Sept. 24, 2012
Sitting at the end of a weight bench in the closing minutes of a preseason workout, Kyle Fuller knows that getting game-ready starts with conditioning.
Fuller, exhausted and soaked in sweat, glances over to Vanderbilt strength coach Curtis Turner to thank him for the grueling session.
|Brandon Barca (Archive)
"It had energy. That's what we need," says the junior guard as he nods with approval. "That's how we're going to eat. We're hungry."
The Commodores need that appetite for destruction heading into the season. Fuller, fellow junior Rod Odom and redshirt sophomores Josh Henderson and James Siakam make up the oldest Commodores on an inexperienced roster, one that features no seniors and just three combined returning starts to its name from last season.
Fuller looks the part too—much leaner and stronger than ever before. He states without hesitation, "It is the best shape I've been in. It's not 'I think it is,' I am in the best shape I've ever been."
Other players have gained noticeable size, like Odom and sophomore Shelby Moats, two guys that could be called upon to contribute in the post. Turner puts the Commodores to the test as many as four times per week, opportunities where leaders begin to grow on a young team looking for an identity.
"Coach (Turner) is putting it down on us," Fuller explains. "He's driving us to our end. I love him for that. He's pushing me to be a leader. He's pushing me to where I don't want to go any more, and he still makes me do it. And I love that, because then on the court it shows."
"We're expected to be leaders," Odom adds. "I think Kyle and I have done a great job with trying to show guys the right way to do things, and lead by example. Everybody's really following and working hard with us."
Turner brings the group together one final time at the end of the one-hour session. He calls it an excellent day, praising the squad for exceeding the challenge.
"There was a lot of work in there today and you came out on top," Turner says. "You really crushed it. I'm proud of you, I'm proud of your work, proud of your effort, and proud of your heart. You've earned it from the summer to now. Keep going."
The Commodores huddle up in a circle, with their index fingers pointing high in the air, and chant, "1…2…3…hard work…4…5…6…pays off."
The great unknown is still out there. How will this team stack up when the lights come on in Memorial? With fall practice fast approaching, the true story will begin to unfold.
For now, on this low-key afternoon void of the glitz and glamour of gameday, Fuller gives us a taste of what to expect.
"This team is young but we have a whole bunch of fight in us," he promises. "We don't have experience as the older guys did, but I know for a fact the moment we get on the court, the other team is going to be in for a fight."
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