but also realize that I'm not going to load a guy with 225 on his back just to say we squatted.  I think that hurts him.  The 4 who can squat will squat.  The others we'll create a squat or exercise to make them successful. 
It it's appropriate in-season and the players are capable we'll squat.  I'll also use various forms of the squat ranging from foot stances, dumbbells, heel elevated, keiser squat, bodyweight, or using a vest.   
I love single leg training as well.  I find lots of asymmetries that I can address by using single leg work.  Sometimes the squat is a disguise to some issues.  We do so much work on 1-leg it's important to train that way.     

Topics: Q&A, Andy Weigel