There were times when Shabazz Muhammad would think: No more.

Maybe it was on his endless trips up and down the steep stairs at the Santa Monica, Calif., beach, taking the steps two at a time while carrying a 40-pound medicine ball. Maybe it was while doing countless sprints on the beach, or running up sand dunes with his feet sinking in ankle deep while he wore a 60-pound vest.

This is too much, he'd say to himself. This is too hard. This is not sane. But every time, as if on cue — as if he were somehow inside Muhammad's head — Frank Matrisciano would start talking.

"Every time I was doing something really hard, when I'd be near exhaustion, he'd be, 'You want to be an All-Star, don't you?' " Muhammad said. " 'Don't you want to be an All-Star?' "

And so he'd keep going. You can see the results. Over the summer three Timberwolves — Muhammad, Anthony Bennett and Ronny Turiaf — spent time with Matrisciano in California at the suggestion of Wolves president of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders.

Matrisciano is an old-school trainer who shuns publicity to the point where he won't allow his face to be photographed. In magazine articles he has turned his back to the camera or posed with a mask. He doesn't own a gym or have a website. He declines to divulge his age. Yet his legend continues to grow.

Matrisciano's "Chameleon Training" has done wonders for Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph, among others. He has trained boxers, triathletes, special ops military personnel.

Talk to him on the phone and the words come so fast that asking a question becomes a challenge. Matrisciano, a New Jersey native, is proud that few athletes he works with are able to stick with him. He is proud that everything he asks his trainees to do he does himself.

"Ten guys come see me, and only three will stay," he said. "They come in, they last 11 minutes, 14 minutes, three minutes and they're gone. They leave."

Not Muhammad, Turiaf or Bennett. Matrisciano, who spent 2½ years as the University of Memphis basketball strength and conditioning coach, calls them the Timberwolves Trio. "All three of them smashed it," he said. "Just killed it."

And it shows. All three, but particularly Muhammad, are walking "after" pictures. In six weeks he dropped 20 pounds and dramatically reduced his body fat. All three look defined, conditioned, ready.

"It's crazy, some of the things he told us to do," Bennett said. "But once you push through it, the sky's the limit."

Not your typical workout

Matrisciano doesn't believe in weight machines, he eschews high-tech. He constructs his two-a-day workouts, five days a week, from what is available. Hills, sand, stairs, jungle gym bars. And the trainees don't do the same thing from day to day. That's the whole point. Matrisciano wants his people to be able to adapt to what is thrown at them, to adjust to the conditions they're thrown into.

"I was watching a show last night and a Navy Seal was on and he was talking about going through the program, and it's 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical," Saunders said on media day. "Our game is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. So if your players can get that mental toughness, that's when you have the ability to win close games down the stretch."

Essentially Matrisciano is trying to get his trainees to do things they didn't think they could do.

"I know it gave me the confidence that I've been needing," Bennett said. "I feel like I'm in high school again. I feel fresh, ready to go."

Before training began, Matrisciano asked the players about their goals. Muhammad wants to be an All-Star, Bennett aims to play like the No. 1 overall pick he was a year ago and Turiaf to extend his career.

And then they start.

"I don't believe in no pain, no gain," Matrisciano said. "When a guy comes to me, it's gradual, from Day 1, Week 1. It builds up. It gets harder every day."

He works the legs and the core hard. Muhammad talked about kneeling in the sand, grabbing a heavy ball, lifting it, twisting his body and slamming the ball down on the other side.

"And then there is the harness," Muhammad said.

That's when Matrisciano hooks himself up to an athlete with a rope and harness and has the athlete drag him all over the beach, pushing both the body and the mind. Talking All-Star with Muhammad, reminding Bennett that people already were prepared to call him a draft-day bust.

All three returned to Minnesota changed. Muhammad laughs now when he thinks back to this year's NBA summer league, when he played at 245 pounds and was forced, at times, to ask out of games because he was tired. Now he feels like he can run forever and jump out of the gym.

Will results follow?

Now it's time for all that work to show in the court. At least one man is certain they will.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of all of these guys," Matrisciano said. "Ronny came back with the most muscle he ever hard. Bazz, just look at him. And Anthony. ... Most guys run from this. Not these guys."

Muhammad and Bennett say they are planning to train with Matrisciano every summer.

"This is probably the best I've felt in my entire basketball career," Muhammad said. "No injuries, ankles, nothing. I'm a guy who likes to jump, and I'm more explosive. I'm quicker with my first step. I can really feel it.''