JaVale McGee Workout: The Big Secret

JaVale McGee Workout: The Big Secret
May 19, 2008, 11:54 pm
DraftExpress was given exclusive access to observe a private workout of Nevada early entrant JaVale McGee at an undisclosed location. McGee has been training away from his collegiate settings for the past six weeks in preparation for the draft, shunning the services of big-name trainers to hone his talents with his agent Roosevelt Barnes.

Some eyebrows were raised after McGee made his decision to choose Barnes to represent him, given that his primary area of expertise is representing NFL players. However, many do not know that Barnes himself was a point guard on Purdue’s final four team of the 1980’s and was a former CBA player (in addition to playing linebacker for the Detroit Lions) before his work as a sports agent. With the assistance of a former CBA coach, Barnes put McGee through a grueling on-court workout that he feels is unparalleled to that any other potential draftees will encounter.

While JaVale McGee’s name has been on the NBA radar all season long, many teams are not quite as familiar with this him as they are other top center prospects from high-major conferences. While Nevada had a large number of games on national television in the 06-07 season due to the presence of All-American Nick Fazekas, they were on national television only a handful of times this past season and die-hards were forced to scour through regional channels to catch a glimpse of McGee. As an unknown compared to his draft counterparts, Barnes said that McGee has earned himself the nickname: “The Big Secret”.

The workout began with McGee (along with two other 6’10 plus players) going through a series of stretching drills to get loose. The stretching session and warm-up lasted for around 20 minutes with a series of footwork drills through ladders to follow. Like the usual ladder drills, Barnes instructed the players to put “two feet in, one foot out” to start off, showing off the foot speed of the three big men. It was clear that McGee was head and shoulders above the competition in these drills, which should be expected since one of the players has been training for a week and another only one day. A number of different footwork drills followed with variation and pace differentiated in an attempt to achieve optimal coordination.

From the footwork, the players moved to full court ball-handling drills. Switching between oversized basketballs the same weight as normal ones and regular NBA game balls, the players went through a number of drills. JaVale excelled yet again in this area, showing off very impressive ball-handling and coordination skills for a 7-footer, while smoothly wrapping the ball around his back and swiftly crossing it over.

Barnes and his assistant then set up a number of small discs on the floor, which the players were to weave within while handling the ball. The Nevada sophomore showed off an outstanding handle for a player playing the center position. Fluidly handling the ball with both his left and right hands, he utilized his long arms to keep the ball very low to the ground. It was definitely an impressive showing for the big man as far as handling the rock was concerned.

The training staff started the one on one series by having the players simulate a pick and pop situation, then playing one on one with three dribbles once they had the ball in their hands. McGee looked especially comfortable in this drill, showing off his first step and ability to attack the basket, especially when going right.

Shifting from the half court game, the players that began doing a series of full court one on one games, dribbling at about 50% to half court and then passing the ball to one of the trainers, only to have it fired back and be forced to play the game with only three dribbles. This drill showed how much a player could create in a short period of time, and McGee excelled. Using his long strides to the rim, he was able to get around opposing defenders in situations that his path appeared to be cut off. The long limbs that McGee possesses enabled him to create shots at very awkward angles that the majority of players are unable to, therefore allowing him to score on possessions thought to be dead. As one can imagine, there were some jaw dropping dunks by the sophomore once he made his way to the bucket in these drills.

When the full court one on one concluded, the players moved to shooting drills. Shooting NBA and collegiate three pointers from seven different spots on the floor, the players were charted shooting 70 shots from beyond the arc at each distance. McGee worked on his fundamentals by stepping into his shot equally with both his left and right feet, and had average results shooting the ball from the perimeter. A 33.3% shooter from the land of three in real-game college settings, he shot 38.5% (27/70) from the NBA three point line and 42.8% (30/70) from the collegiate line in the workout drills.

Switching from skills to explosiveness, the trainees then began doing a series of drop steps for dunks with an 8 pound medicine ball. McGee was clearly the best of the three in this drill, displaying outstanding lower body strength and easily slamming ball after ball. The players went towards both the middle of the court and towards the baseline, with McGee pacing the group with 26 and 25 slams in each direction respectively.

With conditioning seeming to be the focus of the workout, the group moved to full court post one on one next. The three would alternate going up and down the floor, taking a one possession break in between going through the drills offensively and defensively. This was our lone chance to observe JaVale in the low post, and he was able to score on the duo primarily through a series of turnaround jumpers off the glass. Aside from those turnaround bank shots, he still looked a bit raw with his back to the basket and will need to continue to improve on this area of his game if he hopes to play with his back to the basket in the NBA.

The grueling three plus hour workout came to a conclusion with the players jogging from NBA three point line to NBA three point line and shooting three pointers, before moving in to the collegiate three point line and 17 foot area. By this time the players were physically drained, yet were forced to make 20 or so jumpers from each spot before their workout came to a conclusion.

The workout put on by Barnes was different than those of other trainers observed, primarily due to his focus on conditioning just as much as actual on court basketball training. Basically every drill involved some sort of full court running and was done with high intensity. Interestingly enough, as if these drills weren’t enough conditioning, the players also do a series of track workouts and hit the weights 4 days a week. The former basketball and football player-turned agent seems to have his mind set on what will best prepare his client for the NBA Draft and from what we saw, it appears that he’s doing a pretty good job thus far.

JaVale McGee Breakdown

Physically, much has changed for McGee since leaving Reno to come train with Barnes. Listed at 237 pounds, the big man came into training weighing around the 228 pound mark. Since then, McGee has begun working diligently in terms of sculpting his body and improving his core strength. With his added 8 pounds of muscle, he now legitimately weighs 237 pounds and has body fat hovering around the 5.7% area according to Barnes. Still relatively underdeveloped in terms of upper body strength, the son of WNBA great Pam McGee has a very sturdy lower body that bolsters his explosive leaping ability. Throw in a 7’6 wingspan, the ability to run the floor like a deer, and a frame that could easily add another 20 pounds and it’s easy to see why he’s such an interesting prospect.

For a player standing a legit seven feet, there is plenty of intrigue with the raw skills that he possesses from the outside. Shooting the ball, he owns NBA range and shows flashes of being a threat from there with improved fundamentals. McGee was a bit streaky in the drills often hitting 3 or 4 threes in a row before missing an equal amount in sequence. Much of this hinges on his tendency to dip the ball below his waist from time to time, which drastically affects his shooting accuracy. With his size and quick release, the fact that McGee shoots more of a set shot is not as big of a concern as it would be for a player standing 6’8 or 6’9.

When facing the basket, JaVale uses his long strides and quick rip-throughs to get to the rim, usually finishing acrobatically around the basket. He moves around on the floor unlike most seven footers, looking completely normal putting the ball on the floor from 20 feet away from the hoop. McGee’s large hands and long arms allow him to move the ball around in the air a bit in order to finish around the cup, which he did especially well with his right hand. McGee is still far from a finished product in terms of his offensive skill set, but the raw skills he does possess when facing leave optimism for his growth in the area down the road.

Given the minimal opportunity to watch McGee in the low post, we didn’t really have much to evaluate. He showed off a few gorgeous fade-away jumpers turning towards his right shoulder, which he elegantly kissed off the glass. That aside he made a number of awkward one handed swooping shots through the paint, via extending his super long arms around defenders. There is still much room for improvement in the low post for the Nevada big man though, especially in terms of footwork in the pivot and finishing with his left hand Despite owning a very strong lower body JaVale, did not show great balance when faced with physical play in the low post. His lack of balance on the blocks hindered him mightily, and uncoincidentally he tended to go towards turnaround jumpers from the post, rather than power moves towards the rim.

After struggling mightily with his on the ball defense during the collegiate season, McGee appears to be making strides as a man to man defender. While the players that he was pegged against were not anywhere near the caliber of the draftees he’s going to be matched against in the upcoming weeks, he did a very nice job of eliminating any separation that opposing offensive players have created. The added explosiveness that JaVale has added has enhanced his closing speed on the defensive end, as if his shot blocking ability weren’t already enough. McGee has already established himself as one of the elite help-side defenders in the draft and seems to be making the right steps to becoming a more complete defender.

Workouts will be crucial for McGee separating himself from the slew of fellow big men that could be picked in the late lottery to mid-first round. Names such as Kevin Love, Kosta Koufos, Anthony Randolph, DeAndre Jordan, Marreese Speights, Alexis Ajinca, and Roy Hibbert will certainly be amongst those JaVale has to face in order to distinguish himself from the group of big men slotted around picks 10 through 25. McGee will not be participating in the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp, but may be on the “physical only” list once it is released next week. From then on out McGee will hit the workout trail, and Barnes and Co. feel “The Big Secret” will be a secret no more.

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