If you haven’t read my recap of last week's Vince Carter Nike Skills Academy, I recommend you do that now. That blog is the perfect lead-in to this one, as it covered how and why these prolific academies came to be. It’s always important to know history.

For the most part, the Paul Pierce Academy had the exact same staff as we did in Orlando, with the addition of two excellent coaches with tremendous basketball experience and knowledge - Doug Overton (former NBA player and current assistant with the New Jersey Nets) and Fran Fraschilla (former college coach and current ESPN analyst).

This year’s Paul Pierce Nike Skills Academy was held right outside of Boston, Massachusetts and included the nation’s top shooting guards. The nation’s #1 player, Harrison Barnes (Ames, IA), Andre Dawkins (Chesapeake, VA), and Doron Lamb (Laurelton, NY) highlighted the group of high schoolers. Greivis Vasquez (Maryland), Manny Harris (Michigan), and Patrick Christopher (California) headlined the college players. As you probably know, Vasquez is actually a point guard, but couldn’t attend the Deron Williams Nike Skills Academy because of a scheduling conflict, so he decided to attend the Pierce camp instead. Learning the skills necessary of being a 2 guard (setting screens, getting open, shooting off the pass, etc.) only helped him.

Coach Eastman and Coach Locke laid down the same ground work, rules, and expectations as the Vince camp. So again, check out my last post if you missed it. However, this time Coach Locke made a powerful statement about quality coaching that really struck home with me and made a lot of sense:

"Just because you say it, don’t assume they hear it. So repeat it over and over.

Just because you show them, don’t assume they saw it. So show them over and over.

Just because they play college basketball, don’t assume they know a God damn thing about how to play this game. So teach them and coach them over and over."

Coach Locke, among his dozens and dozens of hysterical one liners (“that kid couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie” and “you handle the ball like a wet bar of soap”), often says “repetition is not a form of punishment. Repetition is how you develop good habits.”

Paul Pierce was there to address the campers at the first workout. The first thing everyone noticed was his physical stature; Paul is a big guard. At 6’7”, 235 lbs, the kids got a firsthand look of what an All-Star shooting guard looks like in the NBA. At the NBA level, your position is determined by who you can guard, not your offensive skill set. That’s why it is so tough to make it to the league as a shooting guard if you are only 6’1”. How in the heck are you going to guard someone Paul Pierce’s size?!

Paul encouraged the players to take advantage of the opportunity they had to learn from NBA level coaches and play against the top players, in their specific position, in the country. He made it very clear that he didn’t have the same opportunity coming up. “You guys have the talent, the coaches have the knowledge. You will never make it without them. Allow yourself to be coached. Ask lost of questions. They are here to help you be successful.”

Paul also stressed how important it was to go hard, game speed, in every drill. “You don’t get better going through the motions.” A lot of what he covered on the first day was about having a great first step. “Beating your man and penetrating into the kill zones will create nightmares for the defense. If you can’t beat your man, you aren’t going to play at a very high level.” As always, off hand development and proper footwork were also taught and coached.

Paul also focused on the skill of getting open on the wing. He stressed the importance of getting open and getting the ball where you (the offensive player) want it, not where they (the defense) want you to get it. He showed some tricks of the trade on how to get open by changing speeds and using your lower body to gain a position of advantage. It was amazing to watch how easily and effortlessly he could get open on the wing; no matter how hard the defense played. One by one the college players lined up to try to deny him the ball, playing as aggressively as they could, but to no avail. Paul got open, in the exact same spot, every time.

Paul is known for his deadly mid-range game, which is a dying art in college and the NBA. Everyone wants to shoot 3’s and dunk. But a killer mid-range game makes you a serious offensive threat. To work on it, Paul plays 3 on 3 with only two rules - no 3 pointers and no points in the paint. These rules force him to learn to score from other areas on the court like the short corner and wing.

Overall, the Academy was awesome; it was a success by all measures. Paul was a class act the entire time. He was super involved in every aspect of the workouts; he gave valuable instruction and jumped in most of the drills and mixed it up with the players. In my eyes, he is an All-Star both on and off the court. 

Make sure you check my other recent posts - my interview with Paul Pierce and a book review of Gary Mack’s Mind Gym. Stay tuned for Thursday when I will recap the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy!

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