I have mentioned numerous times in my blog posts, and anyone who knows me can attest, I absolutely LOVE what I do for a living.  I wake up every single day thankful to be a basketball strength & conditioning coach.  Over the course of my ten year career, I am flattered to have been offered several top notch collegiate basketball strength & conditioning coach positions.  While those would have been tremendous jobs and amazing experiences, I elected to stay in the private industry because of the freedom it gives me and the variety it provides.  As a private basketball strength coach, I have countless opportunities and work with a myriad of clientele (all basketball related of course).  One segment of my business, which has grown tremendously and is one I really cherish, is preparing players for the NBA Draft.

This marks my 4th year of getting guys ready for the NBA Draft.  In that time, I have been fortunate enough to train several players who have been drafted (with Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley being the most notable).  I am currently working out 6 guys who will enter this year’s draft, and expect up to 4 more players in the next few weeks once the college semesters are over and/or underclassman elect to sign with an agent I work with.

NBA pre-draft training is extremely focused and very specific.  Most of these players have played basketball their whole lives and have always dreamed of playing in the NBA.  And now, in a 4-6 week window, they have a chance to make those dreams come true.  So the players are highly motivated and super competitive, which makes my job even more fun!  I am responsible for everything except their skill work – movement preparation, prehab (injury preventation), flexibility, reaction-quickness-agility, strength, nutrition, and preparing for the NBA Pre-Draft Combine at the end of this month. 

In addition to their 3 or 4 weekly workouts with me, each player works with a basketball skills coach 5 to 6 days a week.  Because of this, I normally don’t have to do very much conditioning with my players, as their basketball skill sessions are highly intense and involve a ton of sprints.  Nevertheless, it is my job to talk regularly with their skills coach to coordinate the overall volume and intensity of the workouts.  For example, if they run a million sprints one morning at their skill session, I may adjust the volume of their leg workout that afternoon to accommodate their training schedule.  In addition to communicating with the skills coach, I make it a point to reach out to their college strength coach to get their thoughts on that player’s strengths and weaknesses, as I truly respect my colleague’s opinion and expertise.  I also garner information from their agent about NBA personnel thoughts.  After all, their opinion is what really matters!  For example, if numerous NBA scouts think a player needs to “lose 5-10 pounds to be quicker and more explosive,” then that’s what needs to be done.

The goal of this crash course of training is not to prepare them for the basketball season, but rather to prepare them for their individual workouts with teams.  There is a difference.  My goal, and their skills coach’s goal, is to tighten up any weaknesses, get them in the best basketball shape possible, and have their confidence riding sky high.  These individual workouts are intense and grueling.  Players need to be prepared to go head-to-head with other players in their predicted draft range. They need to prove they are ready for the demands of the NBA and show they are strong enough, smart enough, fast enough, and have the skills, stamina, and toughness to compete in the NBA.  The kicker is we aren’t talking about one or two tough workouts.  A player might have 8 workouts for 8 different teams (thus 8 different cities) in a span of 11 days!  That type of schedule is extremely demanding both mentally and physically.

In addition to the individual team workouts, it is imperative to prepare each player for the pre-draft combine.  This year they have made some changes to the overall format because NBA teams had expressed dissatisfaction with the caliber of player participating in the five-on-five games at previous camps, the absence of players who refused to play in the games (which resulted in them not being available for medical testing), and the period of time available to teams to conduct workouts with draft-eligible players.

So this year, it will actually be more of a draft combine than a camp and will be focused on testing and skill workouts instead of games. The 2009 Draft Combine will take place in Chicago from Wednesday, May 27th to Sunday, May 31st and will consist of medical testing and examinations, light skills workouts (shooting, ball-handling, position specific drills), anthropometric testing (height, weight, wingspan) and strength & agility testing (3/4 court sprint, bench press, vertical jump, and pro lane agility drill), and league organized player interviews. The light skills workouts, anthropometric testing, strength and agility testing, and league organized player interviews will occur from May 27-29, with the medical testing and examinations occurring on May 30-31.

Preparing players for the combine tests is very specific.  It requires hours and hours of going through the combine events exactly as they will be recalled on testing day.  There is a difference between training a player to be more explosive and having them actually test well on the vertical jump test.  Form, technique, and having ample experience taking the tests are crucial and vital to success.  Just because a player is agile doesn’t mean he will test well on the pro lane agility drill!

Here is the protocol the players will follow in Chicago:

1.                   Warm-up and stretch (10-15 minutes)

2.                   No Step Vertical Jump

3.                   Maximum Vertical Jump

4.                   Pro Lane Agility Drill

5.                   ¾ Court Sprint  (baseline to opposite foul line)

6.                   Bench Press 185lb for Max Repetitions

While it is certainly my job to prepare my guys for the pre-draft combine and I want and expect them to perform well, it is important to put these tests in perspective.  The NBA combine test results are not anywhere near as influential to a player's draft status as they are in the NFL.  A player’s high school, college or international resume, his overall predicted potential by NBA scouts and player personnel, along with how well he performs in his individual team workouts ultimately determines if a player will get drafted, as well as how high.  Need we not forget, to all those haters who gave Kevin Durant (and me) a hard time because of his below average showing in the bench press at the 2007 NBA combine – he was the #2 pick in that year’s draft, signed a $70 million dollar deal with Nike, won Rookie of the Year, and finished his sophomore campaign as the 4th leading scorer in the league!

If you have any questions or thoughts on this blog post or want to contact me about my training services or MVP program, please email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com.  I will respond as quickly as possible!

Train hard.  Train smart.

Alan Stein