CHAMPAIGN - Even for the most physically gifted athletes, these former Navy SEALS push the Illini basketball team to the brink of exhaustion, forcing them to work together to test their physical and emotional limits.
"When you think of the training, you automatically think of the physical aspect of it," said John Groce, Illinois Head Coach. "But I'll be honest with you, its so much more mental. Life is so much more mental. Basketball is so much more mental.
Even when their minds said No, their teammmates said Yes. Pushing them through the most difficult trips.
"What I want to do is teach these kids to believe in themselves. We can all do that and work as a team," said John McGuire, Seal Team PT. "We get them outside their comfort zone. Outside your comfort zone is where you grow.
Nothing seems more discomforting than a drill that involves going in and out of a raft filled with ice water at 6:30 am.
"A handful of our guys don't know how to swim," said Groce. Did the water with the boat today. Have the mindset of attacking fear head on."
With nine new faces, thats the goal. To grow individually, and more importantly as one, in hopes of building that "Toughness and Togetherness" they'll use this season.
"Coach Groce says to us all year, when were down 10, he'll look us in the eye and say that this is nothing," said Nnanna Egwu, Illini forward.
"We have to reflect from this. There is going to be high's and lows" said Tracy Abrams, Illinois Guard. "It's all about how you respond and help eachother out."