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Training Grounds: The Minds Behind the Madness of Pre-Draft Workouts
by: Eric Weiss - Sports Aptitude
June 24, 2006
Every year between the end of the end of the NCAA Tournament and Draft Day, scores of NBA hopefuls begin the intense process of preparing themselves for the audition of a lifetime. In a mere three months and change, top players from the United States and European Leagues will be poked, prodded, weighed, measured, and interrogated by the top brass of every Pro team.

For the lucky few who show themselves well, the golden ticket of a guaranteed contract can be won, and with that a chance to play and prove their true worth on the next level. But, there are only so many chances and so small a time frame to showcase any and all hidden talents that somehow didnít manifest themselves during seasonal play. For those players who are in favor coming into the process, the hungry masses competing for status will attack relentlessly from behind, scratching and clawing their way ever higher.

There is such a weight, such a burden to all of this. Exhaustion is a word these elite athletes cannot afford to succumb to. Mental and physical preparation then becomes more than a practice, it is a survival mechanism geared toward steering these young men through the fire and to the day of destiny. But, they cannot do it alone.

While everyone pays strict attention to the performance of the draft participants, very little credence is given to how great an impact the trainers of these men have on their success. Thabo Sefolosha, Alexander Johnson, Saer Sene, and Steve Novak are all names people have seen rising up the draft boards. But to think that this type of success is simply accomplished through ďhard workĒ and ďdedicationĒ is doing the process a disservice. Draft preparation is a finite and meticulous craft involving detailed planning and specific performance marks. It can be choreographed almost as if it were a stage performance, each sequence of motion and execution of move a scripted action to elicit the proper response from the audience.

DraftExpress is pleased to bring you a series of four interviews with some of the best minds in the business of NBA personal training. Take a look inside the philosophies and methodologies that can make such a difference in a playerís career.

Part 1: An Interview with Keith Moss

Eric Weiss: Where did you get your start in coaching or training athletes? Describe your background a little, what led you to what you do today.

Keith Moss: I coached college basketball for nine years. I coached Division I for four years at San Jose State and then I was a junior college coach for six years. Growing up before college, I worked a lot of camps and I just tried to learn from that and incorporate various drills and routines into my program. Because of that, I think I use several drills that are unusual. I try to develop a few different ones. Guys donít typically work on defense in training, so I tried to develop some drills that incorporate some fundamental principles of defense, like quick feet or defensive slide, but you do them within the context of an offensive drill, so the players donít realize theyíre working defensively. But, Iíd say that all of this started from coaching college basketball.

Eric Weiss: Who are some of the players you feel youíve helped the most? What areas do you think you had the greatest impact in?

Keith Moss: Tariq-Abdul Wahad for one. He was the 11th pick in the í97 draft. Right before he declared he was considered an underclassman who most people didnít know about. The mock drafts had him in the 2nd round. We worked together for about two and a half months prior to the draft, got him in great shape and got him ready for Chicago Pre Draft Camp. He went on and won the MVP of the Chicago camp and ended up a lottery pick.

After that I took a couple of years off and then started working with the European guys. Bonaface NíDong was a guy that no one had heard of last year; he worked out for three months, went to summer league and ended up making the Clippers roster. DJ MBenga went through the same situation with the Mavericks. Ian Mahinmi was a 1st Round pick for the Spurs last year. Ronnie Turiaf and Mickael Gelebale were both picked last year as wellÖand now Saer Sene.

So thatís a good mix. I try to keep it low profile. I prefer to work with just two guys at a time so they can have more of my attention, instead of working with 8 or 9 guys at once. It makes it easier to teach, easier to gain their trust. Iíve found that if you have four or five guys or more then thereís no bonding and itís harder to teach. Without that bond they just donít learn as much because they donít want to push themselves that extra bit. But, with that bond, thereís more of a commitment personally and you want to get after it a little bit more because you want to make your trainer happy. I also try and keep my pairings by position, guards with guards and big men with other bigs. Iíve been working with mostly bigs recently.

Eric Weiss: Is there any reason behind that affinity? Are these just the guys that have been brought to your attention or is it something more?

Keith Moss: Well, I was a post player when I played. One of my assistant coaches at San Jose State, his name is Bill McClintock; he played at Cal during their championship season in í59-60. Bill played for Pete Newell, who runs the big man camp out in Hawaii every year. Bill helped to run that camp as well. So, Bill has shared a lot of insight with me throughout the years in terms of footwork and so forth. Heís got a wealth of knowledge, so instead of being a jack of all trades, master on none; I decided to work with him and focus on the bigs.

Eric Weiss: How does the draft process work for you? What do you see your role as being?

Keith Moss: I think for me and my guys itís a little bit different because theyíre all coming from Europe. So, theyíre not familiar with the process and even just living in America. So itís sort of a two-fold situation as far as just getting them over here and getting them accustomed to the travel and such. I mean, thereís so much more to getting ready for the draft. We talk about the whole draft workout process, but we also talk about things like how to get to the airport and where to meet people at the baggage claim. Things that your American player may take for granted because theyíve done it before or just because they speak English. With someone like Saer, who didnít speak a word of English and has only been to America twice, suddenly he has to fly all over the place and doesnít know anybodyÖso the first stage is primarily non-basketball related

From the basketball side of it, I try and work on a lot of drills that involve conditioning. But a lot of trainers will line the kids up and have them run suicides and things like that. I think youíll lose a lot of your guys if you do that. So, I try and implement drills that incorporate conditioning while working on basketball skills like back peddling or sprinting forward into a shot, quick-feet into rebounding work. I like the idea of working on elements that the players themselves arenít aware of. Theyíre doing all this conditioning, but to them they think theyíre working on shooting, which they are as well.

So for as far as the draft process is concerned, I really put an emphasis on conditioning. In this setting, everything can come down to that one workout and how you show during that one hour. If you can out-work and out-last your opponent during that hour and a half, then you can accomplish your goal. Letís say youíre going up against Patrick OíBryant for instance. Maybe your conditioning means you finish that one or two extra shots and all of a sudden youíre moving up the draft board from 18 to 14, or something like that.

Technically, it breaks down into a daily routine that features two sessions daily, plyometric strength and conditioning in the morning for two hours and then basketball skill development training in the evening for another two hours. Since Iím working mostly with big men weíre doing primarily post footwork mechanics and shooting mechanics. We get in four hours every day, six days a week.

Eric Weiss: Do you continue to help foster a playerís development after the draft?
Keith Moss: Most of them come back. Most of my guys are pretty new to the league. DJ is planning on coming out next week to work out. Ronnie Turiaf was coming, but then he got the call from the French national team, so heíll be gone this summer. But heís told me heíll be back to get ready for training camp.

Eric Weiss: Do you put together game plans for what youíre going to work on with a player after the season, or do they come to you with one? How does that work?

Keith Moss: Itís kind of a mix. Weíre usually on the same page. They know I have their best interests at heart. I tell them how it is. I donít try and turn a 5 into a 3 man. So, we work on practical things that will help them improve. For instance, Iím not going to take a guy and waste a whole summer working on his 19 foot jumper when we both know heís going to be a straight post 5-man come next season.

So, Iíll watch a lot of their games and then critique them. My guys are really good at calling and checking in after games asking ďwhat do you think? What did I do wrong?Ē Iíll also go and see them personally at least five or six times during the course of the season to check in with them and see how itís going.

Eric Weiss: Going back to the draft process, what are your feelings on the NCAA rule adjustments that limit a players ability to seek outside preparatory assistance such as yours without endangering their eligibility? ?

Keith Moss: Fortunately for us we havenít had to deal with it much because weíre working primarily with Europeans. But, Iíve had some this year and the NCAA is something we want to stay far away from in terms of endangering eligibility. But, it certainly hurts the college playerís ability to get better and prepare for the draft. As a player, youíre limited in how much your own coaching staff can work with you after the season, and youíre limited with how many summer leagues youíre allowed to play in and whoís allowed to work with you, so your hands are definitely tied.

Eric Weiss: As far as public perception for your role in this process, does it ever seem like helping a prospect reach his draft mark is expected, taken for granted? Does it ever feel like you either do your job or fail to do your job and thereís no real recognition for what youíve accomplished?

Keith Moss: Thatís a good question. It depends on who youíre working with. If you have Rudy Gay, well Rudy Gay is going to be Rudy Gay no matter what you do with him and itís going to be hard to see what areas you may have helped him in. When you have someone like Saer, who has so much room for improvement, itís more fun for me because you get to see more improvement. Iíve stayed with the same agent, Bouna NDiaye, and heís seen our workouts, is a firm believer in what we do. He sees the development of the player as the most important element, not necessarily the position in the draft being the ultimate importance.

Iím still always trying to improve my own approach too, though. Iím always picking other peopleís brains and trying to improve. I know Iím not the best guy in the world or anything, so Iím always seeking input from other people and looking at other drills to see what is working. I talk to other players and keep up with the media. Iím just a basketball junkie, so I park my ego at the door. I want to get better at what I do so I can help these kids to get better. I donít think Iíve got all the answers, if thereís a better way to do something, Iím all for it.

Eric Weiss: Youíre privy to all sides of the draft process, being around agents, scouts, GMís and the players themselves. Everyoneís supposed to have the playerís best interests at heart, but what have you observed?

Keith Moss: I get a lot of calls from teams and they usually ask two questions first. One, theyíll ask ďhow hard does he work?Ē Thatís usually the first question out of their mouths. The second is, ďWhatís their upside like? Whatís their improvement level?Ē Iíve had pretty good success in terms of having good guys that all want to work. Once you get to someone like me, I think the players realize that Iím here for them, weíre not trying to win games or anything. I think too much of the time it truly becomes just a business, but when theyíre here weíre not concerned with anything other than improvement. Weíre not making public appearances; we donít have any of that stuff.

From the agentís side, they generally stay out of it. They just like to make sure the kid is doing what heís suppose to be doing. But, I do get information, like whoís going where and what teams are interested. Stuff like that.

Eric Weiss: This is very interesting to me because it seems that you are in a unique place as a trusted third party that doesnít have the same vested interest as an agent or a team does.

Keith Moss: It kind of makes it interesting. As I said before, weíre only going with a couple of kids at one time, so you really get to bond with them rather quickly, almost like your part of the family. So, theyíll share information with you freely. The teams are pretty smart though, I think they know that. So the teams will ask you for your opinions and deal with you openly as well because they know. At least the good teams do. The teams at the top are at the top for a reason and bad ones are at the bottom for a reason. The good teams will call you and ask your opinion on things, while the bad teams never call you.

Eric Weiss: Well, thanks a lot Keith. I think weíve learned a lot here today. Youíve opened up some insight into something that perhaps most people donít know about, maybe even some teams, who have never stopped to really measure just how much thought and work goes into these relationships.

Keith Moss: Not a problem. Take care.
 
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Feedback for this article may be sent to eric.weiss@gmail.com .

 

Thabo Sefolosha
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 205 lbs.
Birthday: 05/02/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Biella , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #13 in 2006 Draft
by the 76ers
Positions:
Current: SG/SF,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG/SF
Quick Stats:
6.3 Pts, 3.6 Rebs, 1.6 Asts


Alexander Johnson
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 225 lbs.
Birthday: 02/09/1983
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Dougherty
Previous Team: Florida State , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #15 in 2006 Draft
by the Trailblazers
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
14.4 Pts, 8.2 Rebs, 1.2 Asts


Saer Sene
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 0"
Weight: 237 lbs.
Birthday: 05/12/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Fuenlabrada , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #10 in 2006 Draft
by the Sonics
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
8.7 Pts, 5.7 Rebs, 0.7 Asts


Steve Novak
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 216 lbs.
Birthday: 06/13/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Brown Deer
Previous Team: Marquette , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #2 in 2006 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: SF/PF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF/PF
Quick Stats:
4.5 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 0.0 Asts


Ian Mahinmi
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 10"
Weight: 220 lbs.
Birthday: 11/06/1986
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Le Havre , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #28 in 2005 Draft
by the Spurs
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: PF/C,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
3.5 Pts, 3.3 Rebs, 0.3 Asts


Patrick O'Bryant
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 0"
Weight: 249 lbs.
Birthday: 06/22/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Blaine
Previous Team: Bradley , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #9 in 2006 Draft
by the Warriors
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
9.1 Pts, 6.6 Rebs, 1.5 Asts


Rudy Gay
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 222 lbs.
Birthday: 08/17/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Spalding
Previous Team: Connecticut , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #8 in 2006 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF/PF
Quick Stats:
5.0 Pts, 3.5 Rebs, 1.0 Asts


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