Skip to content

Training Cleanthony: How a West Point coach helped build WSU star

Dec 1, 2012, 10:28 PM EDT

Cleanthony Early Cleanthony Early courtesy of Wichita State Athletics

Cleanthony Early has been named MVC Newcomer of the Year twice already this season. “Cle” came out of Pine Bush, NY as a slender, lightly recruited kid, blossomed in junior college, and is now averaging 13.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and a block per game as a 6’8″, 215-lb. junior for 7-0 Wichita State. I spoke with Rick Scarpulla, a trainer and Power Lifting coach at West Point, about how he helped build Early into a DI athlete.

CBT: How did you meet Cle?

Rick Scarpulla: Cle was just finishing up high school. Another athlete, who’s now a DI football player, brought him to me. He said “this guy can ball, but he’s got no body.” High school coaches are so focused on practicing with the ball in the hand; if they spend 30 minutes a day on basic athletic training kids stay stronger and are less injury-prone.

Every big man’s recruiting report says he needs to get stronger to compete in college. How do you do that?

My whole premise of training is built on becoming a better athlete. We work on speed, strength, flexibility, balance, optical recognition and reaction. You have to gain complete athleticism. It’s all about first-step speed and explosive power in any sport.

Defense takes endurance. How do you train a kid to be explosive out of that stance?

That’s all in the posterior chain. Focusing on that area during training allows someone to properly break down into a defensive basketball stance. You take the pressure off the knees and put it on the hamstrings and glutes, which are designed to raise and lower the body.

How much do you focus on a player’s mind while you’re training him?

The mind takes the body where it needs to go. I’ve told Cle a thousand times that this is his shot, and I believe he can play at the highest level. He has to believe he can do it.

If a kid without access to great facilities wants to get stronger, what can he do?

Jump training is one of the best things you can do, and you can do it anywhere. Jump high, low, long. Jump rope. Jump from a seated position, from a kneeling position, holding weights. A kid in his backyard can do all of the old-school things to get stronger.

What part of your workouts did Cleanthony hate most?

I would have to say burpees. We may do a few hundred in a session. Cle absolutely hated it. We had a few big guys who trained with Cle and he always joked “They can feel my pain. This ain’t for a tall man!” But I know I can’t school Cle in basketball, he’s got all those skills. What I did made him stronger, more explosive, able to jump higher. Simple concepts that translate onto the court for him. I’ve had cadets come back after crawling through caves in Afghanistan, and they did the same mental and physical training.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Latest Posts
  1. New mixtape of 2016 guard Kwe Parker is ridiculous (VIDEO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    Kwe Parker is one of the best dunkers in all of basketball and he shows why in this new mixtape.

  2. Report: Arizona State gives Herb Sendek a contract extension

    Sep 1, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Herb Sendek AP

    Arizona State has given head coach Herb Sendek an extension.

  3. East Carolina nabs a local 2015 wing

    Sep 1, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    jeff lebo Getty Images

    East Carolina is on the board in 2015.

  4. Five-star 2015 forward cuts his list to five schools

    Sep 1, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT

    (adidas Gauntlet) (adidas Gauntlet)

    A five-star 2015 forward cut his list to five schools on Monday.

  5. Indiana freshman is currently in a walking boot

    Sep 1, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT

    Tom Crean AP

    Indiana will have to remain patient with a freshman that is currently battling an ankle injury.

  6. Assembly Hall as a groom’s cake? Why not! (PHOTO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    @Kschack1 @Kschack1

    You need a very understanding wife to get away with this.

  7. Tennessee adds second commitment in two days with three-star guard

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Murray St Morehead St Basketball

    Tennessee has one scholarship left available for 2015.

  8. Top talent in 2016 announces a top ten

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:54 PM EDT

    Nike Nike

    Find out why Saint Louis and Missouri are on the list along with the likes of Arizona, Kentucky, Duke and Kansas.

  9. Tom Izzo calls PGA Tour caddie after wife passes away

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Tom Izzo Tom Izzo

    Izzo spoke on the phone with the caddie for 15 minutes.

  10. Mixtape for top 50 center Marques Bolden (VIDEO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.38.38 AM

    Bolden is a 6-foot-9 center from Texas

  11. Ohio senior forward contributes to Senegal’s first FIBA worlds victory since 1998

    Aug 31, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT

    Maurice Ndour AP

    The second team All-MAC selection scored eight points in Senegal’s win over Puerto Rico.

  12. In-state forward becomes Kansas State’s second commitment in four days

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT

    Bruce Weber AP

    Bruce Weber now has three verbal commitments in the Class of 2015.

  13. Nebraska lands commitment from four-star point guard

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:05 PM EDT

    Tim Miles AP

    5-foot-11 point guard Glynn Watson becomes Nebraska’s second 2015 commitment.

  14. Five-star 2015 small forward cuts list to six schools

    Aug 31, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Slender forward Brandon Ingram is one of the best perimeter prospects in the Class of 2015.

  15. Illinois native becomes Tennessee’s first 2015 commitment

    Aug 31, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte3owi1njbhnjg0mtc2yjbkzdgzmdzhnzm2mtbjytc1 AP

    Tennessee is on the board in 2015 due to the addition of a versatile 6-foot-5 forward.

  16. North Carolina accepts their head coach’s challenge (VIDEO)

    Aug 31, 2014, 5:23 PM EDT

    Marcus Paige AP

    Roy Williams challenged his players in the Bahamas, and the accepted it on Saturday afternoon.

  17. Malik Newman to narrow list soon, won’t announce until after season

    Aug 31, 2014, 3:39 PM EDT

    Malik Newman (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Malik Newman is the No. 3 overall recruit, according to Rivals.

  18. Twin brothers commit to Quinnipiac

    Aug 31, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Quinnipiac Athletics Quinnipiac Athletics

    The Robinson brothers are the first two commits in Quinnipiac’s Class of 2015.

  19. Four-star guard New Williams commits to Bruce Pearl and Auburn

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Bruce Pearl has landed five commitments in 10 days.