Mizzou strength coach Nicodemus Christopher is entering his seventh season working alongside head coach Cuonzo Martin as the program's leader in the weight room. Christopher has already helped transform the bodies of Jeremiah Tilmon and Mitchell Smith and should do wonders for returning sophomore Jontay Porter. His cousin Josh, is becoming a major Missouri target as well.
In this Q&A with The Star, Christopher goes into some of the many different aspects of his job.
AS: When you took this job, how long did it take you to figure out what you were working with on your end?
NC: If you’re going to ask somebody to push themselves to the limit, you better have a relationship with them. So step one is starting to form a relationship with the guys. They’ll come in and we’ll start to have those conversations. From there, I usually go work out in the weight room. For me, the flow of the workouts, the flow of the room, how the room is oriented is going to play a huge role in how we train. Day one, whether it was at Tennessee, California or (when) we got here, I’m in the weight room working out because I want to get a feel for my room.
After that, it’s just a matter of getting the guys in there and watching them move. I will have our video coordinator pull up some film. I do like to watch clips of the guys move. Make notes about different things that I see. Interestingly enough, that really gets them engaged. They’re not used to having a strength and conditioning coach pull up film of something that they did in the game and relate that to how we can address that in the weight room. All those different things take place.”
AS: What’s recruiting like from your end? When you meet with a kid on a visit, what do you discuss?
NC: “I’ll sit down with a recruit and his family or coach or whoever he brings on his visit and we’ll discuss my philosophy and how I go about training. I’m honest with them. I’ll say, I don’t know what you need until you get here. Get here, we’ll go through the different things and as I see your physical and mental makeup, now we can start to piece things together and see what you need. I’m honest with them. If you come to the University of Missouri, we’re going to work. That’s our standard. You’re going to be pushed, but you’ll get the results.”
AS: When a player signs, but before they get to campus, that in-between time, are you in contact with them about how they’re working out or what they’re doing?
NC: “It depends. Obviously the kid has to be signed. There’s some rules you have to follow and abide by. I usually talk when they’re here. I talk to them about the basic fundamental movements. The biggest thing you have to be cautious of when giving a young high school athlete a workout is there’s a difference between doing a workout and doing a workout the way I want it to be done. Because sometimes if you’re in a rush, these guys spend the next six weeks doing it wrong and you have to spend at least six weeks to undo that. So I’m very cautious about giving guys workouts.
"In the perfect, ideal world, they have a strength and conditioning program that is solid and fundamental.”
AS: When Xavier Pinson signed, everyone said his biggest issue was gaining weight. How do you go about getting a kid physically ready?
NC: “I call it the crock pot method. It’s not going to happen overnight. It takes time. If he needs to gain weight, we’ll make sure he gains weight. But at the end of the day, he’s another one where his athleticism is a huge asset to his game. So, do you sacrifice athleticism for the sake of gaining weight? It’s a fine line. We’re going to make sure that you maintain your athleticism, but we’re going to put on weight in the meantime. We’re not just going to throw 30 pounds of weight on you and then you lose your athleticism."
AS: On Instagram, you’ll post videos of players coming to you on the road for an extra workout before or in between games. Is that something you try and encourage or do they get the appetite for that on their own?
NC: "Results. You got a guy who looks in the mirror and he sees his body changing and that’s all you need. You see where you are when we got here and see where you are at the end of the summer. That’s when addiction comes in. It becomes a habit. ‘I need more Coach.’ We’re playing in a tournament where we have four games in six days and I give them an extra recovery day, they’re mad at me because we’re not going hard. That’s just the culture that we have here. Results speak loud.”
AS: All the guys say you’re the big brother on the team. Where did that come from?
NC: "It’s two-fold. One, it’s one of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned from being with Coach Martin. He tells us as a staff treat the guys like they’re kings. So when Coach Martin sets that standard, it becomes a daily thing. This will be my seventh season with him, and over time he helped me develop as a coach. Push them, but make sure they know why you’re pushing them. That’s the first part of it.
The second part about it is one of the main reasons why I’m in strength and conditioning. I feel it’s a great role to have an impact on the roles of young men. I don’t forget that. Basketball is important but having an impact on the lives of these young men. You can go through my phone right now, I don’t care if you played for me when I was an assistant at Purdue, I still keep in contact. We have some of the same conversations with my former players from seven, eight years ago. Because that’s what’s important.”