Busy July Awaits Hawkins, Men's Basketball Team
The most immediate item is the return of the team to Kalamazoo, with the first day of individual workouts scheduled for June 27. According to NCAA rules that took effect in 2012, teams are allowed two hours of individual instruction with a player per week. In addition, all members of the Broncos, including incoming freshmen, will take summer courses.
"I'm very excited to have the full team back in town," said WMU head coach Steve Hawkins, now in his 11th season as the Broncos' head coach. "About half of the roster stayed in Kalamazoo during Summer I, but this will be our first chance to have everyone on campus at the same time."
Hawkins says that this year's summer workout plan will be fundamentally different than last year's in several areas. For one, the Broncos' European trip in 2012 allotted them 10 days of full team practice, something they will not have this year.
"Last year, due to the European trip and the fact that we were installing some new offense, we didn't want to get into the facets of our team identity very early on," said Hawkins. "One of our biggest concerns last year was that we didn't want to start that too early and burn our players out too soon in the season. This season that's less of a concern, so we plan to work hard on rebounding, toughness and defense right away. They'll get a healthy dose of it on the first day."
In addition, the incoming freshman class is comprised of four people, half of last year's eight-man class. Hawkins says that the return of such a large contingent of upperclassmen lends itself to more focus on details and effort.
"Coach Wooden always said that you should maintain a high level of patience with freshmen," said Hawkins. "They don't know what they're supposed to be doing, and it's your job to teach them. At the same time, there should be less tolerance for those that have been there before. It's unreasonable to expect even veteran players to not make mistakes, but I'm talking about the hustle and effort areas. Those are the things that all the returning players should know. I would anticipate that this year's sophomores will probably see a different side of me than they did last year."
Before the beginning of each offseason, Hawkins and the coaching staff sit down with every player on the team individually and lay out what those players need to do to improve on their own before returning to campus. Hawkins says that those individual skills are just one part of the whole arc of development for the team.
"We have certain objectives that need to be achieved before we reach the beginning of the season, and the first of which is creating as complete an individual player as possible," said Hawkins. "Those skills are different from player to player, be it asking Jared Klein to improve his ball handling, to Connar Tava working on his perimeter shot, or Kellen McCormick adding more strength. Our goal is to create a well-rounded player.
"The next step is improvement of the positional units and how they contribute to the overall team goal of winning basketball games," said Hawkins. "Then we reach the total team objective: the things like chemistry, esprit de corps, and the way our team gets along on the court. It's all a process."
The other major portion of the offseason comes in the realm of recruiting. The July recruiting period is known as a fast-paced venture, with coaches from around the country jet-setting to tournaments and racking up the miles. Hawkins says that challenges lie not just in identifying talent, but simply identifying where to go next.
"We're in the process of trying to figure out the AAU world," said Hawkins. "It can be hard to track down the kids you want because it's not uncommon for them to jump from one AAU team to another. You'll have some that are dead set on playing for one team for the summer, but you'll have others that might change teams. All of a sudden, your travel plans have changed without much notice.
There are three weekends - running Wednesday through Sunday - in July that coaches are able to go out and recruit. Among the tournaments that will draw crowds are the Fifth Annual adidas Invitational in Indianapolis, Ind., the Nike Peach Jam in Augusta, Ga., the AAU boys basketball National Tournament in Orlando, Fla., and the adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas, Nev., among others.