Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Meet the man moving Texas basketball into the future

Courtesy of Texas Athletics

If everything goes according to plan, Texas men’s basketball might shatter its record for three pointers attempted in a season. Part of it is a complementary roster that restocked on outside shooting.

The driving force, though, will be Cory Schlesinger: Assistant Coach and Director of Basketball Health and Performance.

Amid a busy offseason it’s easy to forget about the hiring of Schlesinger, the director of performance and head of strength and conditioning coach for the Phoenix Suns since 2019. Working with some of the league’s best and most methodical players in Chris Paul and Devin Booker, and a brief overlap with Kevin Durant, altered Schlesinger’s approach to building basketball players, and he wanted to test his findings at the collegiate level.

The crux of Schlesinger’s theory is simple: the traditional approach to gaining strength in the weight room is dated. He noticed this after seeing the gap in skill between NBA and college basketball players — while players lean more on physicality to win at the collegiate level, in the NBA the truly ascendant players rarely utilize brute force.

“That’s where bigger, faster, stronger works at the college level, where you can just build bodies and hope for the best,” Schlesinger said. “That’s what I want to prove wrong at the college level.”

Schlesinger was a point guard for Berea College (don’t look up his stats, he asks) before going into bodybuilding. When he got the itch to return to basketball, though, he wasn’t able to.

“I couldn’t move,” Schlesinger said. “And so I realized, oh, all these compressive strategies are actually not allowing me to have movement variability, which is the context of the sport.”

This, coupled with watching the best talent in the world on a nightly basis, led Schlesinger to conclude that trying to make football players out of basketball players is not conducive to long-term success. It’s what can work at certain universities, as smash-mouth basketball has proven to win games, but Schlesinger has an eye towards the future.

“My biggest goal at Texas is obviously to build men,” Schlesinger said. “But we want to produce pros, and I don’t care about the first contract. I care about their second, third contract(s).”

Physicality won’t completely fall by the wayside for the Longhorns this year — especially with 6-foot-8-inch tall and 235-pound junior transfer forward Ze’Rik Onyema trending towards starting on opening night — but it’s clear the Schlesinger approach is constructed around shooting.

“It’s very individualized, first and foremost, but it reverse engineers from the number one aspect, which is shooting,” Schlesinger said. “So, how they shoot is going to determine a lot of how they train, and because of that is going to indicate what kind of loading strategies we’re going to use within the weight room.”

Players, some of whom are more used to trying to raise their max bench press than gain practical strength, have benefitted from Schlesinger’s presence.

“He’s a great help,” said Onyema, whom Schlesinger joked is the only player he’s having trouble keeping off the weights. “He’s all about basketball concepts, not just pushing weights, he’s more basketball-oriented, more of a mixture.”

The poster child for Schlesinger’s approach, conveniently, is Texas legend Kevin Durant, who famously couldn’t complete a single bench press rep at the NBA Draft Combine. While not everyone can be Kevin Durant, the proof of concept is there.

For Rodney Terry to put faith in Schlesinger’s methodology and zig while others zag is a gamble, especially after captaining a team to the Elite Eight that played more inside than it did outside. It’s taking a method that has been proven to work and flipping it upside down.

But if anyone’s the man for the job, Schlesinger’s it.

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