"All I see is a hill that I have to run up," Humes said Tuesday morning just after sunrise.
Humes, a forward, and the other players on the Flames' men's basketball team spend six Tuesdays each preseason sprinting up the 220-foot hill as part of a tortuous workout regimen developed by fourth-year head coach Howard Moore.
When Moore was an assistant coach at Wisconsin under coach Bo Ryan, some of the Badgers' training consisted of running up hills. Since taking the UIC gig, Moore made sure the Sledding Hill was part of a yearly routine for the Flames, who finished 18-16 last season.
"It's an obstacle that we tackle as a group," said Moore, a former standout baller at Taft High School. "The analogy is a season is like a hill. By the end of the season, hopefully you're moving toward the top of the hill and playing for a championship. This also helps the players overcome mental hurdles as well.
"I think they've embraced it as an essential part of our program," Moore added. "It's a big part of what we do for our season."
Tuesday was the fifth hill workout of the year for UIC, which started with 10 sprints and progressed to 18 this week. Next Tuesday's regimen of 20 running reps will cap the workouts, which last about 30 minutes.
“It’s definitely something that I have to get used to," freshman guard/forward Lance Whitaker said. "At the end of the day it’s a challenge that we have to overcome no matter how much we all hate it.”
Moore said this year's team has been the best at conquering the Sledding Hill, and senior transfer Kelsey Barlow has been the fastest Flame to reach the top. Moore said Barlow, a former Purdue guard, can climb the summit in about nine seconds.
“Competition is always fun. That’s why we play sports," Barlow said. "Racing up a hill is a little different than playing basketball in that we don’t get to do it every day. It’s like playing video games with each other, you want to win every time.”
All of the Flames' players appeared winded during and after Tuesday's workout. At its conclusion, one Flame threw up behind a tree.
That hasn't happened — yet — to Humes, who said he won't exactly miss the early morning runs up the hill.
"It's not like the guys look forward to the hill," he said. "There's no basketball. We're just running up the hill and pushing ourselves."