MANHATTAN, Kan. – A.J. Kloss, who has spent the last seven seasons working with the Wildcat women’s basketball and women’s tennis teams, was recently named the strength and conditioning coach for the Kansas State men’s basketball team.
Kloss has been training with the men’s basketball team since they returned from summer workouts in early June. He replaces Ben O’Donnell, who resigned in late May to pursue a job in the private sector.
“First of all, I want to thank Ben for his dedication to our program these last five seasons,” said head coach Bruce Weber. “We are disappointed to lose him. He was well-liked by both our current and former players. He was an important part of our success and brought energy every day to our program.
“The first thing Ben told me after he was leaving was that A.J. was the right person for the job. A.J. is someone who has been around our program before as a graduate assistant, so he knows how we operate. Both Ben and A.J. have very similar philosophies of how they develop players in the weight room, and with summer workouts fast approaching, I knew A.J. would be an easy and quick transition.
Summer is such an important time in the development of our players, so it was critical to get someone in not only quickly, but also get someone who knows our players and has their respect. Having trained the women’s team, A.J. is someone that our returning players have been around and have learned to respect how he runs a weight room. It was important to consult (Coach) Jeff (Mittie), who hated to lose him, but was very, very positive of the move. He was glad that his players will still get to be around A.J.”
Kloss moves over to work with the men’s basketball team after spending the past seven seasons (2014-21) working with the women’s basketball and women’s tennis teams, including the last five in a full-time capacity. During that span, he helped the Wildcat women’s basketball team earn 125 victories, including 57 in Big 12 play, while advancing to the postseason on five occasions, including three trips to the NCAA Tournament. The women’s tennis team was also successful during his tenure training the team, registering three consecutive winning seasons (2017-20) and advancing to the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
In all, Kloss trained 30 All-Big 12 selections, including eight on the First Team, between the two sports as well as two Big 12 Freshman of the Year in tennis’ Maria Linares (2018) and basketball’s Ayoka Lee (2019). This past season, he played a role in training Lee, who was a WBCA All-America honorable mention and a repeat First Team All-Big 12 selection. Lee led the Big 12 and ranked third nationally in field goal percentage.
Kloss was also part of the support team that helped aid former Wildcat Peyton Williams in balancing her two-sport schedule with the women’s basketball and volleyball teams. Williams was a two-time First Team All-Big 12 selection (2019 and 2020) in basketball and a 2019 Second Team selection in volleyball.
The Chicago native does have experience working with the men’s basketball team as a graduate assistant from 2014-16, along with his duties with the women’s basketball and tennis teams. He earned a Master’s degree from K-State in counseling and student affairs with an emphasis in Intercollegiate Athletics in 2016.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity Coach (Bruce) Weber and his staff have given me to join the program,” said Kloss. “The last few weeks have undoubtably been bittersweet because I’m losing a colleague and a collection of student-athletes that I admire. However, I’m excited for the opportunity, optimistic for the future and hope to make this team proud.
“I’ve been appreciative of the support I have received from Coach (Jeff) Mittie and Coach (Jordan) Smith throughout my tenure and during this transition. I am honored to take the torch from a first-class strength coach and valued friend, Ben O’Donnell. My predecessor only claimed 5-foot-7, but he left big shoes to fill – that’s not something I’m taking lightly.”
While working with the women’s basketball team, Kloss was not only responsible for designing and implementing strength and conditioning programs, but also created and helped facilitate individualized rehabilitation programs for student-athlete recovery from surgical procedures or injuries.
Kloss is a 2013 graduate of Iowa, where he was a strength conditioning intern assisting with the design and implementation of the strength and conditioning programs for the Hawkeye volleyball, rowing, tennis, golf, track and field, field hockey, baseball and men’s basketball teams. He earned his undergraduate degree from Iowa in health and human physiology.
Kloss is a certified member of the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCA). In 2014, he was named the Lance Vermeil Scholarship award winner from the CSCCA.