SE: O'Donnell Out for Big Gains as Strength Coach for Men's Basketball

If it were up to Ben O’Donnell, the Ice Family Basketball Center wouldn’t be just a place of work. It would be his home.


O’Donnell, hired as the Kansas State men’s basketball team’s strength and conditioning coach in June, embraced his passion for training athletes shortly before his senior year at Central Florida. An internship with UCF soon led to a graduate assistant position, which then led to a full-time spot. Before long, O’Donnell was training five different teams. At one point, he was in charge of seven.  


“It’s been a whirlwind, but if it was up to me, I’d live in here. I love the training aspect of it,” O’Donnell said while sitting in his new office inside the IBC. “I love developing guys, both mentally and physically, because of a lot of these guys don’t really, truly understand accountability, punctuality, how to work hard and how to be consistent. So those are things we want to make sure I emphasize in here every day.”


O’Donnell knows the mind of a student-athlete because not long ago he was one. The former point guard played one season at Florida State (2007-08) and another at UCF (2009-10).


At UCF, O’Donnell realized what he wanted to do with his life: train athletes. He also met Drew Speraw — now the director of operations for the K-State men’s basketball team.


Once he heard of the opening at K-State, O’Donnell jumped at it. Once he visited Manhattan for an interview, his desire for the job skyrocketed.


“Obviously, the facilities are unreal, but more so the people,” O’Donnell said of what sold him on K-State. “I’m big on making sure who I’m working with would be a good situation, and I really, really liked the people up here. Coach (Bruce) Weber is incredible, and the whole staff is incredible.”


To sell Weber and his staff on himself, O’Donnell pointed to a few main points. On top of the list, O’Donnell said, was his ability to relate every exercise to basketball.


“There has to be a reason for what I’m doing and it can’t be nonsense just to kill time,” he said. “It has to be specific to basketball movement patterns, energy system demands and the overall physical demands of the entire game.”


In order for O’Donnell’s system to work, he said he must set the tone from an energy standpoint.


“If I don’t have energy every day, how could I expect them to have energy every day? So I have to be passionate about what I do,” he said. “I want to get that relationship where they want to come in here, they want to get after it and it’s a positive environment where we’re all getting better collectively.”


If O’Donnell has the intended impact on Weber’s players, their rewards will include better performances on the court. For O’Donnell, however, seeing student-athletes break through their own expectations is all the satisfaction he needs.


“A lot of these guys have never truly been pushed or have pushed themselves enough, so I like it when guys start to buy in,” O’Donnell said. “I love to see the buy-in effect — when guys buy in and they’re holding each other accountable.”


With only a few weeks of work with the team in the books, O’Donnell said he’s in the beginning stages of creating relationships. So far, he added, it’s been a good start.


“I’m not sitting here trying to be their friend, but I want to make sure they know that I’m here for them with whatever they would ever need — if they would ever want to talk about something other than basketball,” he said. “It’s going really well right now.”


As for adjusting to life in Kansas, the Florida native said all is well there too.


“When I came up here and interviewed, I actually fell in love with the place. I was blown away by the facilities,” O’Donnell said. “I really liked the area because I come from a very congested area, which I’ve never been a fan of, so getting into an area where it’s not as congested, there’s not traffic literally every single hour of the day, I’m super happy about that.


“This is a completely different atmosphere than what I’m used to. I came up here and I was shocked. I love it.” 

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