On her way to get Starbucks coffee Tuesday morning before heading to school, Diamond Bragg said she doesn’t want to be a liability to her coaches when she arrives at Wisconsin in the summer.
She wants to be ready for Big Ten basketball, especially physically.
To get there — and in the immediate, to help her Camp Hill Lions win five more games and a PIAA Class 2A championship, beginning Friday against Penns Manor — takes a workout schedule that is one part impressive, one part obsessive.
Bragg, who also has a senior’s typical load of homework, works out multiple times a day. The routine is exhausting:
- One or two times a week at Power Train, from 5 to 6 a.m., working on strength and conditioning.
- About 30 minutes at the West Shore YMCA most mornings, and she won’t leave until she makes 50 shots at least. Sometimes this becomes a pick-up game against men perhaps twice her age.
- Practice with the team, or a game.
- Two or three times a week with Hard 2 Guard trainer Shawn Lewis Sr., working on basketball skills. She trains alongside former Pittsburgh Panther Gilbert Brown, who has spent the past few seasons playing in Israel.
- Four to five hours of sleep, or more before a game.
“I love it, I love getting better, I love being up before everyone else,” the 5-foot-10 senior guard said earlier in the morning from the Power Train lobby. “I just feel like it puts me at an advantage. And it makes you feel good throughout the day.”
Pound for pound, she is perhaps the strongest player in the Mid-Penn Conference, and among the strongest in the state.
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Bragg said she’s about 165 pounds. And while she doesn’t memorize all of her accomplishments in the weight room, she believes she has benched a max of 150 pounds, can do 50 pushups in one set and can squat 170 pounds.
She likes how solid her legs are and thinks her upper-body is just as strong. She does not shy away from her powerful physique.
“I’m proud that every time I come in I feel myself getting stronger,” said Bragg, cracking her 1,000-watt smile. “There’s certain days where I feel like I can lift a car. Now, is that true? I don’t think so.”
She said she has not played against or with anyone, including in games on the AAU circuit with Philadelphia Belles, that she thinks is as strong as her. She also doesn’t know anyone personally that has the same exhaustive workout regimen.
Bragg eats a banana most mornings before she heads out, then grabs a coffee with a chocolate chip muffin on her way to school. Sometimes she has cereal.
She began at Power Train in the summer. Sometimes her mother will join her, and teammate Katy Collingsworth tagged along for a couple trips a few months ago.
Bragg’s workout on this particular Tuesday morning is like most during the season:
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- Pull-ups: starting with a five-second hold at the top, followed by standard pull-ups. Three sets.
- Push-ups: again starting with a five-second hold at the bottom, followed by clapping push-ups. Three sets.
- X-band walks: 10 yards side to side, both ways. This is done in between some other workouts as well.
- Shuffle-sprints: 5-yard shuffle one way, 25-yard sprint the opposite way. Several sets on each side.
- Sled pushes: 5-yard push into immediate 25-yard sprint. Four sets.
The goal for in-season workouts is maintenance and recovery. Some days will have free-weight squats and other exercises.
“My ultimate goal through the season and postseason, obviously, is to gain an advantage over the competitors,” Bragg said.
During the offseason, however, is when the intensity ratchets up. It includes heavier weights and more intense reps, and she’ll go up to four times a week. She’ll also go to Hard 2 Guard up to five times a week.
“We were just talking about it, [Tuesday’s Power Train trainer Lew Reese is] looking forward to making me cry a little bit,” Bragg said, cracking up at the thought.
The results speak for themselves.
Bragg’s first step on the court is lightning fast, and the strength in her legs allows her to spin, side-step and blow by just about any defender with ease. She can elevate above most defenders at the rim or on a jump shot. And she doesn’t get pushed around easily driving through traffic or fighting for a rebound.
However, it’s not cheap and takes sacrifice, from her and others. Her parents have helped with travel costs and chauffeuring her everywhere until she got her license. Camp Hill athletic director Sarah Fanus received praise from Bragg for opening the gym at all hours for extra shooting.
Bragg’s dad estimated they have spent around $50,000 on basketball and training related to it since she began playing, Bragg said. She knows how fortunate she is to have that kind of help, but also doesn’t want that sum to discourage others from chasing their dreams. This was her route; everyone takes a different path.
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“I’ve been playing basketball since I was about 5 years old and it’s not cheap to get to the highest level of any sport,” Bragg said. “AAU, trainings, traveling, all have prices.
“I don’t want people who don’t have money to think that they can’t be successful, and I feel like that number might deter some parents.”
She’s been lucky and she knows it. It’s one reason Bragg takes her training so seriously, even if she enjoys cracking jokes with people at the gym or riding the weight sled instead of pushing it on occasion.
Bragg is fully devoted to the grind. She wants to excel in college and make the WNBA. And she’s heard the stories from girls who made it to the level she seeks that it takes this level of physical dedication to get there.
“You can’t be average.”