Private Workouts at Five Star Pro Training Center

Private Workouts at Five Star Pro Training Center
May 09, 2005, 04:07 am
DraftExpress traveled up the West coast of Florida this past week to visit two of the most prestigious basketball training camps in America, IMG academy in Bradenton and Five Star Pro Training Center (PTC) in Clearwater. We had the chance to take an in-depth look at many NBA prospects for this draft, weeks before the NBA will, including Matt Walsh, Ryan Gomes, Sean Banks, Carlos Powell, Brandon Rush, Tiras Wade, Orien Greene and others. This report will focus on the second day of the trip at Five Star Pro Training Center.

After spending the previous day at IMG in Bradenton, today was dedicated to Five Star PTC in Clearwater, run by David Thorpe. This is the same place I was at exactly one year ago, minus two weeks, where I first got to watch a certain no name prospect who was on absolutely no one's radar at the time, a skinny kid from Western Carolina named Kevin Martin. I had a hunch about Martin being one of the biggest sleepers in the draft after that exclusive private workout, and wrote about it here on . Fast forward a year, and Martin is in the NBA now, a first round pick on a guaranteed contract after being taken by the Sacramento Kings (#26) in last year's draft. The news this year out of Five Star PTC is that there is a new sleeper prospect training in Clearwater. He's also a big time proven college scorer, but from a completely different mold. His name is Tiras Wade and he's from Louisiana Lafayette in the Sun-Belt conference. As was the case last year, had the first shot to evaluate the talent at Five Star PTC, this time weeks before NBA scouts and general managers will.

Another extremely intriguing prospect from the same team is also training here, Orien Greene, a 6-5 athletic playmaking point guard who is a high school basketball legend in the state of Florida. Moussa Badiane, a 6-11 center from East Carolina who broke Kenyon Martin's all-time conference USA shot-blocking record this year, will be joining these two in the next few days, as will Linas Kleiza from Missouri once his exams are finished.

Wade and Greene's third day of training and preparing for the NBA draft kicked off on Friday, May 6 in Clearwater at 10 AM sharp. Everything they'll be doing leading up to the NBA draft on June 28 will be monitored and managed by the Executive Director of the Five Star Pro Training Center, David Thorpe, who invited me to come watch his new pupils work out.

The first workout with these two guards focused mainly on perimeter-oriented skills: plenty of ball-handling, techniques to improve explosiveness, vertical leap and athletic ability, footwork, shooting drills, creating shots off the dribble, getting to the basket, movement off the ball in a half-court set and the art of triple threat scoring (jab steps, driving+stepping back, shot fakes, exploding off the dribble, elevating for shots from different areas, etc). Since this is only their third day of training, there was a lot of one-on-one hands-on instruction involved. After that we drove to a fitness gym where the players met with a personal trainer who began working with them on all kinds of muscles that I did not know even existed, with equipment that I wouldn't even begin to know how to describe. Next time there will be pictures and videos, I promise. Their personal trainer took them grocery shopping afterwards, to teach them the art of eating healthy and knowing what you put in your body. After that the players conducted a shooting session, with the end goal being to put up around 1,000 shots by the end of the day. The players are prepared both physically and mentally for NBA workouts, and most of them return during the off-season to continue training.

Player Evaluations

Tiras Wade, 6-7, junior, shooting guard, Louisiana Lafayette

The first thing that Coach Thorpe did in the morning is measure the players right in front of my eyes. Wade came out an inch taller than he was listed at in Lafayette, a legit 6-7 in shoes. Right now he weighs 210 pounds, with a very strong upper body, but a lower body that is being worked on right now.

Wade has been described to me numerous times by people who have worked closely with him as a gym rat, and after watching him workout for the entire day it's very obvious where that comes from and how much that helps him out right now. You would never guess that he has only been working out here for three days, as his offensive game looks very complete at the moment and the drills come very natural to him. Watching him on tape and over the course of the day on the basketball court, you could say that he's definitely the type of player that the game comes easy to, as he's very smart and fundamentally sound.

The perimeter oriented drills is where he excels the most at, as you would imagine from such a polished scorer. His jump shot is a thing of beauty, he catches the ball, elevates and releases all in one fluid motion, in a machine like way that comes off his hands exactly the same every single time. His shooting is without a doubt one of his biggest strengths, and he has the size and skill to get it off almost whenever he pleases.

Inside the arc is where Wade really surprised me. While his perimeter game is all about finesse, once he steps inside the arc he is all about power and tenacity, taking the ball to the hoop and finishing strong with the type of nastiness that is extremely impressive to watch in person. His mid-range game is very advanced and he looked fantastic while he was doing the drills intended to work on freeing himself up and creating shots off the dribble on the perimeter. This is mostly thanks to his strength and phenomenal footwork, combined with how well coordinated he is.

His ball-handling is better than I thought from watching him on tape. He is going to continue to work on this over the next few weeks (and I'll almost certainly be back to watch) but he wasn't where I initially thought he was. In fact, in some of the drills he looked better than Greene when handling the ball, which says a lot considering that Greene is a full-time PG.

In terms of his athleticism, he once again looked better in person than on tape. I probably would have rated him as a six on a scale of 10 before I saw him here in Clearwater. Now I would probably rate him as a seven, but a lot of his work over the next few weeks will be focused on this aspect in particular. He was impressive in the drills where he needed to leap off of two feet, but not so much in the first step category. He makes up for this with his second and third step while dribbling his way to the basket, though, thanks to his strength and long strides.

All in all I am pretty shocked that no one else has started to talk about him yet at this point, although I expect that to change very soon. There aren't many shooting guards in this draft with his size and shooting ability, while his production over the course of the season speaks for itself (20.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.7 FTA's per game, 46.4% FG, 39% 3P). If they haven't already, I think that the teams drafting between 20-40 most certainly need to start paying attention. From what he is saying, he is definitely in this draft to stay. He's already 23 because of the fact that he sat out a year after transferring from East Tennessee State after his sophomore year.

Orien Greene, 6-5, senior, point guard, Louisiana Lafayette

All in all, this was not the most impressive workout from Greene, at least after what I expected to see from the tapes I saw from the beginning of the season. He says that athletically, he is still only 75% recovered from the injury he suffered at Kansas in the beginning of the season. He broke his leg in that game and only took off one month before returning to action and helping his team to the NCAA tournament. By the time private workouts start in a couple of weeks, he hopes to be 100%. He was very proud of the fact that he managed to dunk off his bad leg (three times he signaled with a big smile) the day I was there for the first time since breaking his leg. He is still a very smooth athlete, quick in the open court without the ball, that much is clear, but nowhere near where as explosive as he's been for most of his career. He was very tight to start off the workout as well, and only really got going about mid-way through.

There is some positive news to report, though. For one, he measured out in front of me at 6-5, also an inch taller than he was listed at Lafayette. He says this was no surprise to him at all. At that height, on a 205 pound frame, you can bet that he is built like few PG's in the NBA are right now, somewhat reminiscent of Dwyane Wade (just in terms of his body) with just a slightly less impressive wingspan. Probably more important is the fact that despite only being here for three days, his shot has been completely reworked, and of all the shots I saw him take he only went back to his old ugly form once in the entire workout (at the very end of the workout on a full-court sprint leading into a catch and shoot). He was shooting the ball pretty well from both the college three point line and from mid-range, which is definitely a good sign for him.

Besides that, evaluating PG's in a workout like this isn't easy, because PG's are usually measured in areas that just don't show up in this type of setting. He had a chance to show off his passing skills a bit in two specific drills, one where he needs to make a full-court pass to a cutting man off a rebound--always lobbing the ball in front of his target like a quarterback would do when trying to find his receiver in the end-zone—and the other in two handed bullet passes from the half-court line to a man driving towards the baseline. The passes were always crisp and right on the money, and that's exactly where he excels at right now—setting the table.

Greene's biggest strength as a player, being a fantastic defender who can guard both the 1 and 2 positions, were not on display at this particular workout. He's going to have to wait for either private workouts with NBA teams in the next few weeks or a miracle invite to the Chicago pre-draft camp for that. As far as I know, in order to avoid injuries which can be fatal to a player's draft stock, they do not do organized pickup games at Five Star PTC, so we probably won't have a chance to evaluate his defense later on either. The fact that he was named the Sun-Belt conference defensive player of the year two years in a row should probably tell you all you need to know about that, though.

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