Trainers- Taking Your Game to the Next Level

The high school basketball season is over and you are trying to take your basketball game to the next level. You might play club basketball, compete in spring and summer leagues or open runs at the local park or gym, all of which will help you get better as a player as basketball is a game of repetition. Many high school basketball players also hire the services of basketball trainers who use organized workouts and basketball instruction to improve players’ skills.

“Skill development is important, because you have a lot of guys playing who do not have any fundamentals,” said Donovan Blythe, head of the Peninsula Youth Basketball Camp. “Kids today are playing so much AAU basketball and Rec league ball, that they do not take the time to work on there individual skills.”

Blythe has been working on and off with youth in basketball skill development for the past seventeen years. A former coach at the high school level at Emery and San Mateo High School, he is a well known basketball guru on the peninsula. While he runs his basketball camps in the summer, Blythe also trains college and high school players on shooting, dribbling and other areas of basketball skill work.

In the past, Blythe has trained some of the best basketball players in the country, including Jason Kidd, Michael Stewart and Brent Barry with the San Antonio Spurs. He says he is amazed at the large number of today’s basketball players who do not take the time to work on the things they need to improve as players.

“People don’t understand that Michael Jordan practiced his fade away jumper and Tim Hardaway practiced his killer crossover. These guys put in the work for them to get better and master their games,” said Blythe.

What does a basketball trainer do?

Basketball training involves fundamentals such as shooting and dribbling. Some trainers work on skills specifically for guards, forwards and centers, such as foot work and position play. Other trainers take the time out to work on individual defense, or basketball concepts which relate to team basketball.

Tony Freccero, head of the Triple Threat Academy, says that basketball fundamentals make up a lot of what he along with Lou Richie, his partner in the Triple Threat Academy, work on.

“In our group trainings, we re-introduce the fundamentals,” said Freccero. “But we also work on explosiveness. We want kids to be athletic and fundamental as much as possible.”

The Triple Threat Academy offers two workouts in a group setting; explosiveness and shooting workouts. The shooting workouts include shooting form, shooting off the catch and dribble. The explosiveness workouts feature agility drills, plyometrics and methods to increase athleticism.

“We then incorporate this into working on open court moves and moves to the basket,” said Freccero. “Guys who have worked out with us have gone from non-starters to all-league players.”

Taking the next step

Jeremy Russotti is intense when he talks about basketball and developing skill level.

“Most colleges recruit players based on potential rather than skill,” said Russotti. “But in Europe, the basketball philosophy is different than it is in the United States. Over there, the focus is on skill building, rather than playing.”

Russotti said that this is one of the reasons that the NBA and colleges are beginning to look overseas for skilled players, which was something unheard of five to ten years ago. As the coach at Casa Grande three years ago, he was fortunate enough to coach an exchange student, Angelo Tsagarakis, who confimed Russotti’s theory.

Tsagarakis, now playing at Oregon State University, was one of the most lethal shooters in North Bay history. A native of France, Angelo was a lights out shooter, who could hit from well beyond NBA range. His play along with the play of Josh Akognon, now at Washington State University, helped Russotti focus on skill development.

“When you develop skill, your game changes,” said Russotti. “The problem is that most kids do not develop their skills, so they get bigger and stronger, but their game does not expand or improve.”

How do you know it is working?

So now you have hired a trainer and you want to see results. How long will it take? While a player may train, change does not happen overnight. It takes constant work including work on your own.

Skills also need to be implemented into your game, as some people may train and train and train, but they never use what they work on in live game settings. Getting better in basketball takes working on your skills and playing.

“Basketball is like taking the same test over and over and not studying,” said Russotti. “You might get better at taking the test, but how much better do you think you would have done if you would have studied. Working on your game is studying.”