One would think being more than seven feet tall would be an advantage in basketball, but Paul Sturgess will tell you it's more of a disadvantage.
As center for the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends, Sturgess stands at 7-foot-8, making him the world's tallest professional basketball player. To give you an idea of his height, the rim is only three feet above his head.
Again, you'd think he'd have quite the advantage over his colleagues, but that's not the case.
Prior to becoming a Texas Legend, Sturgess was a Harlem Globetrotter. As a Globetrotter he was known for his "No Jump Dunk." Because he was trained to entertain, his conditioning and development to compete wasn't up to snuff for the NBA.
Legends' director of player personnel and assistant coach Travis Blakeley said, “Not to take anything away from Paul’s accomplishments with the Globetrotters, but they didn’t practice, they rehearsed. [The Globetrotters] had zero weight room time, zero performance time.”
After joining the Legends in November 2013, Blakeley had a long road of work ahead of him. After Sturgess' feet bled from trying to keep up with his teammates on his first day of practice, Blakeley knew the workout regime would have to change for Sturgess.
“We were taking on an extremely green athlete and had to scale it way back to the basics,” said Blakeley.
While Sturgess was in better shape after a few weeks, developing his strength became an issue. His height and weight makes squats and lunges dangerous because they cause stress on knees, hips, and the lower back. A regimen of leg presses were used to help Sturgess develop his lower-body strength.
One more issue Sturgess faces in the NBA is the verticality rule which "requires referees to call a foul whenever a player does not jump straight up in the air while defending a shot." A hunch in his neck, back and shoulders from years of slouching makes it difficult for his posture to adhere to the rule.
To help with his posture, Blakeley has Sturgess perform exercises that open up his neck and shoulders. Blakeley also has Sturgess working on his flexibility in his hips and strengthening his core and inner abs to give him better reaction time. Jumping rope and agility drills are also helping with Sturgess' reaction time.
“I’ve been (jumping rope) for a couple months now, and I am already feeling the benefits of how much better I move. It helps me jump quicker and more explosively. I also do a lot of agility exercises and lateral slides, which helps me open up my hips and helps me move," said Sturgess.
Though Sturgess' progress in workouts has Blakeley slowly adding strength-building exercises like squats, the tall guy still gets frustrated, but he focuses on the future. "I never compare myself to other people. Whenever I’m doing an exercise, I never think about how well I’m doing now. If I do it every day, I’m going to get better. I always have that in my mind," said Sturgess.
While Sturgess may be tall, his list of accomplishments with the Texas Legends appears to be quite short.
Paul Sturgess, 7-foot-8, NBA Development League’s Texas Legends 12 games, 0.9 points and 0.9 rebounds no block. pic.twitter.com/Ohi20nZKio
— Keith (@koookeith) April 2, 2014
Fans are wishing the best for the 7-foot-8 pro.
Paul Sturgess the tallest professional basketball player in the world went to FIT. I hope he gets a shot in the NBA!
— Leisha Murray (@sunshineleisha) March 31, 2014
Image via YouTube.