Dribble Podcast: Perth Wildcats star Bryce Cotton reveals how he's ...
With an NBA career, three NBL championships, three NBL MVP awards and two NBL grand finals MVPS, Bryce Cotton doesn’t have many sporting regrets. But he’d love to go back in time and spend two more minutes on court for his college in 2014.
Those missing minutes didn’t cost his team a game. They didn’t cost him points either. Those minutes cost him time. Playing in 40-minute matches for Providence, Cotton spent 73 minutes longer on court than any college player that season.
But with overtime thrown in, he fell two minutes short of averaging 40 minutes on court across his 35 games, and knows exactly the moment that cost him.
“It bothers me that I played 39.9 minutes per game instead of 40,” Cotton told The West Australian’s The Dribble Podcast.
“Because of double overtimes, I was averaging at one point 40.5 minutes per game. The only reason it went down was because I took a nasty fall in the first game of the Big East tournament. I sat out for two minutes and then went back in. That still bothers me to this day.”
Leading into that day, Cotton had spent a grand total of seven minutes on the bench from his last 20 games. That included four matches where double overtime took the game out to 50 minutes. He didn’t rest in any of those.
In the penultimate game of the regular season, Cotton still had the energy during double-overtime to force a turnover in the dying seconds, get fouled and win the game with the subsequent free throws.
Cotton’s fitness and work ethic are what truly sets him apart. He is averaging more than 36 minutes per game for the Wildcats this season and no player in the NBL’s 40-minute era has finished the season with figures that high.
The 30-year-old’s secret is a gruelling pre-season workout developed with his friend and basketball coach Jaamal Rhodes in his home town, Tucson, shortly after he lost his NBA contract with the Phoenix Suns.
Apart from when the borders were closed during COVID, Cotton has returned home every year and spent weeks being enduring Rhodes pushing him to his physical and mental limit in relentless one-on-one workouts. When he couldn’t fly home, Cotton did those sessions in Perth by himself.
“I really pride myself on conditioning. I know how many minutes I play every season and how hard I have to work to score baskets,” Cotton said.
“I pride myself that in the third quarter or the fourth quarter when the game is tight, I’m trying to prepare my body to have that little extra wind where my legs and my shots aren’t falling short and feel as good as they did to start the game.
“Me and Jaamal. That’s my guy right there. It’s always good to see him.
“The whole smacktalk that we have with each other during the workouts, it’s great. Sometimes there might be grinds or lulls throughout the seaosn where it’s like ‘man, I’d give anything to have Jaamal right now for five minutes of trash talk full of banter. He’ll say something I need to hear and then I’m good to go.”
While Cotton has always been athletic, he only spent one season running competitively. He ran the 400m in year 8 and went through the season undefeated. Ever the competitor, he likes to remind his mum that nobody beat him given she also ran the 400.
His uncle, David Adams, played as a NFL running back, but despite his athleticism, Cotton wasn’t blessed with was the height of most of his opponents. He quickly found his inspiration to overcome that challenge – another guard who wore his opponents into the ground through elite fitness, NBA MVP Allen Iverson.
Cotton studied his games from college, all the way through the NBA to learn Iverson’s secrets and gain inspiration.
But it’s one thing to be fit. It’s another to stay fit. And when Cotton needed major leg surgery after a hematoma in 2021, he faced the mighty challenge of having to get fit from scratch after not being able to run for months.
Yet by the end of the regular season, Cotton again led the NBL for minutes played.
“It was very challenging. It was something I felt it was sink or swim – either you’re going to get through this or you’re not,” Cotton said.
“The biggest thing I feel fortunate about is, ss serious as that surgery is, nobody has uttered a word about it. I feel blessed. It’s almost like people forgot that I had that surgery to where it doesn’t look like I missed a step.”
Cotton spent almost 38 minutes on court during Perth’s thrilling win over New Zealand on Tuesday and when his time on court ticked past 36 minutes, he put them in front. Playing at a consistent level of fatigue no NBL player has ever endured, Cotton can still be relied upon to be at his elite best.
When it comes to fitness and making big plays when it truly matters, Bryce Cotton will never have regrets.
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