Roseville's Mike Muscala worked out at the famed Florida academy, changed his habits because of it and is putting together an excellent senior season.
Those who know about college basketball will tell you that it's the stuff behind the scenes that makes a player great, that allows him or her to be successful on the court and over the long term.
Oh, but most everything is behind the scenes for Mike Muscala, a Roseville High School product who was skipped over by the Gophers and who now leads mid-major Bucknell -- a team rarely on national TV -- with 19.4 points and 11 rebounds a game. He is the only player in the country, in fact, averaging at least 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Quietly, Muscala has cobbled together a résumé that has earned him three All-Patriot League selections and has been projected to go in the second round of this year's NBA draft on some mock draft sites after improving on his already-impressive junior season.
Muscala attributes his increased success in part to things he took away from the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he attended a camp with players who were working out for the NBA draft.
"I think my confidence grew just from being there and playing against some of the players," Muscala said. "But also, I think, just taking care of my body ... little things that I hadn't thought of being a junior in college."
Muscala stopped eating fast food completely and started cooking for himself -- making big batches of food on off-days and storing them to eat throughout the week. He started paying visits to the training room on a regular basis, rather than just when he had an injury.
"I always kind of viewed the training room, before I went to IMG, as a place to go if you're hurt," he said. "But now I can of view it more as a place to recover and get your body right."
As a result, Muscala is able to get more out of practices, he said, and recover more quickly from weight training. And with another year of experience to boot, his stat sheet has improved several ticks, all the way across the board. Muscala leads the Bison not just in points and rebounds, but also blocked shots (43) and assists (50), while tying for the national lead in number of double-doubles per game.
And when the stage is there, he's ready for it. In Bucknell's 66-64 loss at then-No. 12 Missouri on Jan. 5, Muscala exploded for 25 points and 14 rebounds, completely outplaying Tigers center Alex Oriakhi and nearly leading the Bison to a victory before Muscala stepped out of bounds with the ball with three seconds to play.
But the Bison should get more opportunity for the bright lights with other Patriot League heavyweight Lehigh -- which the Bison play for the first time this week -- losing its best player, preseason All-America C.J. McCollum, to a foot injury, possibly for the rest of the season. That injury makes Bucknell (15-3, 2-0 Patriot) a likely bet to win the league and get the NCAA tournament automatic bid.
"We were very frustrated to lose that game," Muscala said of the Missouri setback. "But I guess one thing we can take away from that is at least it wasn't the last game of our season. So hopefully if we get back to the tournament in March, we'll be able to learn from that game, hopefully get a win."