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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Vince Carter Academy Recap

Let it be known I have always been a “Nike guy.” Ever since I was little I was captivated by everything Nike stood for and represented. Nike revolutionized international culture, sports marketing, and most certainly… basketball. Prior to launching his own brand, MJ not only wore the Swoosh, but made it one of the most recognizable brands on the planet. He has since passed the torch to Kobe and LeBron; the two reigning megastars of the greatest game on earth.

Let me also say I am overwhelmingly thankful to be a part of the Nike Basketball family and working their events and camps is always an honor and a tremendous experience. Their summer Skills Academies are a highlight of my busy summer. I have been involved with Nike Basketball, in a variety of capacities, for nearly 7 years and commend them for their high level of professionalism and applaud the way they do everything first class. Nike sets the standard.

Prior to recapping the Vince Carter Nike Skills Academy; let me back track a tad and lay the foundation for how this all began.

Six years ago Nike accurately recognized the need to focus more attention on improving the fundamentals and skills of grassroots basketball players. Every summer camp, despite their claims, was focused on playing games and giving kids exposure to college coaches. Nike wanted to create something that took a step back and put more emphasis on actually teaching the game from the ground up; working on and coaching the fundamentals of passing, ball handling, defending, and shooting. Thus they created the Nike Skills Academy. What started off as one academy at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, with a handful of elite coaches, and 20 of the top high school players, has grown in to four position specific academies (point guards, off guards, wings, and big men), sponsored by four NBA All Stars (this year Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, and Amare Stoudemire), an elite staff of NBA coaches and player development personnel, and the top 20 high school and top 10 college players at each of the respective positions. As if that is not impressive enough, there is a follow up camp where the top 80 high school players and an elite group of college players are invited to the prestigious LeBron James Nike US Skills Academy; the mecca of grassroots basketball development and competition.

Despite only being around for 6 years, the Skills Academy Wall of Fame is unbelievable. Who has passed through the Nike Skills Academies? Well for starters, 8 of the first 9 players selected in this year’s NBA Draft, are Skills Academy alumni (Ricky Rubio being the lone exception). Who else? Jerryd Bayless (Blazers), Kevin Durant (Thunder), Kevin Love (Timberwolves), and Derrick Rose (Bulls) to name a few. Not a bad roster, huh?

This will be my 3rd year involved; I began when the Academy format expanded to each position. I have had the privilege to work Nike Skills Academies for Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, and LeBron James. I can fully attest that Nike goes to great lengths to fulfill their mission statement:

Positively impact the lives of elite players by providing superior instruction, personal mentorship, and a once in a lifetime experience.

This year’s Vince Carter Nike Skills Academy was held in Orlando, Florida and included the nation’s top wing players (3’s and 4’s). DeShaun Thomas (Fort Wayne, IN), Tristan Thompson (Brampton, ONT), Jereme Richmond (Waukegan, IL), and Perry Ellis (Wichita, KS) highlighted the group of high schoolers (NOTE: top rated players Michael Gilcrest and LaQuinton Ross where set to come but cancelled at the last minute). Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest), Devin Ebanks (West Virginia), DeShawn Sims (Michigan), and Delvon Roe (Michigan State) headlined the college players.

As always, Nike assembled an incredible coaching staff led by Kevin Eastman (Boston Celtics) and the legendary Tates Locke (who has been involved in basketball for 54 years; he actually hired Bobby Knight for his first coaching job!). Kenny Atkinson (Knicks), Paul Cormier (Nets), Rod Baker (Rochester Razorbacks), Paul Biancardi (ESPN), Craig Ehlo (former NBA player), Miles Simons (former NBA player), and yours truly rounded out the staff. My job was to ensure the players were warmed up and adequately stretched, serve as a strength & conditioning resource, and mentally prepare them for their workouts. I was also the “energy” guy and made sure every workout began with a high level of enthusiasm.

At the initial staff meeting, Coach Locke, amidst an array of hilarious one liners, kept his rules very succinct: be on time, work hard, and don’t lie. Coach Eastman took it a step further and asked the staff to teach the players three things; how to work out properly, how to play their position, and how to be a professional.

Coach Eastman also added in several other coaching points worth mentioning:

Be early; on time is late.
Coach in sound bytes, not paragraphs.
Sweat with the players.
Have a positive impact on at least one player’s life each day.
Be demanding, not demeaning.
Respect their coach at home.

The first day of camp got off to a great start with both groups; it was obvious from the start there was a tremendous amount of raw talent present. It was also obvious both groups had great attitudes and were very coachable. Coach Locke said the college guys were the best group of listeners he has ever worked with. The initial focus of both workouts was weak hand development (series of lay-up, passing, and ball handling drills) and perfect footwork (proper pivots and shot preparation).

Vince Carter was there for the entire two and half hour high school workout and was very hands on. He spoke (and demonstrated) about the importance of being efficient with their movements and to eliminate all wasted motions (“stay tight”). He showed how change of speed is the key to getting open on the wing and getting the ball where you want it (not where the defense wants you to get it). He mentioned several times that “just because the game is played at a fast pace; doesn’t mean you have to run around frantic. You can play slow and be very successful.” He also talked about the significance of finishing strong around the basket, “don’t make a $1,000,000 move and a $1 finish.”

Each of the successive workouts built upon prior workouts and foot work and off hand development continued to be emphasized. Defensive “expression”, intimidating ball pressure, quality post moves, “Euro lay-ups”, and being “ball ready”, were also taught and stressed. VC was there every day, sweating with the players, and jumping in nearly every drill to show them first hand how it’s done in the league. Jared Jeffries of the NY Knicks stopped by to grab a shooting workout with Coach Atkinson and talked to the players about the value of being versatile and honestly evaluating your strengths and weaknesses.

The high school players played five on five games (with referees) for the last 30 minutes of each nightly workout. Despite having all wing players (no point guards); the games were highly competitive and fun to watch. The kids played above the rim.

I can honestly say the kids made improvement in the three days they were there. Obviously that will be short lived if they don’t go home and continue to practice what they were taught. “Repetition is not a form of punishment.”

The Academy as a whole could not have gone any better; it was a success by all standards. Vince was a class act the entire time. I could not have been more impressed with his involvement and attitude towards helping the players. He even got the phone call letting him know he was traded to the Orlando Magic while he was at the gym! He was super excited and we were the first to know! On Thursday, VC came to the hotel and watched the draft with the kids. VC walks the walk.

Make sure you check my other recent posts; my interview with Mr. Vince Carter himself and a book review of Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles.

I am in Boston now and will be working the Paul Pierce Nike Skills Academy this week and the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy next week! I will post a blog recapping each of those events as well as continue to add additional NBA player interviews and pertinent book reviews.

Make sure you subscribe to www.YouTube.com/StrongerTeamDotCom for the latest exercise of the week clip as well as motivational talks and drills from camp. For exclusive insight to my camps, as well as daily coaching points and quotes, follow me on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/AlanStein.

Train hard. Train smart.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Star Shooter Shooting System

We have sold the Star Shooter System for a long time now and it is one of the most successful products on our site. My daughter is 10 years old and needs some help with her shot so we are going to put the Star Shooter program to the test over the next couple of weeks. I'll be posting video of her shot before, during, and after. Right now her shot isn't too pretty and she's been struggling with it.

We've used the Shooting Strap that comes with the Star Shooting system and it immediately helped her to stop using her off hand to mess up her shot but we are going to need to do the drills from the video and workout book to get her shot right.

Stay tuned, we'll be working just about every day on her shot so we'll see how much she improves using the Star Shooter System.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NBPA Top 100 Camp Recap

After taking a two year break because of a scheduling conflict, I was honored to back on the staff of the prestigious NBA Players Associations Top 100 basketball camp. I worked the camp, as a strength & conditioning (and player development) coach for the two years prior to my hiatus; when the camp was held at VCU in Richmond. The camp has since moved to John Paul Jones arena at the University of Virginia. This camp has always been a very special experience for me.

This time I played a slightly different role than I had in the previous camps as I was asked to be one of the 10 high school coaches on staff who actually coached a team and ran the skill stations. I was given an opportunity to coach along side of some of the nation’s best coaches – Mike Jones (DeMatha), Steve Turner (Gonzaga), Kevin Keatts (Hardgrave) and Mike Peck (Findlay Prep) to name a few. Even though I have always considered myself a coach (not a trainer), being a basketball coach (at this elite level) was a new experience for me. I had an absolute blast and thoroughly cherished the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and take on a new role. This was also the first camp where every high school coach was assigned a current NBA player to serve as an assistant coach. I was fortunate to have 15 year NBA veteran Lindsey Hunter as my assistant. In reality he was a co-head coach, as we totally worked in tandem. He was the X’s and O’s guy and I was the motivational guy! We made a formidable team; despite our 2-5 record! Some of the other current NBA players included Bobby Jackson (Kings), Michael Ruffin (Bucks), Jarvis Hayes (Nets), Carl Landry (Rockets), Donyell Marshall (Sixers), and Ime Udoka (Spurs).

Dave Telep, the remarkable grassroots scout responsible for inviting the players, did a tremendous job gathering the nation’s top talent. He brought in 47 of the top 50 players and 91 of the top 100 players in the country. Brandon Knight, Jared Sullinger, Michael Gilcrest, and Harrison Barnes were some of the top players who attended. Ray McCallum (Detroit Country Day) and Tristan Thompson (Findlay Prep) were on my team. Kendall Marshall was the camp MVP and Michael Gilcrest was the Best Prospect.

From the opening staff meeting the goal of the camp was made crystal clear; make this the best basketball camp in the world. The goal of this camp was to teach these high level high school players everything that goes into being an NBA player; not just the basketball stuff. While the basketball stuff was certainly covered during morning workouts, daily skill sessions & team practices, as well as two daily games, it was the educational component that made this such a special camp. Every morning involved classroom sessions that addressed important issues players deal with throughout their playing career. After all, “the goal is not to get in the NBA; the goal is stay in the NBA!” Educational components covered topics like sex, drugs, alcohol, gangs, etiquette, and career development. Each of these sessions were taught by a qualified guest speaker and then were followed with private, confidential classroom sessions that included the team members, the team coach (me), and a psychologist. This was the time when the players where expected to open up and share their thoughts and feelings and help each other deal with the topics. I have always found these sessions extremely valuable and something that truly differentiates the NBPA camp from all other basketball camps.

This was the 17th year of the NBPA Top 100 camp; which means just over 1,600 elite level players have already come through the program. Yet only 120 camp alumni have made it to the NBA, which is right around 8%. This is a staggering statistic given these are the top 100 high school players in the nation each year. That means, statistically speaking only 8 kids in each camp will make the NBA. Those are tough odds. So what happens to the other 92%? Why don’t they make it? There are a variety of reasons why guys don’t make it; not talented enough, injuries, complacency, legal issues, drugs, influx of foreign players, etc. It is so important for these kids to understand their high school ranking doesn’t mean anything in the long term. The NBA is not necessarily made up of the top 450 players in the world. The NBA is all about having a specialty skill (spot up shooter, on the ball defender, shot blocker, offensive rebounder, etc.), knowing and accepting a role, fitting into a system, and possessing the intangibles to stay out of trouble. Lindsey Hunter openly admitted he wasn’t even a top 300 player in high school… yet he is entering is 16th year in the NBA.

And for those that have made it, the alarming statistics continued. The average career in the NBA is 4.4 years and the average retirement age is 27. One of the main themes of this camp was the importance of having a back-up career plan. Regardless of how long his playing career is or how much money he made, he will still be on this planet for another 50-60 years after he is done playing. This is why 95% of all retired NBA players get a job after their playing career is over. Some choose to get a job; others have to get a job. Some other stats that really opened my eyes were the percentage of players who make it to the NBA. I mentioned above only 8% of the top 100 players make it. What about all of the other aspiring players? There are roughly 546,000 high school boys basketball players in the United States. Only 3% of them go on to play in college! Then only 1.2% of that 3% go on to play professionally. That means only .03% of high school players make it to the league! Another eye opener was the cost of 4 year tuition, room and board at some big time basketball schools; Villanova ($196,200), UNC ($118,516), and Michigan State ($130,792). Sometimes I think players forget how valuable their education is!

Another theme of the camp was for each player to find a way to differentiate them from the rest of the pack. One way to accomplish that was to work out with the “breakfast club.” Coaches held optional workouts at 7am each morning before breakfast. This was a great time to separate the real players from the wanna-bes. The hungry players from the fat-cats. On the first morning, 53 players showed up (an NBPA camp record). On the second morning 42 players came. On the last day of camp, 31 showed up. Even though the numbers gradually declined; those were pretty good numbers for optional workouts.

While each of the educational components were extremely valuable and packed a potent message, my favorite was the anti-drug talk given by former NBA players Dirk Minnifield and Cliff Robinson; both of whom had career’s ruined by drugs and alcohol. This is my 3rd time seeing them speak and it gets better every time. Both guys had tremendous highs (pun intended) and lows in their life and in their careers and they shared their experiences by keeping it real and talking the truth. They certainly didn’t sugar coat anything. Among all the knowledge they kicked, they had two quotes that really stuck with me; “If you wanna be the boss; you gotta pay the cost” and “just cause you ball; doesn’t mean you’re entitled to it all.” I sincerely hope each player internalized those messages.

As far as my team was concerned, here was what I told them at our first practice:

Your goal this week should be to work hard, get better, and have fun. I promise to do those 3 things as well.

Don’t do anything that makes you look like an ass. You are representing your parents, your school, and your high school coach. If you look like an ass; you make them look like an ass!

Be early (on time is late), be enthusiastic, and out work everyone around you.

The more you put in to this camp; the more you will get out of this camp.

If you want to truly differentiate yourself from the other 99 guys here, then play defense (take a charge!), effectively communicate with your teammates, and share the ball. Those are 3 things rarely seen in all star type camps.

My hat is off to Tim McCormick, Purvis Short, and Dave Telep for a remarkable experience.

Please check back as much as you can as I plan to update the blog as often as possible. Make sure you check my posts from yesterday as they parallel many of the themes in this post; NBA interview with Bobby Jackson and a book review of Money Players.

This is going to be an amazing summer! My next several blogs will give you an inside look at the Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, and LeBron James Skills Academies along with additional NBA player interviews and pertinent book reviews.

Make sure you subscribe to www.YouTube.com/StrongerTeamDotCom for the latest exercise of the week clip as well as motivational talks and drills from camp. For exclusive insight to my camps, as well as daily coaching points and quotes, follow me on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/AlanStein.

Train hard. Train smart.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Leadership

I have mentioned numerous times how serious I take my own development; both personally and professionally. As cliché as it sounds, I try to get a little better every single day! In addition to always finding new exercises, drills, and training techniques, a good portion of my professional development is focused on leadership. I have dozens and dozens of books, have binders full of notes and handouts, and read several weekly blogs all focused on the topic of effective leadership. I have been fascinated by the qualities that make great leaders for as long as I can remember. And continuing to improve my own leadership skill set is one of my top priorities.

With such a vast topic at hand, this blog could either be a ten part series, or would literally be close to a thousand pages. Believe me; neither you nor I want that! Instead I am going to keep this as concise as possible. If you are looking for a few books that brilliantly cover leadership much more thoroughly; I recommend any book by Coach K or Rick Pitino. I have read each of their books several times over.

I think leadership is an important topic for me to touch on as I truly believe there is a tremendous lack of leadership in today’s game; specifically with today’s youth. Since I am extremely passionate about helping players improve in every aspect of their lives, not just basketball, I thought this topic should be addressed. Basketball is a team game that thrives on leadership; from both the coaches and players. One of the main reasons the LA Lakers are the NBA Champions is because of the outstanding leadership of Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant.

Here is arguably one of the best quotes I have ever heard on leadership:

“An army of asses lead by a lion will always defeat and army of lions led by an ass.”

I heard legendary coach Don Meyer say that at a clinic in Las Vegas a few months ago. While that quote certainly makes me chuckle, it is right on the money. You can’t under estimate the power of a great leader. Great leaders make the impossible seem possible.

Some folks think leaders are born; some think they are developed. I happen to think it is a little bit of both. Regardless, I am confident anyone can work to improve to their leadership skill set. The traits needed to be a successful leader apply to both players and coaches at every level. If the coach is the only leader in the gym; that team won’t be very successful.

Here are five traits that contribute to effective leadership:

Learn from your mistakes. To be a good leader you have to take calculated risks and you will certainly make some mistakes along the way. Admit them. Learn from them. Don’t repeat them! These mistakes can be in the classroom or on the court.

“Success comes from good decisions. Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions.”

Lead by example. The old adage “do as I say not as I do” doesn’t fly in today’s world. If you expect it from the people you are leading, you have to expect it from yourself. You must hold yourself accountable before you can hold anyone else. If you expect your players or teammates to be on time; then you need to be on time. If you expect them to know every play in your playbook, then you need to know them too. If you want to be a leader people notice:

“Do what has to be done. Do it when it has to be done. Do it as well as you can. Do it this way all of the time.”

Put others needs first. Compassion and empathy are extremely important to quality leadership. It is impossible to be selfish and be an effective leader. If you are a player, are you playing for the scoreboard or the scorebook? Are you playing for the name on the front of the jersey or the back? If you are a coach, do you listen to your players’ feedback and thoughts? Treat your teammates and players right and genuinely care about them.

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Have confidence. Your attitude is something you have complete control of and will influence everything you do in life. A positive attitude helps build confidence. You must have a strong self worth and be confident in your abilities, without being arrogant or cocky. It sounds corny, but you have to feel good about yourself to be a good leader. No one is going to follow someone who doesn’t believe in themselves. Confidence comes from a sound work ethic and from being prepared. If you are going into a game and aren’t confident you can win; it’s because you know you didn’t do what was necessary to prepare!

“Don’t ever take a shot you aren’t confident you are going to make.”

Set a high standard. If you do everything to the best of your ability, then you can expect it from those you lead. If you are always on time, always work hard, and always put your heart and soul into every practice, workout, and game – then you can expect your teammates and players to do the same. But you have to believe your teammates and players can meet this standard. A good leader will motivate those they are leading to do so. You want to be the type of leader who raises the level of everyone around you! Set the bar high and then lead them to it!

“It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you often get it.”

These are just some of the traits needed to be an effective leader. Whether you are the point guard on a high school basketball team or an assistant college coach; your ability to be an effective leader will dictate your success as well as your team’s success.

Please check back weekly as it is going to be an exciting summer. My next several blogs will give you inside looks and thoughts (and video clips) from the NBA Player’s Association Top 100 Camp along with the Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, and LeBron James Skills Academies.

And don’t forget to check it out and subscribe to www.YouTube.com/StrongerTeamDotCom and check out the latest exercise of the week. And if you want the inside scoop on the summer training scene, as well as daily inspirational quotes, follow me on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/AlanStein.

Train hard. Train smart.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NBA Player Interviews and Book Reviews

I am excited to announce two new series of blogs I will begin posting weekly in addition to my normal posts; NBA interviews and book reviews.

NBA Interviews
I will interview every willing NBA player I can and ask them a handful of standard questions regarding their thoughts and experiences on basketball strength & conditioning. My goal is to share their insights with you so you can hear first hand what the best players in the world think about proper training.

In addition to listing their name, team, years in the NBA, and the college they attended, I will ask them questions such as:

At what age (or grade) did you first start lifting weights?

How do you feel like it helped your game?

Why do you think strength & conditioning for basketball players is important?

What does your off season training program consist of now?

What is the biggest difference between playing in college and in the NBA?

Yourself excluded, who do you think puts in the most work in the off season?

I will post each interview, answers dictated verbatim, as often as I conduct them.

Book Reviews
Many of you know I set a goal in January to read 50 books in 2009. As we approach the year’s midway point, I am currently ahead of schedule, as I am on pace to have 33 read by July 1st! I read (and listen) to books on a variety of topics, but nearly all are within 7 degrees of my two favorite topics – success and leadership. I plan to post a weekly book review to share my thoughts and evaluation of several of the books I read as well as quick synopsis of what I learned. If you are as in to your own professional development as I am, you will want to check this out!

I will continue to make my weekly blog posts in addition to these two new series and will most certainly provide updates and insight to the camps I will be working (such as the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp and the Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, and LeBron James Nike Skills Academies). As always, I very much welcome your comments and feedback. Don’t ever hesitate to drop me a direct line at Alan@StrongerTeam.com.

Also remember to subscribe to www.YouTube.com/StrongerTeamDotCom and check out the latest exercise of the week and clips from the camps I work. And if you want the inside scoop on the summer training scene, as well as daily motivational quotes, follow me on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/AlanStein.

Train hard. Train smart.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com

Sunday, June 7, 2009

NBA Draft Process, Part II

This is part two of a two part series examining the overall draft process; more specifically putting the NBA draft combine tests under the microscope of logic. My last post discussed several reasons why those tests should not be used to measure success on the court.

I also want to make note that how well a player does on the combine tests usually has very little to do with their pre-draft training regiment. Now, obviously, if a player is not working out at all nor doing anything productive, he will invariably not test particularly well. However, even participating in a top notch pre-draft program doesn’t guarantee success. I know the best guys in the pre-draft business like Tim Grover and Joe Abunassar along with many of the top college strength coaches like Todd Wright (Texas) and Jonas Sahratian (UNC). All of these guys do a tremendous job at preparing their players for the draft and have my utmost respect. Yet all of them have had players who have not tested particularly well at the combine. So trust me, it ain’t the training. Poor combine scores are primarily a result of some individualized differences. This year I worked with Stephen Curry, Tywon Lawson, and Greivis Vasquez for several weeks leading up to the combine. All three where on a very similar strength training program, especially regarding the bench press, yet Greivis (1 rep) didn’t do nearly as well as Steph (10 reps) or Ty (14 reps). Why? Because of individualized genetic differences; not the training protocol.

Another example is Austin Daye from Gonzaga. He did his pre-draft training at Impact under the tutelage of the brilliant Joe Abunassar and his staff and yet he did very poorly at the combine. But Austin is extremely talented, is in great basketball shape, is doing well at his individual team workouts, and I am guessing will still go fairly high in the draft (unless he decides to return to school).

Another example? Prior to the combine, most of the folks polled thought Gerald Henderson from Duke was going to rank as one of the highest rated athletes at the combine and his scores were marginal at best. Did you watch Gerald play last year? He is the definition of athletic! Regardless of what the tests revealed, he was one of the most explosive and dynamic players in the ACC!

Bottom line is this; I don’t believe in spending in inordinate amount of time focusing on those tests and spending countless hours practicing them. What a colossal waste of time! The time spent leading up to the draft is at a premium, and I don’t feel it is appropriate using a bunch of it on preparing for those tests. Instead we spent our time preparing for the rigors of the team workouts because that is what really matters! And the feedback I have been getting on my guys’ individual workouts as been exceptional.

I have one more point to make about the combine, and then I will get off of my soapbox, I promise. This is aimed directly at the hoards of self proclaimed vertical jump gurus that are showering the internet and claiming they can “give you a 40 inch vertical jump” or “add 8 inches in 8 weeks.” I wrote an entire blog about these con artists last year and 100% stand behind it. These guys are fakes, phonies, and border line crooks. My feelings are not directed at any individual in particular but the genre as a whole.

Jonny Flynn was the only player with a 40 inch vertical at this year’s NBA combine. At that was his max vertical, which means it was measured from a running start! So once again, if only one player out of the top players in college basketball has a 40 inch vertical; the odds are less than slim anyone off the street can get one by following one of these BS programs. But that is not what they imply. They imply anyone can have a 40 inch vertical if you follow their system. Don’t let this spinsters trick you out of your hard earned money. Always remember, anything that sounds too good to be true always is!

Sorry for the tangent, back to the NBA draft process. I will admit trying to predict a player’s success at the NBA level is not an easy task. NBA personnel are overwhelmingly thorough and leave no stone unturned when weighing all of the pros and cons of a potential draft pick. They use unlimited resources to find out everything they can. They do thorough background checks, scour the internet and social media profiles, conduct psychological tests and interviews, perform medical physicals, watch thousands of hours of game tape, and then of course have the players come in (sometimes more than once) for an individual workout. There are numerous folks from each NBA organization doing this “homework” and then they all compile their findings and discuss their thoughts on several occasions throughout the draft process. And despite such a meticulous process, mistakes are still made.

Several guys taken really high in the draft never panned out and are no longer in the league. Guys like Courtney Alexander (picked 13th in 2000), Michael Sweetney (picked 9th in 2003), and Rodney White (picked 9th in 2001) are out of basketball completely; note even playing overseas. Heck, the 1st overall pick in 1998 was Michael Olowokandi! Is he still around? I don’t even know? You know who was picked after him? Antwan Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce were all chosen after him. Even Rashad Lewis went in the 2nd round that year!

On a more positive note, you have a list of guys who went in the 2nd round and have become very solid NBA players. Guys like Trevor Ariza (44th pick in 2004), Steve Blake (38th pick in 2003), Carlos Boozer (35th pick in 2002), and Michael Redd (43rd pick in 2000). I mean Boozer and Redd just won an Olympic Gold Medal! I guess you have to take the good with the bad.

Believe me, the NBA draft process is both an art and a science, as there are no guarantees. Every team must be diligent in their homework, make a researched and educated decision, and then keep their fingers crossed!

Please check back weekly as it is going to be an excited summer. My next several blogs will give you inside looks and thoughts (and video clips) from the NBA Player’s Association Top 100 Camp along with the Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, and LeBron James Skills Academies.

And don’t forget to check it out and subscribe to www.YouTube.com/StrongerTeamDotCom and check out the latest exercise of the week. And if you want the inside scoop on the summer training scene, as well as daily inspirational quotes, follow me on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/AlanStein.

Train hard. Train smart.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com

NBA Draft Process, Part I

June is always one of my favorite months of the year because of the NBA Finals and the NBA Draft. The buzz surrounding the pre-draft combine and individual team workouts is always intense. I have been extremely fortunate to have helped numerous players prepare for the draft the last several years; highlighted by back to back #2 overall picks Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley. This year I had the pleasure of working with a fantastic group of talented players; Stephen Curry (Davidson), Tywon Lawson (UNC), Greivis Vasquez (Maryland), Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga), Jack McClinton (Miami), Wes Matthews (Marquette) and Ater Majok (Connecticut).

While I certainly worked with some guys more than others, I got to spend quality time with each of these guys and really enjoyed getting to know them. I was honored for the opportunity to help them achieve their dreams. I wish them all the absolute best and will be glued to the TV on draft night from my hotel in Orlando (my schedule allowed me to attend the draft in 2007; but this year I will be working the Vince Carter Skills Academy). I also want to mention I have known and been working with Greivis since he was in 11th grade at Montrose Christian. I met him the first day he arrived in the United States. I always knew there was something very special about him. He may get a bad rap from some folks because of his flamboyancy and flare; but G is without question one of the most dedicated, sincere, and amazing young men I have ever worked with. And he is hands down the most competitive. And for anyone who saw him record a triple double and beat #1 ranked UNC this year, he obviously has the potential to be a big time player. I also want to note Greivis has been extremely mature and professional about the entire NBA draft process and is weighing all of his options with an open mind. He has not signed with an agent and is leaving open the possibility of returning to Maryland (same goes for Ater Majok). He has until June 15th to decide.

The reason I am able to work with these guys is because the DC area is home to many of the NBA’s top agents, many of which I have established a solid professional relationship (and friendship) with over the past several years. These agents usually give their clients the option of moving to DC for anywhere from two to six weeks to train. When they do move here, all they do is eat, sleep, and train! It is a strength coach’s dream! They work with me several times a week and work with a skills coach on individual player development every day; honing their ball handling, shooting, and an arsenal of offensive moves and skills. While we (the skills coaches and I) don’t have the notoriety of some of the other more established pre-draft training programs and facilities; we get the job done and our players are always very well prepared.

Prepared for what you ask? We prepare them for one of the most grueling months of their lives. Some players work out for as many as 15 teams prior to the draft! And the workouts can be brutal. They are usually an hour and half to two hours long and are extremely intense. Most of the time guys are going against several other players within their draft range; so the competition is fierce. Intense workouts, demanding interviews, and constant travel can really wear them down. But that’s that nature of the NBA so they need to get used to it!

It is also my job to prepare them for the NBA combine; which just took place last weekend in Chicago. I understand why they do the combine, and the NBA strength coaches who implement the testing do an extraordinary job and collect very accurate date, but in my opinion the combine is a totally overrated part of the draft process and the numbers themselves do very little in predicting success on the court.

Don’t believe me? Two years ago, Kevin Durant scored poorly overall (including the inability to bench press 185 even once). DJ Strawberry ranked the highest overall; posting the best scores across the board. The result? KD was drafted 2nd overall, won Rookie of the Year, and was the league’s 4th leading scorer last year. DJ was drafted at the end of the 2nd round and is no longer in the league. Their fates were the exact opposite of the combine numbers! And please know, I am not knocking DJ at all, I just want to make the point that the combine tests do not correlate to success on the court. I had the pleasure of working with DJ several times when he was at Maryland, he is an outstanding basketball player and a great guy and I am sure he will earn his way back into the league if that is his goal.
Using the combine tests as a barometer is full of faulty logic. Just look at the bench press. Having long arms is a huge disadvantage when bench pressing. The longer your arms, the farther you have to move the weight. That is why the world’s best bench pressers have arms like a Tyrannosaurus Rex and big barrel chests! Yet having long arms is a distinct advantage on the court – makes you a more formable defender and helps with getting your shot off. So what do you want, someone with long arms or short arms? I have bench pressed 185 lbs as many as 25 times before, which is more than anyone at this year’s combine, including the projected #1 pick Blake Griffin. Anyone think I should be drafted?

On the topic of faulty logic, let’s examine it from another perspective. Each of the combine tests are closed skills. By definition closed skills are “performed with pre determined starting point and finish. The do not require the central nervous system to process feedback from external stimuli in order to properly perform the movement.” Too scientific? Closed skills do not require the player to react; which is an integral ingredient in basketball. Also, closed skills can be practiced, over and over for thousands of repetitions, until the nervous system has “memorized” the movement. Meaning yes, if you run through the pro lane agility a million times before the combine, you will improve your score. But is that time well spent? Does having a fast pro lane agility time mean you are quicker on the court? Nope on both accounts.

While the combine tests are closed skills, basketball is a game of open skills. Open skills “require the player to process information from external stimuli and react accordingly. The player must take this external information, such as the movement of an offensive player, process it and then produce appropriate movements.” I know, too technical, sorry. Whether going for a rebound, guarding an offensive player, or cutting to the basket to catch a pass – basketball is predicated on being able to read and react! Basketball is a game of open skills! So why are we testing players with a battery of closed skill tests?

Bottom line is this; the combine tests do not measure reaction, anticipation, basketball IQ, competiveness, leadership, or toughness – all of which are traits that will dictate how successful a player will be at the next level. Examining all of the aspects of the entire draft process, the combine tests should end up very low on the totem pole of importance.

My next blog will be a follow up to this one and will take a look at the role of training for the combine tests, a few quick thoughts on vertical jump, and a quick look back at some recent draft successes and busts!

In the meantime please check it out and subscribe to www.YouTube.com/StrongerTeamDotCom and check out the latest exercise of the week. And if you want the inside scoop on the summer training scene, as well as daily inspirational quotes, follow me on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/AlanStein.

Train hard. Train smart.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com

Monday, June 1, 2009

60,000 lbs in 60 minutes

I friend and colleague of mine, Drew Henley, was kind enough to share with me an awesome workout challenge that is perfect for basketball players at any level to do once every couple of weeks during the off season. I tried it the other day and loved it!

For you players, it is a fantastic way to break up the monotony, add some variety to your workout, and spark your competitiveness. For you coaches, it is easily made into a fun a team building workout; pair players up and see who can get the highest poundage on the team, or like I did with Montrose the other day, see which pair can reach the goal the quickest!

Here is the challenge: Lift 60,000 lbs in 60 minutes.

Don’t roll your eyes or say “yeah right,” trust me, it is very doable!

You multiply the weight times the number of reps you perform to get total poundage. So if you bench 135 lbs 10 times; you have 1,350 lbs. Only 58,650 lbs to go! You simply keep a running total of weight times reps and then add up everything at the end. You are more than welcome to keep a running total to see where you are at all times, but I recommend using a calculator so you don’t waste much time!

Here are a few ground rules to make this challenge as effective as possible:

No leg press (too easy)
No calf raises (too easy)
Only full range of motion reps count
Pull-ups are the only bodyweight exercise allowed (your weight being the weight for the exercise)
Utilize free weights and dumbbells as much as possible to keep things universal
When using DB’s; it’s the total weight (bench pressing with 40’s = 80 lbs)
Start the clock on your first rep and end the workout in exactly 60 minutes

What will your strategy be? Try to lift lighter weights for more reps? Heavy weights for fewer reps? Alternate upper body and lower body exercises? Run through several exercises in a row with no rest? You may want to record and add up a “normal” workout first to gauge where you stand before devising a strategy.

Have fun with it! If you try it, drop me an email at Alan@StrongerTeam.com and let me know how you did and what you thought. I will email you back with the results of the first time I tried it.

Also, I have just added a channel on YouTube. You should subscribe, it’s FREE! My goal is to add an “Exercise of the Week” every week along with my blog post. If you subscribe you will be automatically notified ever time I add a clip.

These exercises will be unconventional and fresh and are the same ones I use with my elite college and NBA players. If you are getting bored with your workouts, you will love this!

Check it out and subscribe at www.YouTube.com/StrongerTeamDotCom

Train hard. Train smart.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com