Mike Curtis can't help but chuckle when asked how much Virginia basketball sophomores Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte have improved since arriving as freshmen last summer.
"Considerably," the team's strength coach said after a workout Wednesday in the weight room at John Paul Jones Arena. "Just the way they move. The way they're able to hold positions. The things that they're able to do on the court now, opposed to what they were doing when they first showed up here."
That's the news UVa's coaching staff -- and fans -- have been hoping to hear. A common observation when watching the Cavaliers last season was how much the frontcourt duo of Tobey and Nolte would benefit from another summer with Curtis in the weight room.
"We heard all the stuff about how we weren't as stronger, or we needed to get stronger and stuff like that," said Nolte. "We kind of new that coming in."
"Going through a year, being able to play against great players like Richard Howell, Mason Plumlee, Alex Len. All those guys like that, really strong guys," said Tobey. "It really made me realize that what I really needed to do was dedicate myself in here, in the weight room."
The sophomores have been working out three times a week with their fellow frontcourt players. Both say they've added about 20 pounds since arriving at UVa as freshmen a year ago -- and they can feel the effects of the added strength in pick-up games this summer.
"I wouldn't say that I'm, like, crazy strong. But I definitely feel a lot stronger," said Tobey. "I've gained almost 20 pounds. So I feel a lot better going into this season than I did last season."
"I think it'll definitely help me down low, with banging bodies and stuff like that," said Nolte. "Help get more rebounds, things like that. People won't try to look at me as a mismatch as much."
Both players came off the bench as freshmen to contribute to a UVa team that won 23 games, and made a run to the NIT Quarterfinals. Tobey averaged 6.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in 30 games, and finished second on the team in shooting percentage, at 53 percent. Nolte appeared in all 35 games for the Cavaliers, putting up 5.7 points and 2.4 rebounds, and finishing second on the team with 42 three-pointers.
Now the two sophomores are confident their added muscle will help add to their games -- and Curtis agrees.
"I think now, we've got another summer under our belt, where we've gained muscle, we've gained weight," said Nolte. "And we have that experience from last year. So I think it's definitely going to help us, how much work we've put in this summer."
"Being able to have that extra strength -- a little extra gear to go into against the bigger, stronger guys -- it should definitely pay off," said Tobey. "Being able to not be pushed around, and being able to perform at our highest level because of the strength, it'll be a good thing."
"Sky's the limit," said Curtis. "Because they both have huge basketball IQ's. So just being able to tap into a little bit more of their physical capacity is going to allow them to do just about anything they really want to do."
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