A typical offseason day in the life of Nate Reuvers began with a plate of five eggs, a half-pound of bacon and toast.
That homemade meal was followed by multiple stops at a campus dining hall throughout the day for the sophomore forward on the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team. Plus, he’d somehow find room for an organic milkshake and a protein shake mixed with fruits and vegetables.
“I probably drank about 2,000 calories a day on top of what I ate,” Reuvers said. “There were some days where I’d feel like throwing up.”
But there was motivation behind the meal madness for Reuvers: a desire to add weight that would make him better able to absorb the pounding he’ll take in the paint this season.
Reuvers quickly added 25 pounds to his 6-foot-11 frame in the offseason and now hovers around the 240 mark. He’s added strength as well and looks noticeably different than the 215-pounder who got tossed around at times during a true freshman season that ended in March.
“Now, it’s how do you use it?” UW coach Greg Gard said. “It’s one thing to be stronger and weigh more. But how do you apply it? I think he’s taken the step you’d expect him to take, now can he use what he’s learned and apply it to his sophomore year?”
The Badgers will hold their first official practice for the 2018-19 season on Thursday. Their march to the Nov. 6 opener against Coppin State at the Kohl Center includes a closed scrimmage against Iowa State and an exhibition game against UW-Oshkosh.
UW is expected to have all hands on deck at the start of practice, according to Gard. Three guards who dealt with injuries in 2017-18 — Brad Davison (shoulder), D’Mitrik Trice (foot) and Kobe King (knee) — are all ready to go. Gard said freshman guard Tai Strickland, who was wearing a protective boot as his teammates ran Bascom Hill on Monday, has a minor sprain.
Gard said after that conditioning session that he thought the Badgers had a productive offseason.
Reuvers wasn’t the only one to change his body. To name a few, sophomore Aleem Ford and junior guard Brevin Pritzl have added bulk. Senior forward Charlie Thomas is leaner and in better shape. Trice added 12 pounds and caused jaws to drop in the weight room when he squatted 425 pounds at one point this summer.
There was plenty of fuel for the Badgers’ fire after a humbling 2017-18 season in which they went 15-18 and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years.
“The experience that they’ve gone through has helped in terms of maybe really validating what we have to do in the offseason,” Gard said.
That was certainly the case for Reuvers, who was forced into action early last season after some of UW upperclassmen frontcourt players didn’t develop as hoped. After beginning the season as a strong candidate to redshirt, Reuvers ended up appearing in 28 games with 15 starts.
Reuvers averaged 5.3 points in 16.6 minutes per game, but he struggled to hold his own in the paint and grabbed only 55 rebounds in 466 minutes of action.
One game in particular that stood out to Reuvers was a 60-52 home loss to Northwestern in which he finished with no points and one rebound in 13 points. Meanwhile, Wildcats junior Dererk Pardon, who had 20 pounds on Reuvers, finished with 17 points on 8-of-8 shooting.
“He was kicking my ass one day and I couldn’t do anything about it,” Reuvers said. “I was trying, but I just realized I’ve got nothing.”
Reuvers, in an effort to make sure days like those are in the past, attacked the offseason with a purpose.
UW strength and conditioning coach Erik Helland saw it in Reuvers’ eyes during workouts.
“I thought that Nate, at the end of the year, he really looked hard at himself and said, ‘I need to do some of these things better,’ ” Helland said. “It was literally like flipping a switch.”
Helland said Reuvers wasn’t getting enough sleep and wasn’t eating properly, two common problem areas for freshman away from home for the first time.
“Nate recognized it,” Helland said. “I always feel that their development is going to mirror their maturity level. In other words, do they take responsibility for all the things that nobody else can do for them?”
For Reuvers, packing on some pounds was a no-brainer after what he went through last season, when he was a boy among men at times.
One thing the coaching staff loves about Reuvers is that he has an edge to him. He’s more than willing to mix it up in the paint and he’ll now be better equipped to do so.
Reuvers said he’s still getting used to playing with more weight. Fatigue is quicker to set in, and it’s possible he’ll settle in close to 235 pounds when things are said and done.
“I want to have a breakout year this year,” Reuvers said. “My ultimate goal is to play in the NBA, so I just want to keep taking steps towards that every year.”