Deep in the recesses and dimly lit hallways of College Park Center, there’s a place that only a few people know about.
A unique area that holds a function significant to the skill development of the men’s basketball team, called the Dribble Dungeon. The training area holds cerebral basketball drills orchestrated by assistant coach Riley Davis.
“It’s an opportunity for the guys to come in and just have fun with it,” Davis said.
The Dribble Dungeon is housed inside a storage room made of concrete cinder blocks surrounded by a steel chain link fence. Davis said following the basketball season last spring, he decided to convert an equipment room into the Dribble Dungeon when the practice gyms were occupied with basketball and volleyball camps.
“You’re surrounded in this storage room that really kind of feels like a dungeon,” Davis said.
Using a training technique that Davis first developed at the University of Tennessee, the dungeon has various smart lights that came from a program named FITLIGHT Training. The lights are utilized to measure an athlete’s performance, and in this case they measure the speed and reaction time of a player through a program registered on a smartpad.
“We had used them with the players there and had success with them,” Davis said. “It was just a better way to change things up and keep it fun for them while they could get better.”
The Dribble Dungeon has different stations that rotate players every two minutes. Each station consists of a player dribbling the basketball while simultaneously pressing a button that lights up.
When the lights change colors, they tell players what hand they should be dribbling with and when to crossover to switch dribbling hands. As players advance further into different stations, there are variables added to each station that increase difficulty.
Davis said he uses innovative ways to enhance training and concentration in each station. Players have used bean bags, tennis balls, heavy weight control basketballs and toss back nets that help accelerate skill development.
“It’s developing multitasking in your brain,” Davis said. “It’s all about trying to get the dribbling to become second nature.”
Senior forward Jabari Narcis said the Dribble Dungeon has already made him a better ball handler on the court.
“You’ll definitely be more comfortable dribbling the ball,” Narcis said. “Performing moves like your crossovers, between the legs, all that will be way faster.”
The skills absorbed by players in the Dribble Dungeon are meant to increase their sense of awareness in a live basketball game.
“A player in the game, he’s got the ball with a live dribble, and he’s able to read the defense and see different cutters go into the basket,” Davis said. “He’s able to make the pass with the defender on him with the idea that his dribbling has become so second nature for him. He is able to concentrate on other things.”
Although guards handle the ball most of the time on the court, the Dribble Dungeon is also used by players in other positions. It creates comfortability for athletes who don’t handle the ball as often as guards.
Junior forward Coleman Sparling said he has a better understanding of how to handle the ball around smaller and quicker defenders.
“Being a bigger dude, just trying to get our handles a little tighter, and then those little guards can’t get in and reach all the time,” Sparling said. “It really just works on your reaction time and how quick you get your ball from one hand to the other.”
Davis said the dribbling drills help with coordination development among right-handed stationary dribblers, a trait that is common among new players.
This unique method of training caught the attention of a few NBA teams that called Davis to gather information on how everything works.
He said the Dribble Dungeon is just a way to keep things fun and effective for the team.
“We’re just having fun with the guys and trying to be innovative,” Davis said. “Once you reach a certain skill level, it’s like you’re splitting hairs, and you become overwhelmed. Then you reach a point where you kind of forget that the game was meant for fun. I like to use stuff like this to remind them, ‘Hey man, this can be fun too.’”