Valley basketball coaches happy to utilize new summer rules

06/13/2012 5:00 AM

06/13/2012 6:08 PM

The NCAA piled more work on men’s college basketball coaches this summer, and none of them are complaining.

New rules give coaches eight weeks of instruction time, used in two-hour blocks a week. Coaches can work with players individually, in small groups or as a team. Coaches long complained about a lack of contact with players in the summer. In the past, players could work with strength coaches and go to summer school. The NCAA prohibited working on basketball with coaches.

“We get to see the guys,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “It’s certainly better for us as coaches, and I think it’s better for players. They want to work out. They’re going to work out. Now they get to do it with some supervision and some coaching.”

Marshall’s counterparts in the Missouri Valley Conference echoed his opinions during Wednesday’s conference call. Most of them are following the same pattern of using the time for drills with an individual or small group and occasionally mixing in a team workout. At Northern Iowa, coach Ben Jacobson is focusing on offensive skills early in the summer.

Just as important, the workouts prompt players to come by the basketball office, chat with coaches and build more of a connection with the school. That can be vital with newcomers.

“This is the best decision the NCAA has made in a long time,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “You’ve always asked incoming freshmen to leave their home, and hometown, to come and be on campus all summer. But yet, you can’t work with the coaching staff.”

The coaches most grateful for the time are the new ones, or the ones with significant roster overhaul. WSU is recovering from the loss of five seniors who led it to the MVC title in 2012. Drake coach Mark Phelps is introducing eight new players. Lansing has nine.

“We’re teaching them how to work, how to play basketball at the pace and the intensity that you must play at,” Marshall said.

Illinois State’s Dan Muller is one of two new coaches in the MVC. The school hired him in May, just as finals started. Many of his players departed campus within days of his hiring.

“It’s critical for me,” he said. “I didn’t even get the usual two-to-three weeks that you get with players on campus before they leave for the summer. I can’t wait to get on the court with them.”

In past years, Northern Iowa players devoted their summers to playing in a league, based in nearby North Liberty and stocked with players from Iowa, Iowa State and other colleges. Jacobson took his players out of that league this summer because of the new rule.

He wanted their focus on classes and his practice sessions, to avoid distractions from the 160-mile round trip drive and games in the summer league.

“With everything the guys got going, I feel good about keeping them here and attacking it that way,” he said. “From a workout standpoint, I want our guys, this summer, to be here, and be able concentrate on the two hours we’ve got with them.”

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