If a player wants to join the boys basketball program at Westminster High, he better be ready to do a lot of work in the offseason.
Westminster coach Brett Kanther makes sure his players are fully prepared.
So about a month after the season ends in April, the training starts with activities both on and off the court. The last thing the players can do is take the summer off.
There's weightlifting and a lot of games, and in total the offseason work spans seven months.
"The whole goal is to give the kids the opportunities to get better and to play," Kanther said. "It's to enable them to get as strong as they can and exhaust every single resource that we have so we can be as good as we can. I think by doing those things you elevate the success of the program."
At the core of Kanther's program are workouts at Westminster Strength & Conditioning, a gym on John Street.
It could be the most crucial component of the players' preparation.
They started their workouts three days a week in April, and it got bumped up to four days a week later in the spring.
The training sessions are an hour-and-a-half and will continue into the fall. About 30 basketball players are participating, including rising freshmen.
Junior forwards Cole Birdow, Bucky Miles, Jacob Busic, and Joe Wright, senior forwards Reese Diehl and Nick Henneman, junior guard Javahn Showers, senior guards Parker Eysaman and Roman Hawkins, senior center Craig Yingling, and two transfers — junior guard Drue Giles (Francis Scott Key) and senior Shaun Blaney (Colorado) — are all involved.
Eight sophomore guards — Jake Conklin, Jonah Culbertson, Nathan Kent, Tyler Buberl, Joey Long, Denio Blaney, Jonah Culbertson, and Jake Kanther, the coach's son — are also taking part in the program.
"The kids learn techniques from professionals," Kanther said. "Every person you talk to about that particular gym talks about how they get their kids stronger and the kids buy into it when they see results. Not only are they getting physically stronger, they're more explosive and faster. It's something we do to separate ourselves from other (teams)."
Two years ago, Westminster's players trained at their high school, and last year they worked out at McDaniel College.
But this summer they are training with Eric Shugars and Steve Barker at Westminster Strength & Conditioning. They are following the lead of the Owls' football team, which is training at the gym for the third summer in a row.
The athletes do hill sprints (sometimes carrying 20-pound sand bags), squats, dead lifts, push sleds and flip tires, among other exercises.
"As you get stronger, you become a more confident athlete," Shugars said. "You walk in a room and it's yours. On top of that, if you're doing it together as team you're building a lot of camaraderie as you spot each other, help each other lift weights, watch each other struggle and work through that struggle. That really brings a team together."
There has also been plenty of basketball this summer for Westminster's players.
Brett Kanther and assistant coach Jeremy Snyder took 31 players to a team camp in West Virginia in Morgantown to play a bunch of games at a camp in mid-June.
Kanther says Westminster was the only school that brought four teams to the camp, which featured teams from about 60 schools competing.
"Part of the reason for going there is to build a significant amount of team chemistry," he explained. "We wanted to get them off campus and get them away to play elite teams. We played against Loudon Valley, a team that was the Virginia state champions. They had the Virginia player of the year and a player that set the 3-point state record.
"That's the type of competition we played. We got smoked the entire weekend."
Westminster also played in two summer leagues — the St. Paul's Summer League in Brooklandville that finished up in June, and the Steve Johnson Memorial Summer League at Liberty High School that runs until mid-July.
"At St. Paul's we finished five and three against some really good competition," said Kanther, who also had a team play in two shootouts in the spring. "We got to play Calvert Hall in the playoffs. That's an elite program in the private school ranks."
The basketball will continue in the late summer and into the fall for Westminster. They'll play in tournaments at Stevenson University in August and at McDaniel, Hood College in Frederick, and Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., in October.
The players see benefits from their investment of time and effort.
"It's getting us closer as a team," said Joe Wright, a rising junior forward. "It's getting us stronger and more physical than anybody else. And it makes us want to get to tryouts faster."