Pro basketball offseason relies on Sanford trainers

Sanford POWER, Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine prepare for tipoff

Skyforce player Bubu Palo works out on a shuttle machine at Sanford POWER as strength and conditioning coach Hunter Glascock looks on.

Pro basketball for Sanford POWER’s Hunter Glascock and Sanford Orthopedics and Sports Medicine’s Ian Lackey blurs from one season to the next.

For the most part, there is no beginning or end on the calendar. In short, from place to place and month to month, the world of pro basketball is seamless.

Lackey is a full-time certified athletic trainer for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, and by extension the Miami Heat and the NBA. Glascock is the Skyforce’s full-time certified strength and conditioning coach within the same world. The Skyforce, who play their home games at the Pentagon, open the season on Nov. 8, and play their first home game vs. the Salt Lake City Stars on Sunday, Nov. 10.

They’re distinctive in what they do because they work with pro athletes, but that was never the initial attraction. Helping people, all kinds of people, was how this all started out for both of them.

“I’ve worked with swimmers, football players, basketball players — you name it, I’ve probably worked with that sport,” said Lackey, a Kansas native who got his undergraduate degree at Dakota Wesleyan.

“I really enjoy working with a diverse population of athletes, sports-wise, and I also love helping people and getting them back as successful as they can be. Within professional basketball and the NBA G League, I really love educating players on how to recover, prevent injuries, and take care of their bodies on a day-to-day basis. That’s a big step in becoming a professional athlete.”

From high school to pros

For Glascock, it’s much the same. Whether it’s an eighth-grader introducing himself to strength training for the first time or a player with an NBA contract trying to become an established pro, being part of a process aimed at progress is the ultimate reward.

“The travel can seem like a lot sometimes but working with athletes and helping them improve makes up for it,” he said. “You can look at it like it’s a lot of time and working weekends but if you enjoy what you’re doing it doesn’t feel that way. It’s a passion for what you’re doing. We help people achieve their goals.”

Both Lackey and Glascock spent time at the NBA Combine on behalf of the Heat and Skyforce last spring. They listened to physical therapists from around the world while also contributing their efforts to the NBA Summer League and Skyforce tryouts in Miami.

Miami Heat training camp in West Palm Beach, Fla., was next. The pair now advance toward Skyforce training camp the last week of October. The season begins on Nov. 8 and the season goes until the end of March.

To begin with, it’s a long way from where they started out. Conversely, a great amount of what they’ve learned and put to use with high school and college athletes is the same as they’re involved in now with pro basketball players.

“With high school and younger kids you put on the training wheels in getting them to move better and teach them proper mechanics,” Glascock said. “They’re growing and they’re coachable and you help them develop into better athletes.”

Going up and coming down

Ordinarily, they apply the same principles while with pro basketball players. The athletes are further along, however.

“You’re trying to get high school athletes or college athletes to their top level,” Glascock said. “With pro basketball players, they’ve been through a lot of development already. A lot of them already have 40-inch vertical jumps. So we want to make sure they’re safe and can land properly.”

It’s more complicated than helping high school kids go up and helping pro players come down, but as a rule, the goal with advanced athletes is emphasizing and maintaining durability.

“Their livelihood might be on the line,” Glascock said. “So you don’t want to do anything stupid in the training environment. It’s great to keep developing but in most cases they’re already athletic enough to get a contract. You try to make sure they stay healthy on the court.”

Glascock was the strength and conditioning coach for Sioux Falls Lincoln High School for six years as a representative of Sanford POWER. Lackey was a graduate assistant and then a full-time athletic trainer at USD prior to becoming part of the Sanford Orthopedic and Sports Medicine team.

For Lackey, he’s no longer asked to work around his athletes’ academic life. Also, there are more people at the pro level whose job is, in part, knowing a pro basketball player’s health status. That includes the Skyforce, the Heat, the NBA and player agents. Lackey often acts as their eyes and ears.

Regularly pro basketball players can leave the team on short notice. Similarly, new ones show up the same way.

World-class resources

For the most part, Lackey sticks to a philosophy that applies to his entire profession, not just to those elite few entrusted with keeping pro basketball players healthy.

“Any kind of health care professional has to take a step back and ask themselves what they’re influencing,” Lackey said.

“That applies to ‘Can this patient go to work?’ Or, a high school athlete who wants to become a state champion. It’s the same with professional athletes. The difference is if I’m working with a player in Sioux Falls who has a two-way contract with the Heat, that could potentially influence a contract year and involve millions of dollars.”

Their travels around the country flatter the organization that employs them and the facilities they use. They see that when they leave on road trips. Others from around the league also make favorable comparisons when visiting from out of town.

“The resources we have at the Sanford Sports Science Institute and the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine are very high level,” Lackey said. “And the people we work with here at Sanford are very high-level people. It’s known throughout the NBA G League what a high standard of care we have here in Sioux Falls with Sanford.”

Posted In Faces of Sanford Health, Orthopedics, Sports Medicine

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