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. Amidst Iowa State rumors, Jeff Hornacek discusses commitment to Phoenix Suns

    May 29, 2015, 4:03 PM EDT

    Jeff Hornacek AP

    With Fred Hoiberg being tabbed the frontrunner for the Bulls job, Hornacek’s name has come up as a possible replacement in Ames.

  2. San Diego, San Diego State to play December 5 at Petco Park

    May 29, 2015, 2:01 PM EDT

    Steve Fisher AP

    The last time these two teams met at a neutral site was back in 1992.

  3. Former Ole Miss center to visit Kansas this weekend

    May 29, 2015, 12:54 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Kansas also has plans to host former Providence center Paschal Chukwu in early June.

  4. Former Vanderbilt player Dai-Jon Parker dies in boating accident

    May 29, 2015, 9:36 AM EDT

    Chris Denson, Dai-Jon Parker AP

    Dai-Jon Parker played this past season at the University of Indianapolis.

  5. Former Michigan forward Max Bielfeldt holding off on school decision

    May 28, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Fred Hoiberg’s status has impacted recruiting in multiple cases for Iowa State this spring.

  6. Big 12 Tournament to remain in Kansas City through 2020

    May 28, 2015, 7:43 PM EDT

    Bob Bowlsby, Fred Hoiberg Bob Bowlsby, Fred Hoiberg

    Big 12 tournaments held at the Sprint Center have averaged more than 18,000 fans per session.

  7. SEC announces new men’s basketball scheduling format

    May 28, 2015, 6:41 PM EDT

    SEClogo

    Each team will have three “permanent” opponents they’re guaranteed to play twice every season.

  8. Misdemeanor charges against VCU’s Mo Alie-Cox dropped

    May 28, 2015, 5:46 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Video surfaced showing that Alie-Cox wasn’t involved in the incident, contradicting a woman’s claim that he punched her in the face.

  9. Former VCU forward transferring to UConn

    May 28, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    UConn’s now added three transfers to the program this spring, two of whom will be eligible immediately as graduate students.

  10. Former Clemson coach Bill Foster dies at 79

    May 28, 2015, 3:24 PM EDT

    ClemsonTigers.com ClemsonTigers.com

    Foster led Clemson to their only Elite 8 appearance in program history.

  11. North Carolina to visit Northern Iowa in homecoming game for Marcus Paige

    May 28, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Paige went to high school an hour from UNI’s campus.

  12. #FredHoibergWatch officially commences today, as Bulls fire Thibodeau

    May 28, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Iowa State fans shouldn’t freak out too much.

  13. Throwback Thursday: That time Matthew Dellavedova beat BYU at the buzzer (VIDEO)

    May 28, 2015, 12:24 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Dellavedova was a star with the Gaels before he became this year’s NBA Playoff star.

  14. Walter Byers, former NCAA director who coined ‘student-athlete’, dies at 93

    May 28, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Byers created the term “student-athlete” and first sold TV rights for NCAA broadcasts, but later wrote a book blasting the NCAA for exploiting athletes.

  15. Big 12 schools to face penalties for court storming

    May 28, 2015, 9:52 AM EDT

    KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 22: Fans wear full bodysuits that read 'Airhead Moment' in the first half of the game between the Kansas State Wildcats and the La Salle Explorers during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Sprint Center on March 22, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

    This is a step in the right direction by the Big 12.

  16. Former Michigan State, Notre Dame center goes on Twitter rant about NCAA

    May 27, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Garrick Sherman AP

    It’s safe to say that Sherman is no fan of the NCAA.

  17. Kentucky’s John Calipari believes college basketball’s ‘gotten way too rough’

    May 27, 2015, 9:05 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The shot clock won’t have as much of an impact on offenses as lessening the physicality of the game.

  18. Memphis commit reclassifying to 2015, will enroll next month

    May 27, 2015, 7:31 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The 6-foot-11 center was originally expected to attend prep school before joining Memphis in 2016.

  19. St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin throws out first pitch at Yankees game (VIDEO)

    May 27, 2015, 5:38 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The 6-foot-6 southpaw showed off his arm, and was accurate in doing so.