Laura Beach has emerged this season as one of the most improved players on the women's basketball team at Rocky Mountain College.
And the 6-foot-3 senior center from Baker gives some of the credit for her well-toned game to a rather unique source: Insanity Workout DVDs.
"I know that sounds corny, but it actually was a great cardio workout," Beach said. "I sweat my butt off every day doing them."
She was joined throughout the summer by a friend, Tonia McCamish, who also pushed her to stick with the popular fitness DVDs.
"It ended up being a lot of fun," Beach said. "I think that helped a lot, too. I can run easier, move easier, every part of my mobility, I feel, is easier than it was last year."
That certainly has been apparent out on the floor, where she has been playing very good basketball and can be an imposing presence down low offensively and defensively.
"I think she was personally motivated," Rocky coach Brian Henderson said. "After last season we talked about the fact that she would be a lot better player if she was in better shape. She took that into the offseason and worked really hard at coming back in better shape."
"He was honest with me, which I appreciate so much," Beach said of Henderson's postseason assessment. "He told me what it was going to take and he believed in me. That helped a lot."
She participated in the Athletic Medicine and Performance (AMP) conditioning program last spring with her Rocky teammates, which quickened her movements and improved her leaping ability. Besides sweating to workout DVDs over the summer, she also played in pickup games in the Baker High gym.
"It's given her confidence," Henderson said of Beach's physical transformation. "That's kind of been the story of her basketball career: When she plays with confidence she can be a force out on the floor."
Beach is averaging 7.5 points and 4.0 rebounds this season for Rocky, which is 3-4 in Frontier Conference games and 10-12 overall heading into Friday night's home contest against Carroll College.
"The strength of her game can't really be seen on stats," Henderson said. "She's one of the best post defenders in the conference. Defense is really her strong suit."
However, her season totals of 164 points, 89 rebounds and 18 blocks are a good illustration of just how far Beach's game has come. She averaged 2.75 points and 2.1 rebounds per game last season and had nine blocks in returning to the court after a one-year layoff.
Beach played two years at NCAA Division II Montana State Billings after graduating from Baker High in 2006. She was an all-conference and all-state performer at Baker, which played in the state Class B title game during her senior season.
During the year she was away from the game, Beach concentrated on her classes at MSUB, worked part-time and played city league basketball on a team that included Henderson's wife, LynAnn.
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When Henderson called one day and asked if she wanted to resume her collegiate career, "I thought, heck, why not," Beach said.
"It has taken a while to get my confidence built back up," she said of her game returning to form. "I know that coach had a lot of confidence in me and my teammates have definitely helped with that.
"Having a mix of that and having a good team, where everyone believes in me, that's helped a lot. With this being my senior year, I also wanted to go out on a strong point."
Beach, with her improved agility and stamina, is doing exactly that. She has started nine games, and is playing more minutes.
She is shooting 53 percent from the field, but the real eye-catching element of her game includes blocking the opposition's route to the basket and swatting away shots.
"After she blocks one or two, that changes a lot of what people do," Henderson said. "She is so strong down in the post that other girls have a hard time pushing her around."
And sometimes, when the battle for rebounding or scoring position becomes heated, Beach shows another side of her playing personality.
"My parents joke with me all the time that they just love watching me when I get angry because I'm so much more aggressive," Beach said. "It's definitely not my normal personality to be that way.
"I've been called the Gentle Giant my whole life."
Besides her defense, Beach has also scored in double figures in four of her last five games, including a 16-point, 8-rebound performance in a victory at Great Falls on Jan. 21.
In league games she is averaging 10.3 points and 5.9 rebounds.
"With the offense that we run, when people penetrate they draw a lot of defense to them and she's been doing a good job of being ready and catching and finishing," said Henderson.
During the second half of league play, Rocky will continue to lean heavily on Beach and 6-foot Breanna Todd. The Bears are short on depth inside after 6-3 senior Adrienne Green left the team for personal reasons prior to the start of league play.
"She's got an amazing attitude. She's a great teammate. She works hard every day," Henderson said of Beach. "She's one of those kids that you never have a problem with."
Unless you're the opposition.