Oden, Cook, Landry at Champions Academy

Oden, Cook, Landry at Champions Academy
May 27, 2007, 06:32 am
A black Chevy Avalanche pulls up a gravel driveway to a barn, and out spills a collection of basketball talent rarely seen all at once. Inside, the basketball court glistens like somebody took the time to hand polish every surface the night before. This is Champions Academy, run by former NBA assistant Ed Schilling. This barn/gym happens to be Greg Oden’s offseason training home, and a true window into the state of Indiana's passion for hoops.

DraftExpress writers Mike Schmidt and Jonathan Watters were on site this past weekend to observe all the action at Champions, located just north of Indianapolis on what appears to be your average country farm. Oden headlined the workout, but was far from the only attraction. Other notables in attendance included fellow “Thad five” member Daequan Cook, power forward Carl Landry and wing David Teague out of Purdue, and Wisconsin lead guard Kammron Taylor.

With NBA-caliber players performing the same drills as the junior high and high school age kids taking the court moments after they are done, the spirit of local basketball is impossible to ignore from the moment one walks through the door. Champions works with players of all ages, so younger members of the program continually filtered in and out to steal a glance at Indiana’s biggest star. Schilling’s own father came in for a while, along with a handful of other regulars, all greeted warmly upon arrival.

2240[c]The Champions Academy Gym[/c]

While the atmosphere of the workout is a refreshing change from the ritzy downtown clubs these types of events are usually held at, the preparation and development Champions players receive is nothing short of comprehensive. Schilling’s on-court tutoring is only one aspect of the process. Ralph Reiff and St Vincent Sports Performance Center prepare players to fully maximize their time on the court in a variety of ways, from nutrition, conditioning and strength development to injury recovery and even a mental training program.

The concept of the academy came about after Schilling and former Houston Rocket Dave Jamerson traveled to Lithuania to run a camp and marveled at the fundamentally skilled young players they found. Recognizing the same principles they were taught as youngsters and their erosion in today’s American development system, Champions was founded with the European mold in mind. Schilling, originally from Lebanon, Indiana, stepped down from his assistant coaching position at Memphis in 2005 to form the academy.

A Day at St Vincent Sports Performance Center and Champions Academy

The day begins at St Vincent, who works with elite level athletes in a number of sports. Trainers help players maximize their on-court potential in a number of ways. We viewed trainer Robb Rogers lead Landry, Taylor and Teague through a variety of basketball-specific strength building exercises. These involve players using their own body weight in combination with a variety of equipment one wouldn’t usually expect to see in a state of the art athletic training facility. More traditional weight training took place the previous day, but according to Rogers, even these sessions involve less repetitions than one would experience in programs for other sports.

After over an hour of training with things like rubber bands, plastic pipes, balls in various shapes and sizes and even a martial arts bag, it was time for a leisurely lunch and then off to the gym, where Schilling and his staff would take the reins.

The session began with a series of 2-ball drills that appear to be as grueling as any stationary dribbling drill we’d ever seen. The players are given one minute to complete as many dribbles as possible using just about every 2-ball dribbling technique imaginable. Coach Schilling begins each minute by announcing the academy record and record holder for that technique. Mike Conley, Jr holds several of the records, but the names are more diverse than one might expect. Kammron Taylor set a record on the first drill of the afternoon, and a 7th grader holds another. Needless to say, the players were exhausted after pushing themselves on approximately 15-20 of these drills.

2244[c]Landry showing off his newly improved handle[/c]

Next up was a full-court drill designed to improve endurance, ball-handling, shooting, and mental toughness, all at the same time. The players would dribble from one end of the court and execute a series of ball-handling moves at full speed, then return to the basket for a layup. Then they would rebound their own shot and take off for the other end of the court immediately. Guards shoot a pull-up jumper, and big men attempt a jump hook. If either the layup or the second shot is missed, the entire process must be repeated.

Players were split up by position for the latter half of the session, where they received specific skill training. Jamerson worked with Cook and Teague on various midrange scoring techniques, with a focus on increasing the amount of space created on contested shot attempts through physicality, footwork, and other tricks of the trade. Taylor and current IUPUI standout combo guard George Hill spent time on their penetration techniques.

Landry and Oden started by receiving a pass approximately 12-15 feet away from the basket and taking hook shots. They continued with several variations of the Mikan drill, and followed that with several footwork drills near the basket. Landry also spent some time working on his perimeter game, including shooting contested shots off the dribble. All instruction was very specific, and the coaches actively participated in the drills – from Jamerson aggressively contesting the shots of Cook and Teague, to Schilling’s near-constant stream of encouragement and instruction.

2242[c]Cook at the stripe[/c]

Needless to say, Champions is a lot more than just a training program for Greg Oden. As we interviewed the draft prospects after their workout, Schilling was already back on the court coaching a group of younger players through the exact same 2-ball drills mentioned above, maybe even more enthusiastic than he was with his group of future pro’s.

Player Evaluations

While no competitive basketball took place during the workouts we were able to view, the Academy staff kept the pace brisk and utilized drills that required significant mental focus throughout the strenuous process. Thus, it was possible for us to make a few conclusions on how these draft prospects are coming along.

Greg Oden


While many might scoff at any discussion of Greg Oden’s ball-handling skills, it was quite impressive to watch the 7-footer keep up with the guards in the 2-ball drills. Oden’s hands improved dramatically throughout the course of the season, and we would have to say that this has continued throughout the spring. He also looked surprisingly fluid when dribbling on the move – it is hard to believe this is the same player who was lumbering so heavily upon his December return to the court. The skill-specific training Oden has been receiving appears to be working as well. While it is impossible to tell how well the improved touch on his uncontested post moves will translate over into the competitive setting, the ball was hitting the rim much more softly than we saw during the season. We were just starting to see the true impact of a fully healthy Greg Oden on the offensive end in the national championship game, and while far from a finished product, we believe the big man has a lot more to show as a scorer than what he was able to in his injury-plagued freshman season.

At the risk of sounding redundant, evaluating Oden up close and in person is quite the special experience. His size and physique leaves one a bit awestruck, and that is before he shakes your hand. Looking at the way a player like Dwight Howard has improved his physique in the last two years, Oden’s potential impact on the game due to his physical and athletic gifts alone is out of this world.

Daequan Cook –
Cook is a player that has generated some significant buzz since declaring for the draft, despite a somewhat underwhelming freshman season at Ohio State. He was highly touted coming out of high school, and you probably won’t find a scout anywhere that doesn’t love his natural tools, but the NBA team that gives him first round money is going to want an answer to why his role at Ohio State diminished as the season wore on.

As one would expect, Cook sizzled in this workout setting. The elevation and effortless motion on his jump-shot are quite unique. But just as impressive was the way he continued to knock down contested jump-shots late in the workout session, as he was pressed by Jamerson to fully elevate on every shot he took. Off the dribble, fading away, set, shirt soaked with sweat – he didn’t slow down a bit. This is a prospect that is going to put on some dazzling shooting exhibitions in front of NBA decision makers between now and draft night.

His all-around scoring tools should translate over very nicely in the NBA, though there are a few things Cook can continue to work on. He doesn’t appear to have the quickest hands or tightest handle for a 6’5 NBA wing, with his left hand in particular need of continued work. Furthermore, his frame is in need of added strength so he can create the separation needed to properly utilize his midrange game at the next level.

Cook confirmed his intention to play in Orlando, and as a player nobody expects to return to college, will have a lot on the line in a very competitive environment. Going up against more mature opponents could make it tough for him to show off his all-around scoring tools in such a physical half-court environment, but Cook is a player who is more than capable of putting on a scoring exhibition that would send his stock skyrocketing.

Carl Landry

2245[c]Reportedly Landry's handiwork, from his first session. When asked about the incident, Schilling almost sounded proud. Landry bemoaned the loss of his "dunking privileges."[/c]

The most intriguing scouting-related developments uncovered over the weekend at Champions probably centered around power forward Carl Landry, who is building significant momentum heading into Orlando and the latter stages of the pre-draft process. Matt Painter’s interior warrior started to really make a name for himself with a superb showing against Florida’s imposing frontcourt, and followed that up with a successful Portsmouth camp. Landry also measured in at 6’8, after Purdue listed him at 6’7 for the last three years. The added size should alleviate some concerns about whether Landry will be able to make the transition to the NBA, and the weekend’s workouts clearly proved that growing isn’t the only thing he’s been doing since the season ended.

The first issue to address is Landry’s physical condition, which was somewhat of a question mark headed into the offseason. Landry tore his ACL near the end of his junior season in 04-05 and would redshirt the 05-06 campaign. And while the burly power forward bounced back quite nicely to become the Big Ten’s most statistically prolific big man as a senior, he was never known as one of the most explosive players around. The knee doesn’t seem to be affecting his mobility, and there have been all-around physical improvements in his time at Champions. His frame is significantly more sculpted than it was in college, and he has clearly replaced a lot of fat with muscle. Landry still has work to do with his conditioning and can certainly get more explosive, but he appears to be headed in the right direction.

In terms of skills, the stunner was a beautiful jump-shot. Landry looked comfortable taking shots out past the college 3-point line, and has exactly the type of form you want to see from an undersized power forward who will need to step outside and force opposing big men to come out and guard him. The high release will do a lot to make up for any disadvantage in the height department, and his effortless stroke should allow him to come in off the bench and knock down the occasional jumper without having to shoot himself into a rhythm. This ability to stroke the outside shot improves his value to an NBA team as a role-player dramatically.

Given what players like Craig Smith and Paul Millsap did in the training room last summer and their respective immediate impacts, Landry has a chance to really turn some heads in a draft camp environment that is perfectly suited for him to display his aggressive, physical style of play. Landry still has work to do before he is ready to make the immediate impact of a Smith or Millsap, but his production, on-court mentality, and willingness to work are very similar. On the whole, there was very little not to like from Landry this weekend.

Kammron Taylor –
No, Taylor probably isn’t going to be making any headlines on draft night. But the imported Minnesota product doesn’t appear out of place at all in basketball country. Taylor played in a system at Wisconsin that has prepared him well for a career in professional basketball, and it shows in the workout sessions. He approaches his training in a workmanlike manner, and clearly enjoys playing the game. Taylor looked great in the ball-handling drills, and has the winning experience to make a name for himself abroad. His spot up jumper is as reliable as they come, and his future pro head coach will quickly learn what we learned years ago – Taylor is always going to be there on the defensive end. In the right situation, he will be able to help with the ball-handling duties, but get a few more chances to spot up on the perimeter. If he can find the right place, he has a very successful career ahead of him.

David Teague -
A teammate of Landry at Purdue who also missed what should have been his senior season in 05-06 with a knee injury, Teague put in a solid senior year at Purdue and certainly brings a different type of energy to the workout sessions at Champions Academy. Despite the injury, Teague has bounced back well and was the most aggressive perimeter player at the workouts. He is in tip-top physical condition, and should be able to find a team in Europe that can use an athletic, aggressive defensive specialist type. Teague put up some impressive scoring numbers last season at Purdue, but is more of a streak scorer at this point. He knocks down perimeter jumpers at a respectable clip, but his form is likely to be viewed as a work in progress by most scouts. One thing we can confirm is his passion for the game, as evidenced by our long lunch hour conversation on area hoops, and the attitude he brings to the gym.

George Hill –
Also training at Champions Academy is current IUPUI standout George Hill, who averaged over 18 points per game as a sophomore two years ago before redshirting 06-07 due to injury. Hill displayed some intriguing combo guard skills and a bit of smooth athleticism that make him a player to watch over the next two years.

Check back over the next several days for more on the Champions Academy workout, including an exclusive interview with Greg Oden.

Recent articles

12.8 Points
12.3 Rebounds
0.5 Assists
23.2 PER
15.4 Points
4.7 Rebounds
1.4 Assists
16.0 PER
26.2 Points
11.1 Rebounds
1.5 Assists
28.7 PER
0.0 Points
0.5 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
-14.8 PER
0.0 Points
1.0 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
-97.5 PER
12.5 Points
2.3 Rebounds
3.4 Assists
14.1 PER
5.0 Points
1.9 Rebounds
2.5 Assists
9.8 PER
6.2 Points
5.9 Rebounds
0.6 Assists
18.4 PER
20.0 Points
6.2 Rebounds
2.2 Assists
25.3 PER
3.3 Points
2.6 Rebounds
0.6 Assists
9.6 PER

Twitter @DraftExpress

DraftExpress Shop