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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Nets Dancers Kick Up and Dig in Their Heels 

Posted by James at 3:24 PM ET

By Vincent M. Mallozzi
The New York Times

The Nets Dancers Jessica Goldstone, left, and Megan Cameron during a preseason boot camp.
“I worked out body parts I didn’t know I had,” Adar Wellington, the squad’s captain, said after a full day’s workout, the first of four days that she and her teammates spent flipping tires, rolling beer kegs, swinging sledgehammers, and running and squatting with sandbags.

“It was kind of a scary workout,” said Brenna Klingler, a rookie who leapt to the N.B.A. from Rutgers, where she was the captain of the dance team last season.

“As far as dance training goes, I was always used to running a lot and practicing jumps and turns, but nothing like this,” Klingler said. “This kind of training puts a totally different set of physical demands on your body.”

Brenna, NJ Nets Dancer
Brenna as Rutgers Dance Team Captain

All 16 Nets Dancers, who range in age from 19 to 26, enlisted in the exercise boot camp Aug. 17- 20 at Nexxt Level Sports in Voorhees, N.J.

“We’ve never done anything like this,” said Kimberlee Garris, the entertainment manager for Nets basketball. A former Knicks City Dancer, she participated in all the drills, as well as the nutrition, aerobics, swimming and self-defense classes.

Garris said that the long, grueling hours — the Nets Dancers normally rehearse for two to three hours twice a week and before games — were necessary to help build the stamina needed to perform energetic routines that usually run 60 to 90 seconds.

“A lot of what our dancers do on the court requires a great amount of conditioning, and this boot camp is an excellent way to physically push their bodies to the max,” Garris said. “A lot of people look at what we do as an art form, but it’s also a sport.”

One room that had the Nets girls shaking in their dance boots was the Dream Bodies Band Room, where resistance bands hang from the walls. Each of the dancers took turns fastening the bands around their waists and taking several explosive steps to build leg strength. As the bands pulled the dancers back to their starting positions, their legs churned. The dancers also increased overall body strength by crawling on all fours while wearing the bands.

“The band room — that was definitely the toughest,” Klingler said.

While professional athletes from South Jersey and Philadelphia are familiar with the unusual workouts at Nexxt Level Sports, no female team had taken this kind of physical challenge until the Nets Dancers waltzed through the door with nervous smiles on their faces.

“The goal of this boot camp is to help educate these girls to the proper ways of feeding and strengthening their bodies,” said the workout center’s owner, Omar Wellington, 25, a former point guard at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. “This is about helping them survive the rigors of their dance season.”

NJ Nets Dancers
Nets Dancers Jessica Goldstone, left, and Megan Cameron during a preseason boot camp.

Wellington, the brother of Adar Wellington, runs Nexxt Level Sports, the Philadelphia Flyers’ former training facility, with the help of his family. His mother, Karen, is the marketing director, and his father, Al, who built the band room, is the handyman. His brothers, Anwar, 26, and Salim, 28, are trainers, and his youngest sister, Cehara, a basketball player at Stockton College, offers instruction on a court frequented by N.B.A. players like Vince Carter, Hakim Warrick, Cuttino Mobley, Lynn Greer and Matt Carroll.

“Working out extra hard like the Nets Dancers have been doing builds camaraderie as well as muscle,” said Salim Wellington, a former wide receiver at the University of Rhode Island, who served as drill sergeant.

“When they get back on that dance line, each of them will know that the girl next to them shared the sweat and tears of this training camp, and they’ll be a better team for it.”

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