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Great Article on Great Players- A must Read!

Posted Monday, April 26, 2010 by Jeff Huneau
I get several dozen emails (as well as Twitter/Facebook messages) asking me “what it takes to be a great player.” Here are a few of my thoughts:
 
Over the past three weeks I had the opportunity to work the nation’s two premier high school basketball All-Star events – the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand All-American Classic. As always, being a part of such prestigious events is both an honor and a privilege. Having access to the nation’s top high school players for several straight days gives me valuable insight into what makes them great players.
 
With very few exceptions, elite level players absolutely love to play basketball. They want to play 24-7. Whenever possible they have a ball in their hand and they are always trying to get up shots. They would rather play basketball than do just about anything else (the only thing that even comes close is chasing girls!). When they aren’t playing basketball they are watching it on TV. The game consumes them. And most of them have been this way since they were young. Do you have the same love for the game? Do you have the same passion? I am not implying or suggesting that basketball should be the most important thing in your life… but it should be up there. If you truly want to be great you have to genuinely love the game.
 
I also noticed that the most elite level players are super competitive. They hate to lose. Whether they are playing NBA Live ‘10 or a game of H-O-R-S-E, they always try as hard as possible to win. They never concede. Winning matters. Especially when they are playing against their peers or when bragging rights are on the line. Does winning matter that much to you? How hot does your competitive fire burn? If you want to be a great player you have learn how to compete. Winning has to matter.
 
Despite being the top players in the nation, most of them still fit into one of two categories: those who have a tremendous work ethic and those who are lazy. Unfortunately, many of the players who are the most naturally gifted are also the laziest because they haven’t had to work hard to be successful. They have been able to rely solely on their size, strength, quickness and explosiveness. They aren’t hard to spot. Heck, I can tell in the first 5 minutes of warm-ups which guys like to work and which guys don’t. Regardless of how naturally gifted they are, it will eventually catch up to them… at either the college level or the pro level. Do you enjoy putting in the hard work necessary to be a great player? Or do you constantly look for short cuts and the easy way? The best players look at every workout and every practice as an opportunity to get better. As Kevin Eastman of the Boston Celtics says, “great players look to get from the workout, not through the workout.”
 
Another thing I noticed about the talented players that play in these games are the intangibles of attitude, enthusiasm, manners, punctuality, and appearance (how they present themselves).   Most of the players are energy givers, not energy takers. These players think “we”… not “me.” Their attitude and enthusiasm raises the level of those around them. They are polite, friendly, and engaging. These are the guys who will make it. I will admit the committees that select the players for these prestigious events do an outstanding job of taking character into account. It is very rare that a jerk makes the team. This means if you want to be an All-American you have to be an outstanding player and an outstanding person. Are you an energy giver or an energy taker? Are you always on time? Do you say please and thank you? Those might sound like “small” things; but they aren’t. 
 
Obviously, the players who have the best chance to excel at the next level (whether college or the NBA) are those who combine natural talent, solid fundamentals, an unparalleled work ethic, and have a fantastic attitude. Kevin Durant, the youngest NBA scoring leader in history, is the epitome of those qualities. KD loves to play more than anyone I have ever worked with. KD loves to compete. KD works his butt off every single day. KD is an energy giver. Despite his money, fame, and success, KD is as humble as the day I met him. KD is pure class.
 
If you haven’t already done so, it is time to start thinking about making your off-season as productive as possible. What you do this spring and summer will determine how successful you are next season. Championship programs and elite level players are built in the off-season! That is why THE BEST PLAYERS ARE IN THE BEST SHAPE!
 
Whether you are a coach or a player, here is a three step plan to how you should approach this off-season:
 
1)    Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses (athletically and fundamentally)
2)    Create a comprehensive plan to improve (prioritize AAU vs. individual development)
3)    Implement your plan with effort, enthusiasm, and consistency (deserve success!)

By Alan Stein- Strength and Conditioning Coach at Dematha.  Former strength and conditioning coach at Montrose Academy (Kevin Durrant played there).  Also, Nike, McDonalds All American, and Jordan all star game strenght and conditioning coach.

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