Posted On: 10/12/15 1:45 AM

It’s an interesting quote when you consider the source.

“Mental toughness is to physical as four is to one.”

Those words, repeated over and over by coaches across the country, came from legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight. The gist: Smart decision-making and grace under fire on the basketball court is a much bigger part of the equation than pure talent alone.

There is no doubting this. Smart plays and poise win games. Mental breakdowns and meltdowns can lose them.

But Knight would also be the first coach to remind just how important the physical part of basketball is. And not just physical as in speed, leaping ability, quickness — but as in physicality, the ability to impose your will on an opponent.

When a college coach enters a gym to evaluate prospects, he will no doubt be monitoring the natural talents and athletic abilities of the players on the court. Those kind of gifts can certainly put a player on the map. But once a coach has targeted a player as having the talents or athleticism to play at whichever level he’s working in, he begins looking at something else. Does this player play physical enough to compete with us? Does he will himself into rebounds? Does he physically beat the guy next, even one who may be bigger or faster, for loose balls?

In examining the list of players from Colorado who have made commitments to colleges, there really is that common thread of physicality in these guys that has helped them reach that level. These guys are all talented and athletic and have polished skills, but when you think of guys like Michael Ranson, Luke Neff, Monroe Porter, Austin Mueller, Justinian Jessup and others, you are talking about players who have committed themselves to not letting anyone physically push them around. That is where physical and mental toughness merge.

So if you’re just starting your basketball career and you have designs on playing in college, yes, spend time in the gym developing an unshakeable handle and a jump shot you can hit from a multitude of spots on the court. You have to work to develop those moves and talents that give you a leg up on your defenders.

But it’s also never to early to learn that being physical will be the piece that can put you over the edge. Embrace the opportunity that comes with the physical play the sport provides. Don’t be fooled: Basketball is a contact sport. It’s those who embrace the contract, and thrive in it, will have a leg up.