Iona Prep (New Rochelle, New York) teammates Matt Ryan and Ty Jerome were already good basketball players when they first stepped into the STACK Velocity Sports Performance Center in Westchester, New York. But both knew that to play at a higher level, they needed to become better athletes.
"Both of them wanted to get stronger and more athletic," says coach Brian Fee, owner of the Westchester facility.
It may sound strange, but one of the first things Fee did was convince Ryan and Jerome to play less basketball. "One big problem with a lot of basketball players is that they play four hours of pick-up each day. They need to cut back and focus on other training. Take one step back to take four steps forward," Fee says.
With more time available for training, the players worked out with Fee four days a week.
He started things off by putting them through a battery of tests to get a baseline of their performance. From there, he created custom programs with personalized goals. With a new focus on lifting and nutrition advice from Fee and his staff, the players quickly saw impressive results.
"I put on about 17 pounds of muscle in a short amount of time," says the 6-foot-7 Ryan.
The gains were not limited to muscle and size. Plyometrics helped Ryan and Jerome increase their lower-body explosiveness and lateral quickness—two skills critical to success on the hardwood.
"I was moving [on the court] 10 times better than I was before. I was quicker, stronger and getting through contact more effectively," Jerome says.
Their improvements translated to success on the stat sheet. "Every single one of my stats improved," Ryan says. "I could post up better, dribble better, rebound better. I simply became a better basketball player."
Both Ryan and Jerome excelled last season. Ryan, a senior, averaged 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists per game, earning All-League honors and being named New York Mr. Basketball. Jerome, a junior, averaged 20.5 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game, earning team MVP and 1st-team All-State honors. The duo led Iona Prep to the state semifinals, and their standout play got them noticed by big-time Division I college programs.
This year, Ryan will head to Notre Dame to begin his collegiate career. Jerome, meanwhile, has committed to play for the University of Virginia—after one more year of chasing his dream of winning a state championship for Iona Prep.
Both players continue to train with Fee to prepare for their upcoming seasons, and both are quick to give the coach props for their success. But Fee believes the athletes are the ones who deserve the credit. He says, "We provide the system and the coaching for the people who want to be successful. But it's up to them to do the work."
To help them build muscle and perform better, Ryan and Jerome keep journals documenting their daily food choices. Each week, they sit down with a STACK Velocity nutritionist to go over the numbers—which are often surprising.
"[An athlete might think] he's eating like crazy, but you look at the journal and see they're coming up short on calories. A light bulb goes off," Fee says.
Try writing down what you eat each day for a week. During the weekend, look up the nutrition facts for each food and compare what you ate to how you felt. You'll learn more about how what you eat affects your performance.
STACK Velocity by the Numbers
STACK Velocity Sports Performance Center
102 Fairview Park Drive, Elmsford, New York
- 16,000-square-foot climate-controlled indoor facility
- Indoor turf field
- Expansive strength training area with four Olympic racks
- Field training equipment, including Prowlers, Sleds and Ladders
- Cardio machines, including a Versaclimber
- Fully equipped locker rooms
Jerome and Ryan by the Numbers
Position: Point Guard
Weight: 183 pounds
PPG: 20.5 | RPG: 5 | APG: 4
Awards: Westchester Player of the Year, 1st-team All State
Committed to: University of Virginia (2016)
Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Weight: 220 pounds
PPG: 18 | RPG: 8 | APG: 4
Awards: New York Mr. Basketball, 1st-team All-League
Committed to: University of Notre Dame (2015)
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock