This summer, Seth Berger put on the “freshman 15” in a different way.
Photo by Juliette Sandleitner
Commonly, the term – whether you want to believe it or not – refers to the 15 pounds that a college freshman will put on during their first year of college, and the causes no doubt vary from individual to individual, college to college.
And Berger's cause surely varies.
From the beginning of July to mid-August this summer, the Massachusetts men's basketball team was together for a six-week strength and conditioning program at UMass. Berger, a freshman forward, took advantage, and added 15 pounds to his originally 195-pound frame, thanks to the help of Rich Hogans, also known as “Big Rich,” the Minutemen's strength and conditioning coach.
“Big Rich can work some wonders,” Berger said. “Being here for six weeks with the dieting and the workouts and stuff, it was tough, but it makes quite a difference.”
Berger's weight gain, which he said was a goal entering the summer, is just one aspect of his seemingly tireless drive to succeed, something also apparent in the cast that he's currently sporting on his right wrist.
A few weeks ago, Berger said, he was playing pickup ball when he fell and sprained his wrist. The injury isn't serious – he said the cast should be off by next week – but it's a testament to Berger's persona, one in which, it seems, he will do anything and everything to not only make a play in a random pickup game, but make himself better as a player.
“His competitive nature, his willingness to try to win have all been contagious in the short amount of time he's been here,” Kellogg said. “And the good thing is that that's what I saw when we saw him play in AAU and even in his high school season. So he's another high character kid who comes and plays hard every practice, and right now, seems to be a guy who's gonna help us win basketball games.”
Rarely do freshmen ever really get a ton of playing time – even Trey Davis only played 9.5 minutes per game as the lone backup point guard to Chaz Williams last season – and Berger likely won't be too different. At 6-foot-7, the freshman will most likely be looking up to proven veterans like Raphiael Putney and Maxie Esho on the depth chart as well as battling for playing time with fellow rookie forwards Clyde Santee and Zach Coleman.
But something can be said for that competitive fight that Berger has already exhibited in his short time at UMass, which has apparently shown through to his teammates, too.
“I would say that the guys like playing with him and that's usually a sign that you'll get some playing time,” Kellogg said. “I think they like his work ethic and the attitude that he brings to practice every day. Those are the guys you want in your program. I think those are guys that can help you win.”
For now, Berger is still working on adjusting. The Seattle, Wash., native is, by Google Maps estimates, 2,976 miles away from home – a tall order for anyone, let alone a college freshman. The six-week summer conditioning program, however, was a big help, he said.
“It's colder, the climate, the weather, everything, it's just so different here,” Berger said. “But I lived up here for six weeks during the summer, so I was able to acclimate to everything so it wasn't as hard when I came back here for the school year.”
Not only did Berger bulk up over the summer thanks to the conditioning program, but it also helped him get up to speed – literally – with the Minutemen's fast-paced style of play, something he said he's still adjusting to.
“College courts are a little longer than high school courts, so that was a little hard to get used to at first,” Berger said. “But I love playing fast, that's how I grew up playing with my AAU team. The only hard adjustment is just going at such a fast pace, especially with college. College pace is way faster than high school pace.”
By all accounts, though, Berger is adjusting well. He said he loves the school, the campus and has already apparently developed a strong friendship with fellow teammate Tyler Bergantino, who he said he hangs out with all the time. He's even taken on a liking for a couple of dining halls on campus.
“You gotta love Berk and Hamp,” he said.
He just better hope to not love it too much so he can avoid another “freshman 15.”