Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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Dave Rice’s first meeting with The Guru as UNLV’s basketball coach was pretty simple.
“I had a lot of confidence in him and I just wanted to empower him,” Rice said.
The Guru is Jason Kabo, the Rebels’ strength and conditioning coach for the last 11 years. Rice was familiar with Kabo from his days as an assistant at UNLV and he admired his work from opposing sidelines up until returning to his alma mater.
“I was always impressed with the way UNLV’s players looked,” Rice said.
Now Rice is more concerned with how they perform. He promised to bring the Rebels (21-4, 5-2) back to an up-tempo, running style, and Kabo is the man most responsible for executing that plan.
His handiwork will again be on display Saturday at 1 p.m. in front of a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center against No. 13 San Diego State (20-3, 6-1). The game will be televised on NBC Sports Network (Cox cable channel 38).
Running, obviously, has been at the center of Kabo’s workouts dating back to the preseason. But the ability to effectively turn that movement into on-court production is the key.
“Just getting that mentality of being able to compete with running,” sophomore forward Mike Moser said. “It’s hard to do as basketball players because all we want to do is get out there and play, but being able to compete has become real important.”
Every year is different, Kabo said. Track workouts have mostly given way to on-court drills. The exception is a timed mile at the beginning and end of the five-week period leading up to fall practices. Junior guard Anthony Marshall clocked in at about five minutes and 20 seconds, impressive especially when you consider that that’s as far as Kabo has the Rebels run.
“I don’t want to train them to run the mile, I want to train them like a basketball player would run,” Kabo said.
That means a lot of hard, fast movements for 30-40 seconds. And everything is timed.
Out on the football field, it’s 150-yard sprints in 22 seconds. In the arena, it’s trips from the bottom of the stairs up to the concourse in eight seconds.
The competition against each other and the clock is what keeps the Rebels running through everything that Kabo throws at them.
“Running in the cold in the morning, running the mile, running the sled on the football field, sprints in the gym with the weight vest, running stairs in the Thomas & Mack; it was always something new,” Moser said. “Kabo does a good job of mixing things up and making things competitive so it’s pretty fun.”
This year, one of the most productive drills had players start at one basket, jump up and slap the backboard with both hands three times, sprint to the other basket and touch the backboard with one hand and then finish sprinting through the half-court line.
Remember that drill when you see Moser grab a defensive rebound, finish at the other end and then get back on defense ahead of the guy he’s guarding.
“As far as running in games, it all translates because you just want to beat guys down the court,” Moser said.
In that first meeting together, Rice said that he wanted to develop a mindset of attacking and emphasized that cardiovascular endurance would be as important as strength.
“The biggest thing for guys is not just physical conditioning but more mental conditioning,” Rice said, “the fact that when you play this way in a sense you never stop running.”
But as far as specifics on attaining those goals, Rice just let The Guru go to work.
The results speak for themselves.