Sorry for the delay in posting, it has been a hectic couple of weeks! I was in Miami working the McDonalds All American game and then came back to Maryland to be with Montrose in the first annual ESPN National High School Invitational tournament. As always, being a part of such elite level events is both an honor and a privilege. Having access to the nation’s top high school players for several straight days gives me valuable insight at what makes them great players.
Below are some of my observations; see how you measure up.
The most elite level players absolutely love to play basketball. They want to play 24-7. They always have a ball in their hand and they are always trying to get up shots. They would rather play basketball than do just about anything else. When they aren’t playing basketball, they are watching it on TV or playing it on PS2! And most of them have been this way since they were little. Do you have the same love for the game? Do you have the same passion? How important is basketball to you?
The most elite level players are super competitive and hate to lose. Whether they are playing a video game, 1 on 1, or a game of H-O-R-S-E, they always try to win. They never concede. Winning is the only option. Especially when they are playing their peers or when bragging rights are on the line. Does winning matter that much to you? How hot does your competitive fire burn?
There are usually two types of elite level players - those who are very naturally gifted and rely more on their size and athletic ability and those who really know how to play the game, have a high basketball IQ, and sound fundamentals. Which type of player are you? Do you work on your fundamentals and really learn the game, despite being (or not being) born with certain physical gifts?
Along those lines, there are two other categories for elite level players - those who have a tremendous work ethic and those who are lazy. Unfortunately, many of the players who are the most naturally gifted are also the laziest, because they haven’t had to work hard to be successful. They have been able to rely solely on their size, strength, quickness, and explosiveness. They aren’t hard to spot. Heck, I can tell in the first 5 minutes of warm-ups which guys like to work and which guys don’t. Do you enjoy putting in the hard work necessary to be a great player? Or do you constantly look for short cuts and the easy way out?
Another indicator I use to evaluate great players are the intangibles - attitude, enthusiasm, manners, punctuality, and appearance (how they present themselves). Basketball is a team game and I can always spot which are the players other people want to play with and which players I would want to coach. These players are energy givers, not energy takers. Their attitude and enthusiasm raises the level of those around them. They are polite, friendly, and engaging. Are you an energy giver or an energy taker? Are you always on time? Do you say please and thank you? Those might sound like “small” things, but they aren’t. Who wants to play with (or coach) a jerk?
Obviously, the players who have the best chance to excel at the next level (whether college or the NBA) are those who combine natural talent, solid fundamentals, an unparalleled work ethic, and a fantastic attitude. Those are the “Kobe Bryants” and “LeBron James” of the world.
While I was in Miami, I got a chance to watch former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway take Jack McClinton (All Conference guard for University of Miami) through an individual skill workout. I had the pleasure of working with Jack this past summer at the Steve Nash and LeBron James Nike Skills Academies. Let me tell you this; if you are looking to model yourself after a player, it should be Jack McClinton. Jack is absolutely one of the hardest workers I have ever been around and his commitment to his own development is second to none. The fact that Jack is such a great player is not an accident, it is earned. He deserves all of the success he has achieved.
Upon my return from Miami, I reunited with my Montrose Mustangs as we prepared to play in the ESPN NHSI tournament. The tournament was phenomenal and to no surprise, thanks to ESPN and Nike Basketball, was a first class event all of the way. This tournament was a huge step in the right direction for elite high school basketball and this event will only get bigger and better each year.
We lost to the eventual tournament champion (and now #1 team in the nation) Findlay Prep in the semi-finals. Findlay was led on both ends of the floor by Texas bound guard Avery Bradley, who in my opinion is the top player in the country (regardless of position). I have been fortunate enough to spend a good deal of time with Avery over the past year at the Skills Academies, on a Nike USA trip to Brazil, and then most recently at the McDonalds All American game.
Avery is a perfect example of a player who embodies all of the traits mentioned above. He has exceptional natural talent (he can jump out of the gym and may be the fastest player in high school basketball), solid fundamentals (he has a strong off-hand and a flawless mid-range game), an unparalleled work ethic (his on-the-ball defense is stifling), and a fantastic attitude (he is the kind of player every coach would love to have on their team). Avery Bradley is the epitome of a great player and has as bright of a basketball future as anyone I can think of. Keep an eye on him in the next few years!
If you would like to contact me about this blog, my training and/or camps and clinics, please email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com. I will respond as quickly as possible!
Train hard. Train smart.