24/7-365. Basketball Lives Here.
The game has changed tremendously over the past decade. Having a wet jumper and tight handle is just not enough anymore. When it comes to playing basketball at the next level, high school hoopers need to be athletic enough to not only compete but survive.
Technology has changed, the players who make it out are usually freakishly athletic (strong, faster, quick, explosive, conditioned and loaded with grit), parents that missed out on their hoop dreams are making sure their offspring is receiving everything they didn’t and a lot of times it’s a good strength and conditioning coach.
If you aren’t genetically gifted, if your not blessed with a 37 + inch vertical, lightning 40-yard dash and cat-like quickness then your going to have to put in some serious work to make up for it. We get asked quite often is it possible to achieve a 36 inch vertical, explosive power and lethal foot speed through training and the answer is always YES! but we’re quick to remind the athlete that it’ll take a lot of hard work and more importantly SMART work.
Believe it or not, there are many young kids we see on the AAU circuits that have more skill than some players in the NBA! But that goes to show you that skill isn’t nearly enough anymore. College coaches are being conditioned to look for athletic players now more than ever in the history of the game.
The blueprint for a “good prospect” has changed tremendously. You’ll notice the guys that are atop the high school rankings are either freakishly tall, long, naturally strong or their flat out beasts. Their bigger, stronger, faster and more explosive than everyone else in their class and this goes for the guys that aren’t ranked at the top either, this goes all the way to the third tier high school prospects. The athleticism in today’s athletes is at new heights.
This isn’t just about the player who can blow past defenders and dunk on your big either. You don’t need a 35 + inch vertical to impress a coach, more than anything it’s actually about the guy that can cut his man off on the defensive end consistently and force turnovers or just prevent middle penetration, the guy who can explode past defenders, not just in the first quarter, but in the fourth as well. The player who is able to attack the basket with power, take contact and finish.
Coaches actually love “grounded athletes” because they can run the show, they can score, they can make guys better and they can remain on the floor when it turns it into a race or dunk off and lead the team to W’s.
Athleticism is now a pre-requiste to playing basketball at the collegiate level (NCAA Div 1, Div 2). The scenario below will give you an idea on what will usually happen it most cases when it comes to choosing between two players and just one scholarship left to give out.
Player A: Amazing skill-set: great shooter, great passer, high basketball-iq, confident, good scorer and clutch. BUT, average to mediocre athlete.
Player B: Decent skill-set: Okay shooter, good playmaker, lockdown defender, confident, good rebounder but VERY athletic, conditioned and strong.
7 times out of 10 “Player B” is getting the scholarship. Even though “Player A” is a lot more skilled and just a more talented basketball player, “Player B” has A LOT more potential because of his athleticism. If they can teach player B how to shoot, improve his handle and touch then they have an NBA prospect. Player B’s athleticism = major potential as a basketball player. Colleges usually have the skills trainers ready to work with their “freakishly athletic” group because that group is going to make the school a lot of money and is going to go further if they can pick up the skill set part of the game.
Players who are more skilled are usually the ones that picked up a ball at a young age, practiced a lot on their own and then linked up with a great trainer or coach and continued sharpening their game. Players who are great athletes usually played a sport or two before picking up a basketball and instantly putting up stats. Athletic players won’t have the nicest jumper or handle, but they’ll win you games and if they learn the skill part of the game, their going to make it somewhere.
At the end the day, the better basketball player and better team will do better in the long-run, but it’s a bit complicated now. It takes a lot to get into actually playing basketball. At the collegiate level and especially in the top programs you have to be athletic enough before basketball is even a conversation. There are so many guys that are being disqualified of even being mentioned in the “better basketball player” despite having the skill-set to be in it. It’s almost like their useless in the eyes of many coaches and scouts. A more fitting title would be the “best athletic basketball player”.
Look at the top programs in the country, take a look at the perimeter players in the NBA. All these dudes are strong, explosive, quick off the dribble and can jump and if they can’t jump out the gym, they can do all the other things.
Athleticism can be the difference between making it to the Division 1 level or just sitting on the bench. If you got a nice jumper/handle and dominated high school but aren’t the greatest athlete, those MEN will lock you down, cut you off, bump you and humble you within a week.
The guys who are insanely skilled really get left behind when the guys who were always athletic begin putting in even 50% of the on-court work the skills guys are putting in, but get on a serious and SMART strength and conditioning program. We are in a day and age where if a kid is really athletic, some basketball person whether it’s a shoe company, college coach or parent are connecting that athletic player with a good strength and conditioning coach and making sure the kid is training at least 3 times a week and turning that great athleticism into all-world athleticism.
Check out the video above of Andrew Wiggins, one of the NBA’s
best athletes training for strength, explosiveness, endurance and speed this offseason in Toronto with his trainer Seon Holmes.
Some kids just don’t have the guidance or are stuck with a salty basketball coach who thinks they know every single thing the players needs to be doing to improve their game and doesn’t want “their player” to go train with someone else (cut that coach off and get with someone who actually cares).
Training for skill has become huge, especially with social media but players and coaches are forgetting that it’s the athleticism that’s dominating and taking over the game of basketball. If you look through a pool of starting players at each position in the league, the least athletic player in each starting lineup of each position in the NBA can probably come to your local men’s league or pro-am run and lock players down with his foot-speed, blow by defenders effortlessly and score 50 just off layups.
Some idiot out there is probably going to blow this article off and say something like Steve Nash (was athletic) or Steph Curry (even more athletic) but that’s not our problem. Curry may not look athletic on T.V. with all those freakishly athletic NBA guys around him, and his game is obviously grounded. However, aside from not having the vertical leap, Steph is very quick off the dribble (trained for it) and is probably the most conditioned guard in the league. His game also happened to take off when he put on some quality muscle and strength. He’s another guy that would come to the best amateur run in your city and dominate just off athleticism. Seriously, the dude wouldn’t have to take one jumper and he’ll drop 60.
He’s an average athlete at the NBA level, but even he would be a great athlete anywhere else.
Bottom line is, the top players, the cream of the crop guys whether it be pro, college or high school are athletic and even the guys sitting on bench are athletic which means dominating in your State or Province with a wet jumper and nasty handle just aren’t going to be enough because eventually your going to be at a level where guys can do that + are super freak athletes. When a dude picks you up 48 feet and strips you before you hit half-court, your skill-set instantly becomes irrelevant and the it’s probably too late to figure out what’s wrong (you weren’t athletic enough).
How do you train for that athleticism? Well it sure as hell isn’t your Physical Education class workouts, it’s not running on the treadmill for 30 minutes a day, busting out 15 reps on a loaded up leg-press at your local fitness centre or jumping rope in your basement. Hell, being on a good plyometric program that you downloaded online isn’t even enough.
Becoming a polished athlete is a process and your probably going to have to connect yourself to a coach who knows what they are talking about if you want real results or educate yourself on how to effectively do it which can take years of trial and error.
Remember it’s going to have to be a basketball specific strength and conditioning program. If your in high school, strength and mobility is going to be a huge priority early in the program and once you’ve reached the strength levels you need to be at then your going to have to turn that strength into speed, explosiveness and quickness.
Once you become an elite player and it’s time to start looking into playing ball at the next level, unless your 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan and have big hands/naturally quick feet then the weight room and turf, sand and hills etc. becomes just as important and in most cases even more important than the basketball court as far as training goes.
Once you’ve mastered your basketball skill-set, it’s time to get athletic and once your athletic enough for the level your trying to play at, then it will be about basketball again. But that middle piece (athleticism) is now the most important attribute in a players abilities on the court.
Please don’t let this article crush your hoop dreams, the whole point is that if put on a good basketball-specific strength and conditioning program you can become athletic enough within 6-18 months. We’ve seen players get results on our programs within 4 weeks and some were late bloomers. We’ve seen kids go from average athletes to super-freak athletes. For most kids who aren’t gifted with athleticism, the goal is usually to just get them athletic and strong enough so that they can play basketball (Steph Curry, Steve Nash) and get the edge off their skill-set.
Since day one, we’ve always been about hard work but also SMART work. Any trainer out there can make you sweat, put you on a cute diet that will destroy your “body-fat” (actually make you weaker) and get you tired in workouts, but it takes someone who actually knows what their doing, knows the ins and outs of the performance training game to get you more athletic.
Remember, getting athletic doesn’t mean just being able to jump higher and run faster, there is a lot more to it and we’ll get into that in our next article.