RIO GRANDE, Ohio – You won’t find too many coaches willing to sacrifice precious pre-season workout time with their teams, but University of Rio Grande men’s basketball coach Ken French recently decided to go down the road less traveled.
French, his assistant coaches and players ventured to Cleveland two weeks ago to participate in a Nike Championship Basketball Clinic hosted at Cuyahoga Heights High School.
The RedStorm served as the demonstration team for the clinic, which attracted a number of high-profile college coaches to serve as featured speakers to those in attendance.
“Each coach may have a particular topic, be it individual instruction, zone offense, shooting, transition offense or whatever the case might be. As they take different topics and cover their particular subject, they use our players to demonstrate for all of the coaches attending the clinic,” French said.
The sessions are also filmed for inclusion on a DVD of the event.
“This was the first time we ever participated in a clinic in the fall,” said French. “It took away practice time – it was three days we weren’t on the floor for our team stuff – but our players gained some things…Not just basketball-wise, but moreso in terms of team bonding. I think it was a great experience for our staff, too. We have a young staff this year and I think they got a lot out of it as well.”
Junior guard Jermaine Warmack agreed.
“It’s a great experience,” he said. “You have a weekend off-campus, staying in hotels, working with your boys…It’s also great exposure for Rio Grande, letting people know who we are and what we’re about.”
Since French took over as the head coach of the Rio men’s program, his teams have enjoyed a very fruitful relationship with the clinic’s organizers.
The RedStorm have filled the role of demo team at various clinics in the eastern, middle and southern parts of the country over the past six years. The team visited Pittsburgh, Pa. and Myrtle Beach, S.C. this spring and are already booked to return to both sites in the spring of 2013.
“Obviously, we’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Championship Basketball Clinics, Nike and Championship Productions. That relationship in the last six years has just been unbelievable for our program, not only in terms of the exposure, but in the experience that our guys have each weekend that we work a clinic being around the coaches and listening to them share ideas,” French said. “When your kids get to be instructed by, arguably, the greatest college basketball coach of all-time in Bob Knight, it’s probably going to be an experience that will last a lifetime.”
“Coach Knight keeps you on your toes. He’s funny,” Warmack added. “The previous times we’ve worked with him, he’s always complimented us. That’s a good thing, especially coming from him.”
Knight is perhaps the most widely-recognized name of the coaches that the RedStorm have had the opportunity to work with. The “Who’s Who” list of instructors also includes the likes of University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan, West Virginia University head coach Bob Huggins, Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart, Butler’s Brad Stevens, Steve Prohm of Murray State University, former George Mason University and current Miami-Fla. Head coach Jim Larranaga and former NCAA and NBA coaching great Larry Brown.
“It’s getting to the point where you can’t name them all. We’ve worked with just about everybody who’s associated with Nike and Championship Productions,” said French. “It’s been great.”
And it doesn’t seem to get old for guys like Warmack.
“As a player, getting to meet the high-level Division I coaches has been a great experience,” he said. “You get to see how they run their practices and how they do things. You hear the different terminology that they use and you have to stay on your toes, but it’s really not that hard. You just have to go out there and do what they say.”
It’s not all fun and games, though.
After all, the days tend to be long, the personalities differ from coach to coach and there is the added scrutiny which comes with cameras documenting one’s every move – or mistake.
“You try not to think too much,” Warmack said. “You can’t really worry about everything that’s going on around you. You just have to focus on what they’re telling you. It can be a little intimidating, though.”
“It’s a grind,” French added. “You have three sessions on Friday, six on Saturday and two more on Sunday morning. Some of the speakers are more demanding than others, so it can get tough on the guys after a while. But the experience of it all more than makes up for it.”