Lodermeier helped Gardner Webb to historic season

Mark Hazelwood • Mar 29, 2019 at 7:28 PM

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. — The NCAA Tournament experience wasn’t new to Kyle Lodermeier.

But there was no denying, things felt different over the last two weeks for the 2009 Norwalk graduate.

After spending two seasons interning at the University of Michigan, Lodermeier was named the Assistant Director of Athletic Performance at Gardner-Webb University on June 15, where he oversees the physical development of the men's basketball team.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs finished with the fourth-best record in the Big South Conference — but got hot at the right time. They knocked off top-seeded Campbell and No. 2 seed Radford on their respective home floors to earn the conference tournament championship.

The 76-65 victory at Radford on March 10 sent Gardner Webb to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The university is located in Boiling Springs, N.C. — a town much smaller than Norwalk with less than 5,000 in population, about an hour west of Charlotte.

"It was a really unbelievable experience doing it at a school that had never done it before from a one-bid conference,” Lodermeier said. “It was a lot different than my experiences at Michigan and the tournament runs they had made while I was there.”

During his time in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines went 59-20, including a loss to Villanova in the national championship game last season. But this time, with 10 losses as a No. 4 seed from a small league, the Bulldogs were one of the final seeds — earning the No. 16 seed in the South Region and a matchup with No. 1 Virginia.

And for about an hour on March 22, the Bulldogs had America’s attention. One year after Virginia became the first-ever No. 1 seed to lose in the first round, Gardner Webb had raced out to a 14-point lead in the first half.

Eventually, the Cavaliers, who play for a spot in the Final Four tonight, settled in. Gardner Webb’s 36-32 halftime lead was quickly erased in the 71-56 loss.

"I think we at least definitely showed we deserved to be there, and our guys played their hearts out,” Lodermeier said. “Our coaches did a great job of game planning and putting the team in position to compete with one of the top three teams in the country — and give them really all they could handle for 20-plus minutes.

“The whole thing was just a lot of fun, and the entire community of Boiling Springs and the surrounding area really got behind the basketball team,” he added. “It was exciting and an enjoyable experience.”

Playing for Steve Gray at Norwalk, Lodermeier was an All-Northern Ohio League second team selection in 2008-09. He played four years at NCAA Division II Malone University in Canton, making the team following an open gym tryout.

After graduation, Lodermeier initially worked in the field of physical therapy, before eventually getting a spot with UM strength coach Jon Sanderson. Prior to Norwalk, Gray coached Sanderson at Lexington High School, just south of Mansfield.

At Michigan, he helped develop weight room and conditioning programs, and also helped implement them on a daily basis. Arriving to Gardner Webb in mid-June, Lodermeier didn’t have a ton of time to work with the team prior to the start of the school year.

He’s in charge of designing team workouts and coaching the players in the weight room.

“One of the biggest things has been creating the weight room culture, and getting guys healthy and staying strong,” he said. “That way we can be playing our best basketball in March, and guys aren't breaking down and wearing out as the season goes along.”

Now that he’s had three years working with Div. I programs, Lodermeier talked about some of the misconceptions when it comes to strength and performance training with basketball.

“It’s probably that being strong is not super important, although everyone wants to be really fast and explosive, things like that,” he said. “I think one of the biggest misnomers is that the foundation of being able to jump high, run fast and cut and change directions is you have to have a solid foundation of strength.

“And it’s not just the lifting weights, but also working with the guys to just move really well,” Lodermeier added. “We make sure our guys can bend, work on mobility,flexibility and nutritional habits, things like that — there is just so much that goes into keeping guys moving and feeling well and performing at a high level.”

After one season on his own, Lodermeier reflected on what he’s learned — and what is still ahead of him.

“I was extremely fortunate to have a great mentor in Coach Sanderson in particular,” he said. “Jon has taught me so much, and so much of that I was able to bring with me here. And I was really fortunate to walk into a good situation here with a strong coaching staff that had great strength coaches before me. I've learned a lot and have a great opportunity to really grow in terms of my leadership ability as the head strength coach.

“I walked into it with a lot of confidence, but have already taken away a lot of lessons that I hope to do things a lot better next season,” Lodermeier added. “Obviously we were fortunate that a lot of the guys were able to stay injury-free, and that's the most important thing ... that the guys are able to play. You have to be on the court first and foremost to be able to compete."