KNOXVILLE — Tennessee’s 2012-13 basketball team will come in a range of shapes and sizes.
From the boxy, 6-foot-7, 265-pound Jeronne Maymon, to the athletic and slender 6-5, 175-pound Jordan McRae, new basketball strength and conditioning coach Nicodemus Christopher knows he has a lot of body types to work with.
That’s why he will have a slightly different plan for each player.
“That’s one thing I’m big on — I take a very individualized approach,” Christopher said. “There might be days where you see us with 12 guys training and all 12 guys are doing something different. Different players have different body types at different positions. We plan accordingly. It’s very individualized based on what the players need.”
Christopher, who was hired by Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin on May 31 after previously serving as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Purdue, will design those plans relying on his experience that is as diverse as the players he will work with in Knoxville.
He credits much of his strength training knowledge to the time spent with mentors at Purdue and Stanford. His speed and plyometric philosophy was molded from his experience working with four-time Olympic gold medalist sprinter Michael Johnson at the Michael Johnson Performance Center in Dallas.
“I combine a little bit of everything in my program,” Christopher said. “I’ve been fortunate to work at some great places under some great people. My program is a combination of the places I’ve been that mold and make my training philosophy.”
Martin selected Christopher from his alma mater after parting ways with former strength and conditioning coach Troy Wills.
"We're eager to bring Nicodemus on board," Martin said after making the hire. "I talked to a lot of people whose opinions I value, and the things people had to say about his level of knowledge and work ethic really stood out. I believe he's going to do a great job for us, and I think he'll relate well to our players."
Purdue head basketball coach Matt Painter was one of the people Martin sought out in the hiring process. Last season, Christopher served as the speed and conditioning coordinator for the Boilermakers.
Though Christopher and Martin never met before the hiring process, Painter’s recommendation, along with a common Purdue bond, helped get Christopher an interview.
“I didn’t know him,” Christopher said of Martin. “I knew of him, but I had not met him before all this. The link between him and me was coach Painter. I worked under coach Painter so I know how coach Painter works. He referred to coach Martin a lot, and he let me know how he works. That Purdue connection was there most definitely.”
Christopher started work last Monday and is already seeing the type of work ethic his new players have. He came in with no expectations but has been pleased with the intensity he’s seen thus far.
“As soon as I got them in the weight room, I was very pleased with what I saw because they worked hard,” he said. “That was huge. They respond well to coaching. I’m not going to let up on the guys. I’m the type of guy who, when they step into the weight room, I want 200-percent effort every single day.”
Christopher was still working at Purdue when the Vols’ season ended with a 71-64 NIT loss to Middle Tennessee. In that game, the Blue Raiders finished off Tennessee with a 15-0 run in the final seven minutes of the game.
Christopher’s goal is to make sure the Vols are never outworked and always finish strong.
“If we’re in the game and the boys are getting tired or getting outrebounded or the other team is more physical, I take that personally as a strength coach,” he said. “I take that as a challenge. I don’t want any team to be stronger, faster or in better shape than the Tennessee Volunteers.”