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July 22, 2010

Nix kicks; Roe gets low

Kalin Lucas is on schedule to be back on the basketball court in the fall. What about everyone else? I caught up with MSU assistant strength coach Mike Vorkapich, who spends more time with these guys than anyone else in the offseason.

    So let's list it -- Top Ten July 22 MSU Basketball Individual Updates (courtesy of Vorkapich):

    1. Derrick Nix. He's down to 285 and Vorkapich wants and expects him to reach 275 for the season. Nix got down to 285 last summer but shot back up during the winter.

    "During the season he got down on himself a little bit and put some weight back on," Vorkapich said of Nix. "This summer he's made great gains, great attitude."

    The pair recently ran four miles together around Lake Lansing. And Nix is taking to Vorkapich's new training twist -- kickboxing. I saw Nix in the training room today and the difference was obvious. If he's going to keep moving in this direction, he could be one of the biggest playing-time gainers from last season to this season.

    (By the way, the kickboxing is a hobby of Molli Munz, another MSU assistant strength coach and a former CMU basketball player. Brian Gregory at Dayton also has used it some for conditioning there, Vorkapich looked into it and recently got some mitts and gloves for the guys. Nix and Delvon Roe are the power punchers so far).

    2. Alex Gauna. Interesting stuff here. Apparently the freshman from Eaton Rapids came in ready to lift. He put up 185 on the bench press 16 times, unheard of for a frosh. The all-time record -- by Jason Andreas as a senior -- is 27.

    Vorkapich credits Eaton Rapids football coach Bob Ribby (who played football with Vorkapich at MSU in the early '90s) with getting Gauna ready and then some.

    "Alex has definitely come in ahead of the curve," Vorkapich said. "He has real strong hips, too, which is good to see."

    Does this change the expectation that Gauna will redshirt in 2010-11? Factoring in a nice outside stroke? It's still hard to see whose minutes he would take, but it could be interesting.

    3. Delvon Roe. Healthier and stronger than Vorkapich has seen him, even though he had knee surgery less than four months ago.

    "He's finally become a knee bender," Vorkapich said of squatting exercises at which Roe was tentative during the past two summers. "Before, he wouldn't drop his hips. Now he has a full range of motion. He has a much stronger lower body, and that's exciting. We weren't able to train his lower body like this in the past."

    4. Adreian Payne. One of several Spartans with a limiting injury now or at some point this offseason, Payne is able to do most of the work in the weight room. Just no overhead stuff because of the right shoulder that required surgery in late March. 

    "He's a high-energy guy," Vorkapich said. "He's not the quiet guy (we thought) when he came on his visit."

    Payne did struggle with the 400 pounds of sand bags that all freshmen receive as a rite of passage each summer, but most do and he has been performing.

    5. Chris Allen. He was lifting on his own during the first summer session of classes, and is now back working with the team. Allen changed his body for the better last summer and has kept up pretty well this summer, Vorkapich said, although he'd like to see Allen get a little leaner in the weeks ahead.

    And no, this isn't a status update. Tom Izzo is the only one who can provide a meaningful one of those, when he decides on Allen's future later in the summer.

    6. Russell Byrd. Another ailing freshman, Byrd's surgically repaired left foot is still keeping him off the court. He had a screw inserted in mid-May after landing awkwardly on it. He should be playing soon. In the meantime, he's still able to do a lot of different things in the weight room.

    "He really gets after it," Vorkapich said of Byrd, a 6-8 shooter who bulked up significantly over the course of his high school career. "He enjoys the weight room and being here."

    Vorkapich texted Byrd on Thursday to remind him about kickboxing. Byrd texted back to ask if there was anything extra he could do over the weekend. Vorkapich's reply: "Yeah, eat."

    7. Korie Lucious. For the first time in his career, Lucious is able to go full-blast in the summer. He was dealing with a shoulder entering his freshman season, and a foot surgery -- then another -- last summer.

    "This is by far his best summer," Vorkapich said.

    My gosh, I've typed the word "Vorkapich" a lot.

    Anyway, Lucious is still having trouble gaining weight. He's been on 170 all along. MSU would like to see him get to 175 or 180. His strength is increasing.

    "It's just a matter of eating," Vorkapich said.

    Anyone else insanely jealous of Korie Lucious right now?

    8. Draymond Green. Vorkapich said he came to work early Thursday morning, and Nix and another guy were already in the weight room, running on treadmills. Vorkapich thought it was a football player at first.

    "Then I looked again and said, 'Holy crap, that's Day-Day,'" he said. "A few other people have said stuff like that to me."

    Indeed, Green is visibly thinner. He weighed in at 232 Thursday. He was in the mid-270s in high school and came in at 248 last summer. Beyond the numbers, he's finally adding some definition. More quickness will be crucial for Green next season, because he's one of several guys who will have to do more guarding of people who used to be designated for Raymar Morgan.

    9. Garrick Sherman. The sophomore-to-be "has come a long way," Vorkapich said.

    "Last year he came in with a doughy body, he's leaned up and now he's really coming along," he said of Sherman, who did 12 reps of 185.

    10. Keith Appling. A weight-room novice, yet with pretty good strength, Vorkapich said. Wiry and lanky, for anyone who has seen him play. Appling took on the sand bags and is adding some muscle in time for what should be a significant role in 2010-11.

    UPDATE: Here's today's story on Lucas and his efforts to return to full health.

    Here are some additional quotes from Lucas:

    On his progress: “My body is way better than it was last year, as far as my butt and stuff is getting tighter, my core is way better than it was. From this injury, I’m gonna be more explosive.”

    On the team: “We all have one goal. We’ve all been to two Final Fours right now, but we haven’t won a national championship. That’s our main goal right now, the guys are working. (Summers) is in the gym consistent. Nix is losing weight. Day-Day has improved his shot, he’s losing weight. Sherman is getting his footwork right. Austin hasn’t missed a shot yet. Chris hasn’t missed a shot yet. Korie, he’s going at people, he’s looking good. And the freshmen, they all look good, too. They’ve got to work, they’ve got to keep grinding, but the team is working. I can’t wait until I get back there and I can be out there with them.”

    And here's some background on the sand-bag treatment.

    And just so we're keeping an eye on football as well, here's a look at the workout warriors of the Big Ten, with MSU's Eric Gordon and Charlie Gantt mentioned. Gantt with the best 40 time among MSU tight ends, how about that?



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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter

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