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July 13, 2006
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Kentucky senior small forward Bobby Perry felt like he knew the Wildcats' new strength and conditioning coach before he met him.
While Perry was relaxing at home in Durham, N.C., before beginning summer classes at UK, teammates fed him scouting reports about Scott Holsopple. The words "serious" and "hard worker" were repeated each time the conversation turned to Holsopple. Senior power forward Sheray Thomas kept using the same two words to continually describe him: All business.
It took one workout for Perry to realize that reputation was deserved.
"My expectations were pretty high coming in after everything I heard," Perry told Rivals.com, "and when I first started working out with him he made a big impression. His level of intensity was unbelievable. He won't allow you to quit and he's with you the entire time, right by your side."
Many were expecting Tubby Smith to dismiss some of his assistant coaches after a rocky 22-13 season ? which included the school's first loss to Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena. But the only change he made to his staff was the addition of Holsopple, who spent the last five seasons as the strength and conditioning coach for Marquette's athletic department. Holsopple, who works only with the men's basketball team at UK, replaces Tom Boyd. Smith fired Boyd, who held the position since the Smith era began in 1997, in the middle of last season.
Holsopple, who was a former All-America boxer at Penn State, brings a new attitude and mentality to Lexington, Ky.
"My main concern is getting the players to realize that these players are sacrificing for each other," he said. "This is a team sport and ultimately you are fighting for that guy that is next to you."
Holsopple appears to be succeeding so far in that task. All eight of UK's players and the six recruits they signed are on campus participating in his "voluntary" workouts four days a week. While the focus is on lifting weights, some more unique methods are also integrated.
"My job isn't just strength and conditioning, it also involves sport-specific development," Holsopple said. "That means creating faster footwork and more explosiveness. We do a lot of work to increase agility and flexibility."
Smith is hoping Holsopple can help out in one area in particular: Rebounding. Bigger frontcourts gave the Wildcats plenty of problems last season, and they finished seventh in the SEC in rebounding defense as opponents pulled down 33.3 boards per game.
With SEC East rivals like defending national champ Florida returning every member of the nation's top frontcourt ? small forward Corey Brewer, power forward Al Horford and center Joakim Noah ? and Tennessee adding a pair of big men ranked in the top 50 in Duke Crews and Wayne Chism, the Wildcats must get better on the inside.
Holsopple might get a late addition to his workouts soon. The Wildcats are hoping to sign Tyrone Nash, a late blooming prospect from the class of 2006 out of Lawrence-Woodmere (N.Y.) Academy. The 6-foot-7, 210-small forward was planning on heading to prep school, but he started receiving interest from UK, Indiana and Notre Dame recently.
Five-star point guard Ramar Smith appears to be finding more obstacles in his effort to get enrolled at Tennessee. Due to the large number of core classes Smith took and the big jump in his test score, it's possible that SEC commissioner Mike Slive may review his transcript.
Alabama has admitted three-star guard Verice Cloyd out of Genesis One Academy in Mendenhall, Miss. Genesis One was one of 21 prep schools the NCAA cleared last week in an investigation into the validity of academic transcripts.
NBA dreams on hold
"I never thought about (entering the draft)," said Green, who averaged 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds last season. "I was focused on improving the flaws in my own game and making good grades in class."
A chance to take the Hoyas deeper in the NCAA Tournament likely played a role as well. Despite losing forward Brandon Bowman (11.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Green believes the Hoyas could have a better frontcourt. In addition to Green, another Hoya with NBA potential chose not to test the draft waters, 7-foot-2 junior Roy Hibbert (11.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg).
The towering center went from being a little-known reserve as a freshman to a dominating force at times, piling up seven double-doubles. His 20-point, 14-rebound performance sparked an upset of Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"Brandon was a key loss and did a lot of big things for us, but I expect a lot from next season," Green said. "Roy is a great player and with his power he draws a lot of double teams which makes the load easier on me. He made a lot of big steps, but he still has a lot to do and has a very bright future."
Injury bug hits newcomers
Georgia Tech forward Mouthammed Faye, a native of Senegal, tore ligaments in his wrist in a pick-up game last month and recently underwent surgery. His wrist will be placed in a cast for three months and he's expected to return around mid-November.
Faye redshirted last season after qualifying late and practiced with the team in the spring.
Tennessee guard Josh Tabb broke his right wrist in a pick-up game and will be placed in a cast for two months. He's expected to be ready for the first practice in October.
Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com, and he files his national notebook every Thursday. To send him a question or comment for his weekly mailbag, email him at email@example.com.