By Tom Ballato
The Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) have a new head of strength and conditioning. Matt Houston, who has been with the organization, has been promoted into a new role.
His first job in China was in 2017 with the Chinese National Team as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach. He spent the next two seasons in China on the women’s side in the WCBA with the Shanxi Rui Flame and Sichuan Blue Whales. This season was his first year working with the men’s team, the Guangdong Southern Tigers.
He started 2019-2020, assigned to one player, Yi Jianlian. Jianlian was a former first-round pick in the 2007 NBA Draft and is currently number one in CBA history for points and rebounds. Houston will continue to work personally with Yi, but is now head strength and conditioning coach for the organization.
The previous strength and conditioning coach’s contract was up, and the team decided to go in another direction. Head coach Du Feng approached Houston and offered him the position.
“I was very excited and enthused. I remember when I first came and worked with the National Team, Team China. After that, I saw myself working in the CBA. When it didn’t happen, it wasn’t a letdown, but it was an experience that I knew was another challenge and stepping stone in my story. It was a goal of mine, and now with it happening, I’m living it. I want to be the best coach and the best me I can be. I want to be the best coach in the world,” Houston said when talking about his new position.
Houston brings scientific-based methods and ground-based Olympic style training into the weight room. The attention to detail and intensity the team lifts with is essential. Houston works with different groups of players throughout each day. In his first group are the development guys that are on the brink of making the active roster. Those players never sit down in the weight room. According to Houston, the development guys in the weight room aren’t allowed to sit down because they need to earn their stripes (earn respect). “My attitude is everything because you want these guys to pick up on everything. I am developing them physically and mentally. I want them to let loose and be themselves, but have an attitude to win the day,” said Houston.
The players on the active roster are the players in the second group. Houston tailors workout plans specific to his player’s needs. “When you come into that weight room, you become the best you can be. All we do is work,” expressed Houston.
The CBA suspended the season in January due to the spread of the coronavirus. Houston has been working every day with the players helping them stay ready. The CBA resumes play on June 20th after almost six months.
The Southern Tigers currently sit first with a record of 28-2 and are the favorite to win back to back championships. When asked about the goal for the rest of the season, Houston responded, “We’ll go game by game and aren’t looking past any team. Everyone is competitive, tough, and coming for us each night. We’ll go one game at a time, but our ultimate goal is to win a championship.”
Houston is ready to begin the next chapter in his career. He hopes to work with the Chinese National Team again with the Olympic Qualifiers coming up.