From junior high to high school, high school to college, and then college to the pros, real players want to climb the proverbial ladder and prove they have what it takes to excel at the highest level possible.
Players all over the world work on their strength, quickness, agility, hops, and overall conditioning level as well as hone their ball handling and shooting with hopes of playing at a prestigious high school or attaining a coveted college scholarship or professional contract. And the competition to play at each of those levels is fierce and gets exponentially more difficult the higher you go.
As a former player as well as a professional basketball specific strength & conditioning coach, I have been around the game, at every level, for most of my life. I have had hundreds of lengthy conversations with the best high school, college, and professional coaches, scouts, and evaluators in the nation.
While we usually discuss a variety of topics, the conversation, in some shape or form, usually comes back to what it takes for a player to elevate to the next level. Can he play D-I? Is he a mid major player? Can he handle the ACC? Where will he go in this year's NBA draft? Can he play in the league? Overseas?
When talking about a specific player, they all say the same thing: to get to the next level, you have to do the little things. If you are a gifted athlete with some serious bounce, it is certainly possible you can have a stellar high school career without developing your off hand or working on your mid-range game. You simply overpower your opponents and take the ball to the cup with authority and have no problem averaging 25 a game.
I have seen several All-American caliber players have glaring weaknesses like these in their game. But those weaknesses hold them back at the next level. Even if you are lucky enough to earn a scholarship to play at Duke or Georgetown, do you think Coach K or JT III is going to play you if you can't go left? Or hit an open 17 footer? Nope. And if you somehow manage to go through college without improving these deficiencies, you can forget about playing pro and making the big bucks. This reiterates the importance of evaluating your weaknesses and improving them!
When I talk about doing the little things, I don't mean just skills and physical attributes. Competent coaches, scouts, and evaluators look at much more when deciding if you can play at the next level.
I had the pleasure of going to a big-time college game a year ago with a good friend of mine who is an NBA scout for the Chicago Bulls. This gentleman has coached basketball at every level (high school-NBA) and has a brilliant basketball mind. He is integral in helping the Bulls decide which players they should draft. The homework he does on a potential draftee is astounding.
We met for this Big East conference game because he had a several players he needed to watch and evaluate as possible draft picks. We got to the arena two hours before tip-off. Why? So he could watch how the players he was scouting prepared for the game. He wanted to see if they were focused, what they did in order to get ready to play, and if they stretched and warmed up properly. During the game he watched for their overall attitude, their body language, and how they interacted with their coach and teammates. And he was watching college All-Americans! This goes to show that someone is always watching.
I recently read an article in Basketball Times about coach Bob McKillop of Davidson, who is without question, one of the top coaches in college basketball. He reiterated my sentiments 100 percent:
"When I am recruiting a young man to play at Davidson, I look at what he does when he comes out of the game. Does he walk to the bench or run? Does he mope or high five his teammates? When he is in the game, does he want to take big shots? Does he dive on the floor for loose balls? How is his body language when being coached? Is he an eye roller? Is he a shoulder shrugger?"
Long story short, if you want to get to the next level, whether that is college or the NBA, you need to do the little things. Doing the little things add up to a big deal! And remember, someone is always watching.