College Recruiting Process - Part 3
Updated: May 22
Episode 5: College Recruiting Process, Part 3 - How Prospects are Developed and Identified
Release date: 3/7/20
Welcome to the Goal Tending Podcast, a sports and lifestyle podcast, co-hosted by former pro hooper Donald Watts (Watts Basketball) and former pro scout Matt McKay (Pro Insight). We provide analysis, break down nuances, lean in to mindfulness, and of course talk plenty of basketball.
We will turn each podcast episode into a blog post, essentially putting the audio onto paper, which we hope will take on the vibe of each show...which as you will soon find out, we keep things pretty informal here at GTP! If we ever reference something of note or special importance on the podcast, we will do our best to link that reference at the bottom of each blog post for the audience’s convenience...like a footnote, of sorts.
In the latest episode, College Recruiting Process Part 3, we explain the difference between players and prospects, and dive into our player development philosophy which is rooted Donald’s experience as a former professional player.
Donald: Alright, we are live with this episode of Goal Tending. Welcome! Donald Watts, here, with my good friend and co-host Matt McKay. How are you doing, man?
Matt: I'm good, man. I'm excited to continue this conversation.
Donald: Yeah, I'm super excited about this show, which is part three of our series. In part one, we really dove into the recruiting calendar and provided some tips for prospects. In part two, we went through the checklist and outlined all of the things that we feel a prospect needs. And in part three, I'm excited to hear from you, cause we really get to dig into our expertise. I'm excited to hear from you. Today's show is going to be about how we identify prospects. But I'm going to lean on you because you are the talent identifier. That's what you do. You've watched thousands of players, thousands of kids play. So I'm excited to hear from you about how you identify prospects.
Matt: No doubt...it's a very imperfect science, but I can say that it's sure a fun challenge.
Donald: And then from there, I'm excited to share about how we develop them on our end. How do we take a player who's hopeful, who has dreams, who wants to be a college basketball player, who wants to be a pro, and then actually on the day-to-day basis, shape them and make that happen. Having this conversation with you is going to make me better at my job. Parents and players are going to get some great information for what people are looking for and then also, how to acquire the things that people are looking for. So super excited about that. So with that being said, let's get into this show man. I’m going to throw this thing right at you -- you watch thousands of kids play, there's thousands of hopefuls wanting to play college, wanting to play in the NBA, whatever -- what's the first thing you notice when you walk into a gym that perks you up from the standpoint of being a prospect? What's the first thing you notice?
Identifying a Prospect: Tangibles vs. Intangibles
Matt: Aesthetically, when a player walks into a gym and you make that initial evaluation -- just the sheer physical tools -- all the surface-level elements, like shoulder width, their stride length, their wingspan, that’s what I mean by physical tools.
Donald: All the stuff that an athlete can't control -- the God-given stuff. First thing you notice.
Matt: How their bodies are structurally put together. That's the first thing that's going to jump out. And then from there, the nuances would be like within their positional group. As a guy walks in the gym with his jacket on, you might not know what position he is. You could probably guess. But then again, the next layer would be, if it's a 6-6 point guard with plus-length...then you're really extra intrigued.
Donald: And explain to our audience what ‘plus-length’ is, because plus-length is a big thing. It's more important than the actual height in most cases.
Matt: When I say ‘plus-length,’ in this industry, it's talking about your wingspan...and I'm not a scientist, but in my experience what I've found is the average human is probably somewhere between minus-one inch, and even -- meaning your height, if I'm 6-5 in height, I've got a 6-5 wingspan. That's average for just a normal person walking around. To have an even wingspan is very commonplace.
Donald: So then you have a guy like me who's 6-5, with a 6-8, 6-9 wingspan, I'd be a plus-four, right?
Matt: Right. Plus-wingspan or plus-length is just a short way of saying, ‘hey, this person has longer arms than they are tall’ and to get a little bit more detailed, having broad shoulders obviously helps your wingspan, because you're measuring left to right with your arms stretched out from finger to finger. So you could have more narrow shoulders and super, super lanky arms and still have a plus-wingspan. But if you have broad shoulders, you're only helping yourself. Typically guys with broad shoulders have a better chance of having a plus-wingspan.
Donald: Why is the plus-wingspan important?
Matt: It helps you cover more space on the court on both ends. It’s just basic logic. Like getting to a loose ball -- if your wingspan is 6-1, versus a guy whose wingspan is 6-9 and you're both pursuing the ball...just on paper...one has an eight-inch advantage of getting to that ball, getting to that rebound, getting to that loose ball, contesting a shot on a close-out.
Donald: I would imagine that there's some deceptiveness in that too that's an advantage. So like, even if you have a smaller guy who has a long wingspan that people can misjudge, like what they need to do to get to the ball cause this guy can just go, go, go-gadget arms on you.
Matt: No doubt, no question...and then there's also kind of a lot of misnomers. A phrase I find myself using from time to time: ‘this guy is more long than athletic.’ It can also be tricky in terms of a guy just getting way up in the layup line and he’s easily throwing a windmill down or something like that. If the dude has a seven foot wingspan, a windmill is a lot easier. Take Rudy Gobert vs. Nate Robinson. Gobert’s wingspan is like 7-9, and Nate, I don't even know what his measurements are. I'm assuming he has plus-length, but the guy is jumping 40 inches off the ground. So whereas Gobert needs to jump probably like, I don't know, 13 inches off the ground, if that.
Donald: So the first thing you notice, you can see when a guy walks in is his size and those attributes, those physical attributes, what's the next thing you're looking for?
Matt: Just kind of the layer below that. You can only see so much just watching a guy walk in the gym. So they're going to catch your attention and then the next thing, I still kind of include this in the physical bucket -- how are they athletically? Now I can see how they're put together, but how are they athletically? How do they move? How effectively do they move? There are so many different types of athleticism. Quick-twitch athleticism, powerful athleticism, having short bursts, long bursts. Just so many different ways you can kind of break it down. So I'd like to get a feel for what type of mover they are.
Donald: And when is the first opportunity for you to, and I think I have the idea, but when is the first opportunity where you start to see that in a player? Where, like what part of the evaluation do you see that?
Matt: Honestly, I've written about this in a couple of the little articles this last year or so, but that starts in warm ups, man. Like you can see, you watch a guy like Hamidou Diallo -- if you're there ninety minutes before a game and you're going to see that guy as a mover, he's a quick-twitch, dynamic athlete that has just an incredible amount of pop as a vertical leaper. And, you can see a guy 1-on-0 in a draft workout -- you can tell, ‘okay,’ just as he’s running up and down the floor and finishing 1-on-0 layups or dunks, like, ‘okay, this guy has something,’ or not, at the other end of the spectrum.
And another thing I look at -- who was I watching the other day? The player’s name is slipping my mind. But I was watching him just go through drills one-on-one with his team in practice and he was dunking the ball still on the way up. He's got a really good blend of length and athleticism...so if you're more athletic and long than the average player at your position, you’re off to a good start. And this guy, he had a really nice combination and already being a big (a center), he's dunking the ball on the way up versus some guys you'll watch in warmups or in a game setting and they're at full extension -- like full extension -- getting that ball over the rim.
So there's such a broad spectrum on that. That's why I like to get to the gym early when I have an evaluation opportunity. I want to be as close to the first person in the gym as I can because I want to see from before the game starts, who’s the first person walking on the floor, how are they warming up, and I start my note-taking process and my evaluation process at that point.
Donald: I would imagine, obviously we're talking about the physical, but when you're talking about being the first person in the gym, so you can see how guys walk in, you're also evaluating habits at that point.
Matt: Yup, I remember my first year working at UW, Quincy Pondexter was always the first guy out of the locker room to get out onto the court and get into his warm-up routine, getting his shots up at game speed. And then, fast forward a few years scouting, I did a lot of evaluating of Buddy Hield, cause we had a first round pick that year and he ended up shooting up the rankings...we didn't have the chance to get him, but I did my due diligence on him. That guy infamously -- for any practice, especially on the road, like at practice or a shoot around -- when the bus would roll up, that guy would already be dressed, ready to go, shoes on, ready to sprint into the gym...and his goal would be to get, I don't remember what the number was, but say 50 makes or 25 makes, before anybody else even got in the gym and got their shoes on.
So just being privy to that type of information is, for me, is very noteworthy. I like to try to be as holistic as possible in my evaluation process and just learning little tidbits like that for me help break ties and help kind of differentiate who's got the best chance of maximizing their potential...because at the end of the day, at the NBA level, or at any level, that's what you're shooting for.
Donald: And for me like I said, it's great hearing this from your side of it because these are the same habits that you want on the developmental side...and it's great for parents and for kids to hear this and understand that this is not only how you develop, but it's what the people who are evaluating you are judging you on at some point in time, also. So it is great information. So Matt -- you see a guy with great size, great movement, he walks through the door, you like him. He starts playing...what are the kinds of things that can take a guy from intriguing to off the board...like the guy has the physical tools, physical assets, but you're just not feeling him. What are those kinds of things that can turn you off from a guy who has all the physical tools?
Matt: This answer might differ from person to person. But for me...body language, man. A player's motor, a player's body language. If they're out there always with a scowl in terms of their interactions with the refs, or their teammates, or they're flailing their arms up if they don't get the ball three trips down the court in a row or something like that. If they're not able to kind of keep it together mentally, that's like an instant turn-off. That's an instant demerit, I guess, to say the least. So your body language...just how you're handling yourself on the court. Which might have nothing at all to do with your skill. Another kind of pet peeve of mine, it's in the same light, is a player’s motor --
Donald: Explain before you go down that road -- explain what ‘motor’ means for somebody who might not know what you mean...
Matt: How engaged are you and how hard are you playing? Quite simply, how hard are you playing? Are you holding back? And if so, why? It's one thing to conserve energy; it's another to be lazy. In my opinion -- and this is how it goes hand-in-hand with how you want to train, in terms of getting your wind up -- and I'm not a coach, but especially at a younger age, I only want my five guys on the court that are playing hard...I only want him on the court if he’s putting hard. If you're in a place with your wind where you can only maybe do that for three or four minute spurts at a time, that's fine. Get in the gym with someone like you and get that number up. But if you're on the court, have enough respect for the game and for your teammates and for that environment and play hard. Which seems kind of like a lost art...it's definitely not a given these days just to play hard. So now it’s gotten to the point where a motor it's actually a differentiator. It seems like back in the day --
Donald: Everybody brought it.
Matt: Everybody brought it -- you stood out if you didn't play hard.
Donald: If you didn't bring it you stayed at home.
Matt: And now you're standing out if you're Kaden Perry and playing hard every single play.
Donald: Yeah, absolutely. So on the other side of that, a player doesn't have the physical size, doesn't have the attributes, doesn't jump off the charts when they walk in the gym, you have no notice of them. Game starts and now you perk up interest from seeing them perform -- like what are those attributes that really stand out, regardless of physical skill set?
Matt: Well, I won't repeat myself too much, but the inverse of what we just talked about. So you're kind of shooting yourself in the foot and there's probably not a lot of upside for you if you don't have any physical tools and you don't play hard. But if you're out there and you're a JYD -- you have a junkyard dog kind of approach -- and you’re fully engaged, playing hard on every single play...at least that’s one piece of the puzzle you have covered. Another big piece that has nothing to do with your physical tools is your feel for the game -- those are two things that really jump off the page for guys that might not be as physically gifted...but if you have a really good feel for the game, in terms of your decision making, how efficient you are, stuff like that -- it's hard to perfectly quantify, because it’s something we talk about so fluidly...but your feel, your basketball IQ, how you're retaining plays, if you constantly find yourself in the right place at the right time. Those types of traits.
Donald: Who are a couple of guys that fit this mold in the NBA?
Matt: That’s a good question. I hadn't really prepared anybody, so it's off the top of my head...no disrespect to Joe Ingles as an athlete, because compared to most people he's probably a good athlete. But in terms of NBA standards, he's not a ‘freak.’ He’s kind of a combo forward, kind of a point forward, kind of a do-it-all type of player for the Utah Jazz. He's from Australia. That guy's IQ is off the charts man, and he's not beating anybody necessarily an end line to end line or in a vertical jump test -- but that dude plays hard, he's really smart, he's a great teammate, he makes the game easier for his teammates --
Donald: What about a guy like Damian Lillard -- he doesn't necessarily have the positional size that you're looking for, but his leadership is there...and he's very controlled as far as his energy goes...doesn’t have a crazy motor.
Matt: That's not someone that would come to mind off the top for me. In terms of what we are talking about, I would say someone like John Stockton would be more of an extreme example of that. Now I know he’s not as recent of a player. I think Damian is a very underrated athlete...he's maybe a hair shorter than your average positional size as a point. But when we're talking about --
Donald: How tall is Damian?
Matt: Damian is like...I think he's listed at 6-2?
Donald: Okay, probably 6-1.
Matt: Yeah he’s around there. I wouldn't call him a little guard. Real quick, back to what we were talking about with plus length -- one thing I’ve tried to dive deeper into and wrap my mind around is what I call ‘effective height.’ That's kind of combining your literal height, your wingspan, and your athleticism. So I think the way Damian plays isn’t someone that’s deficient in terms of physical tools.
Donald: Yeah, absolutely. You see him dunk on the Lakers?
Matt: He plays bigger than whatever has listed height is.
Donald: Absolutely. He’s a guy that walks into the gym, he's not one that’s going to grab your attention walking through the door. But as soon as the game starts and you see him make a couple plays...you see how he handles the ball, you see how crispy he is, you see his decision making. Hence, we're talking Damian now, but Damian at Weber State...I mean he was at Weber State.
Matt: There's a reason he was a Weber State.
Donald: He was at Weber State because of his size...he was at Weber State because of being a late bloomer...but he's worked himself into being one of the greatest modern-day point guards in this league.
Matt: I think in terms of what we're talking about, would you agree? I think John Stockton's a good example of that.
Donald: Probably the greatest example.
Matt: Absolute mental toughness. So much moxie, basketball IQ, feel for the game… the way he simplified the game...just all of those controllable things, he mastered them. But yeah, so I think we're giving people a pretty good idea about what we're talking about.
Donald: Is there anything else that you'd like to add to that?
Matt: I like we kind of summed it up...I think that's good, especially for the sake of time. Do you want to flip this around? And unless you have anything else from me, I'd love to ask you a few questions and have you shine some light on your side of it...
Donald: Oh, I'm ready for it.
Developing a Prospect
Matt: Alright, so I'll just dive in. You obviously can't make someone taller or give them a longer wingspan, but I'm very curious -- over all your years training players -- which tangible areas have you been able to help players make the biggest strides?
Donald: I think that the biggest things are footwork, shooting touch, and developing a playing strategy that fits. I think a lot of times players have an idea about what they should be doing based on maybe things that they're watching, but they haven't really matched it all up. Players that consume the game, who want to play in the NBA or they want to play overseas -- most of these guys are watching like the handful of guys in the NBA and trying to do what they do. But James Harden has a max contract and if you want to play with the Houston Rockets, you can't compete with him, you can't do the same role.
So it often comes down to the question ‘how can you be efficient?’ Like, how can you earn the opportunity to get paid for this, whether it ends up being a contract or even just a scholarship? What does that best fit look like for you to get your feet in the door. Once your feet are in the door, then we can work on some other things.
I always like to simplify...the more simple the play, the less time you have to have the ball; the better your footwork, the stronger you play; the more ball skills and anticipatory skills you have, the better you're going to fit; we talk about context...the better you're going to fit into multiple contexts or environments. The more teams, the more systems you're going to be able to play in and fit in, the better. For me, that really boils down to footwork, shooting, touch and mentality. The footwork provides so many things as far as elusiveness and strength...I think when a lot of people think of strength, they think of weight room. I can immediately make a player stronger by the timing on his footwork….by teaching him to embrace the contact and anticipate it. And so those are the things where you see a player and you can make an immediate impact.
I'll tell you, Erik Thomas was one of my trainees that trained with me over the summer, going back into his senior year of college at the University of New Orleans -- and we did some work, got his weight down, set some goals. And when he went back to school and he told his coach and the team what his goals were -- to be the Player of the Year and to win the conference, they laughed. But they didn't know what we had been working on and we only spent five weeks together during that summer -- but in those five weeks, we had really honed in on some things that would make him ultimately effective as kind of an undersized combo forward...and he went back and did that exact thing. He was the Player of the Year and he led his team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 22 years. And that's the other thing...helping players understand the difference that they can make on a team if they change even a couple small things, skill-wise, but then also with their mindset. Those are the two things that can really make a player have the biggest jump.
Basketball IQ: Nature vs. Nurture
Matt: That kind of sparks another question and this is something we've never really talked about before, but on the subject of basketball IQ and feel, both things I really value in players -- it's something you obviously try to instill...so I'm just curious...for you to tell me and the listeners when it comes to basketball IQ and feel for the game, the classic kind of nature versus nurture argument: how would you break that down, generally speaking? Obviously it's going to be case-by-case with players, but how much basketball IQ is inherent versus something you can pick up or be taught?
Donald: I think a lot of it is nurture and I think a lot of it is allowing a kid to have the freedom of expression as a part of their introduction to the game, rather than a lot of structure...and really teaching skills, but then allowing them to experiment with the skills and figure out what works and what doesn't work, kind of on their own. Then when the player gets to the point where they feel stuck, I can come in and point them in the right direction, give them some options to think through...and I kind of develop a partnership with players that have the desire to improve and to get better and are willing to take those risks and really have a vision for where they want to go...that’s where you make your biggest impact on somebody's IQ.
Like, if a player wants to just punch the clock, if they're just trying to get a scholarship -- I'm actually talking to my son about this as it pertains to his education...he sits down and he just starts reading words...nothing is sinking in or resonating or connecting. And I tell him…’okay, what is the title? What do you think this is going to be about?’ Read through the subheadings and make some assumptions and then go dive in and find the information that you need as opposed to starting with the first word and ending with the last word. And then coming back and saying, ‘what do I need to know for the test?’ And so it's like that same thing for an athlete and improving their IQ: they have to love the game first and then have the desire to want to be better in a different kind of way than just make a couple more shots.
But really, because there are so many layers to the game and somebody has to want to work and be critical of their game...take ownership and accountability for the results of their team. That's how we really make the biggest impact on their IQ. I've never played in a game that I didn't feel personally responsible for the outcome, good or bad. The first thought when that game ends is ‘man, what could I have done different? Who on my team could I help raise the level of their play?’ There's just so many layers to the deal. As a trainer, as a player development guy, you have to have a partnership with a player who's really trying to take it as far as they can. And then you can do wonderful things for their IQ and then they go on to do wonderful things for their team.
Matt: Gotcha. I appreciate that in-depth answer. It sounds like nurture can play a major part.
Donald: Absolutely. You have to have the skillset but then once you have the skill set, you need to want to know the intricacies -- take the MJ...he had the skill...all the greats have the individual skills, but what MJ did is I think he really learned about his teammates -- that he really learned how to push the right buttons at the right time to get the best out of them and then he got to the point where he filled in the gaps to put him over the top at the right time. And whether that was making the pass to a John Paxson or a Steve Kerr, whether that was closing out, scoring, whatever it was -- he seemed to have that. He never passed it to the guy who didn't have a rhythm to take the last shot in those critical moments. Now, that might've happened over the course of the season, but he learned what he needed from his teammates in order for him and them to be champions -- and I think that's something that is really underestimated.
A Player’s Development Trajectory: Weighing Age, Maturity & Approach
Matt: No question. My next question is a little bit different. During my time in the NBA, we talked a lot about and spent a lot of time talking about the trajectory of a player’s development. We'd be in the draft room on draft week, kind of debating the potential upside of a college senior versus a college freshman. So a 22-23 year-old versus an 18-19 year-old and contemplate how many jumps they might have left in their trajectory. One example, Buddy Hield -- we had some people that really liked him and thought he had some upside despite being older...I was one of the proponents of Buddy’s upside and potential. I'll just talk about what I saw: I really liked Buddy and I thought -- despite him being 22 or whatever he was at the time -- I felt he still had some upside and some untapped stuff and a lot of that was due to his kind of maniacal aforementioned work ethic...and just his passionate love for the game. So that's one example where I can pat myself on the back, or whatever, but obviously everybody's wrong every once in a while. But yeah, he's made another jump or two and is now a 22-point per game scorer and one of the better shooting guards in the league, having come into the league as a rookie that's considered ‘older’ at 22 years old...that being the context, what ages that you've worked with are you typically see the biggest jumps? I'm just curious, just as a student of the game. I'm curious where do you see those jumps most often?
Donald: Well for me it's not really age-related, it's really approach-related. I see middle schoolers that I know are pretty much done growing and developing their game because they've been told that they're great and it's based on being more physically mature than other people -- and when you get them in the gym and you try to help them address a weakness, that's something that they're not interested in, because they're more interested in protecting their reputation...identifying a weakness and trying to help them improve it is like a threat. So I really think that it's really a mindset and an approach that you can identify in an athlete pretty quick. And that's not to say that that kid can't unlearn the ego, or whatever syndrome you want to call it. It's not to say that he can't unlearn it, but until he unlearns it, his growth is not going to be optimized. So you look at the jump that Damian Lillard has made since arriving in the league, when he already was really good. You look at how Michael Jordan improved aspects of his game nonstop. LeBron is improving aspects of his game now -- he's 35 years old, and he's improving...he's being more inclusive and establishing a better rhythm and flow than he's ever had over the course of his career for his team right now.
Matt: It's kind of stating the obvious, but this is a mindfulness podcast. None of that is accidental. That's all a mental approach.
Donald: It's about being very intentional. So the thing that I'm always aware of is one’s work ethic once they’ve experienced a ton of success. LeBron was an early success guy...I think that there were some times in his career where he definitely could have won and didn't because he wasn't taking personal responsibility or accountability or he wasn't willing to do certain things...like, he didn't want to play off the ball at all. He didn't want to go to the block. And if you remember in Miami, they were going to win ‘five, six, seven’ championships just because those guys were together. But it didn't quite work out...and when it didn't quite work out -- I forget who was interviewing him -- but they said, ‘what was the difference?’ And he said this, he said, ‘I didn't have anybody else to blame.’ What that means to me is ‘I had everything that I wanted, and I finally had to look myself in the mirror and make the changes that I was unwilling to make in the past.’ But for me, if you would have made those changes, if you would have played off the ball, if you would've played in the post, if you were willing to do those things, you maybe not would have won a championship, but you would've gone further than you did because you weren't willing to and you didn't win until you became willing to do the things that you needed to do. So now at 35 years old, here's a player who has learned from those lessons, who knows it, and it's like setting the foundation with his teammates, establishing a rhythm for his team, trying to get that next championship. So to answer your question...to me, that's not an age-related thing. It's really an approach-related thing and maybe a maturity-related thing...So how do you get to really know someone’s motivation, their approach?
I ask my son this all the time...when he hits a wall, I'm like, ‘is that your threshold?’ It’s about identifying your threshold for a challenge, for a competition, for improvement. If you embrace it, then you'll go to a much higher place.
Matt: Be aware of it, clock it, and then increase it over time. I will add, before I move on, I have a couple more questions for you. We're being very critical of LeBron, here -- he did make eight consecutive NBA Finals.
Donald: But what I'm saying is he grew and he's growing still.
Matt: Yeah, no doubt. I just had to toss that in there. I want to hear -- I love specific examples -- I know you have a countless amount, but I think it'd be cool to just share some success stories, man. Just with players that you've worked with, that you're kind of most proud of.
Donald: AJ Edwards -- some might call him a privileged kid, but he was willing to work his butt off. He got cut from the top AAU programs around here, in Seattle. He was trying to figure out politically how to get involved with them and it's like, ‘look man, put your head down, and work. You're 6-5, 6-6, you have an obnoxious work ethic. Just put your head down and make yourself one of the best shooters in the country and kind of let the other things fall into place.’ And he was willing to do that. And you're talking about a kid that would do whatever...he was skinny, so he would try to eat 3,000-4,000 calories per day. He would do whatever. But he didn't have anybody telling him exactly what he should be doing and then he was also a little stubborn and hard-headed -- which most of us high-performers can be. Well, he listened, he went to prep school, he finished up at his prep school, he's at an open gym, bangs like eight threes in a row, and the next week he's on Yale's campus and signing his commitment letter to Yale. Gets to Yale, graduates, and hey, he didn't have the best college career -- I think he would admit that -- but what he got out of basketball was more than I think he ever could have dreamed or imagined and so that's the story.
Tyler Kidd, who I've referenced before, he came to me talking about dribbling and shooting, and I was like, ‘that's not what you want. You want to be a college basketball player?’ He's like, ‘duh.’ And I'm like, ‘well, let's talk about what that means and how that's different. I need you to run -- let's see where our capacity is to compete.’ And he ran a 7:50 mile. I was like, ‘man, roadwork is your biggest priority right now.’ He said ‘Roadwork?’ I told him, ‘yeah, you gotta put miles in, man...you gotta get on that track.’ With us, it was almost like an agreement or arrangement -- first things first. If you want somebody to work on your shot or your handles, that's telling me what you think you want...and we can dribble a little better and we can shoot a little better, but it's not going to result in what you want. And so it's hard, when a kid comes to you and I have to say, ‘hey man, you don't have it, but this is how you get it.’ But when a kid embraces that and then adopts that lifestyle, that’s the rewarding part. And what was curious about it was when Tyler was playing AAU and when he had games, he was tough to work with because it wasn't happening fast enough for him. It wasn't happening, it wasn't happening. It's like if I'm working on a pitcher on his curveball and he's going out there throwing it every five days and it's getting rocked, what's wrong with what I'm doing? You're not giving it enough time, we've got to get this mid-range pull up right. Like that's a part of your strategy. Anyway, once he was done with his senior year, he decided he was going to prep school. We had the whole summer to work. I looked at him in July in the middle of the workout and I said, ‘hey man, you're a Division 1 point guard.’ And he looked at me like, ‘huh?’ I said, ‘yeah you got that. You're there now.’ And he's like, ‘huh?’ And I was like, ‘yeah, I saw you finishing, I saw your speed, your quickness up, your endurance is built up. You can shoot the three, you can stop at mid-range and pull up, you're finishing around the rim...now your physical tools and your skills and skillset and your game match up. Now we got to go get you in the right place in front of the right people, so that it can happen for you.’ And he went to prep school. He ended up with four offers. But the grades weren't quite there and so then he had to go to a community college, then boom -- now he's a Division 1 point guard at Eastern Washington University. That's a story, an anecdote I'm really proud of...because here's a kid, and my role is to see the best in them…to help them understand before they even do, and to help them understand how to institute what habits will put them at their best most consistently. Then it's up for the athlete to buy into that -- commit to it, or not. So those are a couple of hundreds of stories...and then there's those athletes where it doesn't, or I'm not the right fit or the right guy, and hey, that's okay. But for a player who has a goal and they’re not really sure how to get there, that's my wheelhouse.
Unsigned seniors ask me all the time, ‘why don't I have anything?’ I tell them, ‘are you willing to work? Are you willing to do what it takes? If I identified for you the one shot that could change your life, are you willing to spend as much time doing that one thing as you spent practicing with your AAU team?’ Now it has to be the right thing, but if you're a big and you'll reverse pivot and put this ball off the backboard like Tim Duncan used to for two and a half hours a day, three days a week, it'll change your life. But how many people were willing to do that? They're much more willing to spend their off-season on somebody else's program rather than on their own and whether it's Steph, whether it's Giannis, whether it's LeBron, whether it's whatever, they love the season, but they also can't wait till the off-season.
Matt: So they can put the work in.
Donald: To put the work in on the specific things that they've learned, like, ‘where's my sticky point? Where do I get stuck?’ So that's the deal, man.
Matt: So my last question, quickly, is if in a lab, you could create the ideal candidate, the ideal player to work with you -- kind of the mental makeup, the physical makeup, the holistic makeup -- what, what would that look like? I'm curious.
Donald: It would look like Giannis (laughs). Obviously you have those physical tools, but when I say that, it's like he doesn't really care about being an NBA superstar. From the standpoint of socializing with those guys and being buddies with those guys or whatever. Like I have some inside knowledge of people who work with them and he cares about his craft. He likes to work on his craft. He doesn't kick it. He goes home, he comes back, and he works on his craft. And with him, you don't get the impression that there's a finger pointing anywhere except for at himself. For me, that's the kind of guy you want. That's the kind of guy you want to work with. Working with guys and girls like that gives you energy -- they keep you young. Personally, you get rewarded from working with somebody who has that kind of childish (in a good way) approach. So that would be the guy and those would be the reasons. Obviously he has the physical tools and he just really seems very interested, like supremely focused on maximizing his ability for his team and for his family and what else can you ask for? Damian is another guy who is in that same light.
Matt: No question. i\It's just a relentless pursuit of getting better and improving. That's good stuff, man.
Donald: Absolutely. Hey man, great show. And this half-hour show idea is just not working (laughs). I think we got good content. I'm curious from the listeners who are still listening in, please comment, like, subscribe. We are excited about doing this, we thought that a 30-minute show might be the right length but when I hear you talk, Matt, and I'm hanging on every word from the standpoint of a guy who is an absolute basketball guy.
I hope that our listening audience is getting valuable information, insight, and analysis that'll help them appreciate the game from a richer and deeper perspective. And as we wrap up the first three parts of the college recruiting process, hopefully people will have something that they can take away that they value.
Hit that subscribe button, leave us comments, email us email@example.com and most importantly let us know what questions you have about the college recruiting process, the professional scouting process, or anything else. Hit us up because part four of this series is all about you and answering your questions. You got anything else, Matt?
Matt: Man, I just appreciate it. I'm honored to be a part of this and I'm excited to just keep going with it and we'll try to spice things up in the near future and get maybe a surprise guest or two on here, also.
Donald: Let's do it. In the words of master Yoda ‘do, or do not -- there is no try.’ We out.
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