“Yeah, that’s hard,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said when informed Monday of the scope of Tech’s impending gauntlet.
At the end of January, the Tigers played three games in seven days, he said, “and our guys were exhausted. Obviously, (Tech coach) Josh (Pastner) knows his team, but, wow, that’s hard.”
Taylor and team trainer Richard Stewart will play an outsized role this week in aiding recovery and healing to return players to the court in the best physical condition possible.
“I rely on them on everything,” Pastner said. “They’re a huge part of our what we do for our program, our team.”
Players have a number of recovery tools at their disposal. Stretching and cold tubs can limit soreness. Hydration replaces body fluids lost to sweating. Two other commonly used tools are the foam roller – a high-density foam cylinder that is rolled over sore muscles to stimulate blood flow and loosen tight muscles – and the massage gun, a device about the size of a hair dryer that applies vibrating bursts of pressure to sore or tight muscles.
“Coach Taylor’s in high demand because a lot of people will just run over and lay down and try to get the double-gun treatment from him after practice,” guard/forward Jordan Usher said.
Taylor undoubtedly also will stress nutrition and sleep, as well. Eight-plus hours of sleep is ideal, but he recognized that school demands and night games may curtail that.
“It goes back to consistency,” he said. “If you’re telling me you can only get 6½ hours because of class or whatever it might be, then make sure you do.”
Taylor also monitors players’ exertion using technology that records heart-rate and motion data, such as distance covered, speed and acceleration. Taylor uses that information to make recommendations to Pastner on whether the team or certain players ought to be limited in practice. For instance, Taylor and Pastner might agree to put guard Michael Devoe on a two-mile cap for practice, and take him out once he hits that mark.
With different ways to aid recovery, it’s up to each player to figure out what works best.
“It’s really multifaceted, which is why there needs to be multiple different ways of hitting it,” Taylor said.
For example, Devoe prefers a device with sleeves that slide over the legs like a pair of thigh-length boots and applies pulsating air compression.
Said Devoe, “I don’t even know how to explain it, but they’re really good, though.”
Players doing the necessary work will be critical this week. It’s one thing to make the options available, but another for players to put them to use. Should the Jackets upset Virginia, the adrenaline rush may make it difficult to get to bed. But, doing so will cut down on precious sleep time and hamper preparations for Clemson.
“It kind of creates that professional mindset,” Taylor said. “I was talking to coach (Pastner) last night, and if ever there’s a test of that, for young people who say they want to be pros, it’s playing four games in seven days.”
Pastner tapped into that a little bit at practice Monday. Usher said that he showed players videos of Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady speaking on the importance of treatment and recovery and how being tired is a mindset.
“You can’t complain about your legs being a little sore,” Usher said. “You can’t complain about any tiredness. You have to go out there and compete.”
It isn’t unprecedented to play so many games in such a short span. It often happens, for instance, in holiday tournaments. When the Jackets went to Hawaii last season, they played three games in four days. The difference, though, is that all eight teams in the Diamond Head Classic were on the same schedule.
Tech will play teams that will have significant advantages in rest and preparation. When Tech faces Clemson, the Tigers will not have played in six days. Pitt will not have played in eight days, thanks to a postponement of its Wednesday game. Boston College is scheduled to play Saturday before playing the Jackets on Tuesday, a game that could be moved to Wednesday.
Despite the inherent difficulty of the challenge ahead of the Jackets, Taylor didn’t want players to lose sight of the fact that this ought to be fun.
“We’re making a run in a really important week against very critical opponents,” he said. “And so, this is what we all should be living for.”