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Q&A with Williams Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Maker

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Now in the midst of his fourth season as head men’s basketball coach at Williams College (MA), Mike Maker has certainly made his presence felt at the Division III level. A longtime Div. I assistant for programs like West Virginia and Creighton, Maker has produced an overall record of 90-17 in his short tenure at Williams, leading the program to a pair of Final Four appearances, and earning NESCAC Coach of the Year honors in 2010.

In the latest edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions editor Adam Warner sits down with the Ephs’ head coach. Maker details some of his all-time favorite drills, reveals why he made the switch to Div. III hoops, and also dishes out advice for players and fellow coaches around the country.

AW: Your squad is currently 13-3 and about to enter into the bulk of its conference schedule. Talk about the current campaign so far. How would you assess the season right now?

MM: “It’s been an interesting year. We’ve had a lot of hurdles placed in front of us in regards to injuries, but I think our men have handled it well. We’ve had three setbacks and each time the next game we have bounced back. They are resilient. I’m confident in the guys and hopefully we are as close to being healthy as we have been all season and ready to make a run late in the season.”

Who do you see as your toughest foes to beat in order to capture that elusive national championship?

“For us it’s about getting better each day. It’s not about what team we play. That’s been our theme for the last few weeks. We value each day and see it as an opportunity to compete in practice and get better. We have one of the most challenging schedules in the country. In my opinion, we play in the best conference in all of Division III — one with deep talent — and we need to be at our best.”

Can you take readers through a typical week of practice? How does the format change from the preseason or early season?

“Each year is different. We accumulate a lot of information from previous seasons. It’s my fourth year here and we haven’t done the same thing this year as previous years. This week, it’s about us. We play Skidmore tonight at home. This week, we’ve done a lot of film work, making lots of corrections, and working on getting better quality shots. Our three-point shooting isn’t close to what we are accustomed to, so we are working hard offensively to get better.”

How would you describe a typical Mike Maker practice?

“I’ve had a lot of mentors and I’ve learned a lot from each of them. My practices are similar to Coach (John) Beilein’s at West Virginia or Michigan. We try to learn a lot from him and have adopted a lot of his concepts. Our team tries to be very skilled-oriented and we work hard on the offensive end of the floor — concepts like dribbling, passing, five guys playing as one, and shooting a high percentage from the field.

We want to be aggressive offensively and score in the 80s, shoot 50 percent from the field, and make more free throws than our opponents attempt. We’ve been doing that except for the last few weeks and we hope to get that confidence and rhythm back. Defensively, we’ve been good by the numbers. It’s been solid this year. We don’t try to steal, rather, we try to keep people in front of us, protect the basket, and keep teams off the foul line.”

What’s the key to motivating players throughout a long season – especially during tough stretches?

“My job is easy. I have highly motivated players and great assistants. I think I’ve surrounding myself with quality people who are motivated – -especially when it comes to community, the classroom, and basketball. We have a rich basketball tradition here. It doesn’t supersede the academic experience, but it’s important. We have 15 players that don’t put themselves above the team agenda. Our assistants add so much to the team and are great role models for our players. We try to embrace each day and try to get better.”

Talk about some of your favorite all-time drills. Why are they so effective?

“I learned a number of them under Coach Beilein at West Virginia. Our drills reflect our offensive schemes. For instance, we do a lot of layups, driving layups, and backdoor layups from various angles. We use our dominant hand around the rim, no matter which side of the rim we are at. We take a lot of shots in practice from behind the arc in various ways. It could be two guys and one ball, team shooting, and a lot of shooting off the catch.”

Can you recall a favorite drill of your players?

“It’s the Moneyball shooting drill. It’s highly competitive and game-like and involves shot fakes, drives, starting and stopping your dribble without traveling, and passing to teammates. Each player takes four shots. One shot is worth three points, and the rest are worth one point. It really simulates late-game situations, too.”

After roughly 17 years as a coach at the Division I level, why did you decide to make the switch to Division III?

“I didn’t look at it as a Division III job, but as a premier job at any level. With its academic reputation and rich basketball tradition, Williams is like Duke of Division III. I grew up an hour south of Stanford in California, so if I can’t be the coach there or at Duke, I can’t imagine a better place to coach than Williams. I believe I’m surrounded by highly-motivated student athletes who use basketball as a vehicle to get the best education in the world. I think I learn as much from my players as they learn from me.”

What’s unique about coaching at the Division III level?

“Well, coming from Division I, you can’t start practice until November 1 in the NESCAC, and you’re not allowed to do individual fall or spring workouts – and I love to teach. Yet, the model is a healthy one in regards to fostering a positive overall experience for individual student athletes. There’s not an overemphasis on athletics.”

What do you look for in the ultimate basketball player?

“I want someone who is highly passionate about basketball, has a high basketball IQ, a good teammate, and has a certain toughness about them. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack with the parameters we have here academically, but I enjoy the challenge of finding young men that fit the cores values of our institution, can thrive here, and fit into what we’re trying to do as a basketball program. I look for skilled players that put the team first; young men with good vision that share the ball.”

What’s some of the best advice you can give to an aspiring coach or new coach in basketball?

“Put the kids first. I’ve learned from my coaches that you’re teachers first. It’s a wonderful profession to mold young people and learn life lessons through sport. Basketball is a great vehicle for that. Also, learn how to handle success with humility and how to handle adversity when life throws you a curveball. This is a great venue to do that as an educator.”

What do you consider your greatest achievement as coach to date?

“I’ve been really lucky. I have one of the best jobs in the country and I feel blessed. I’ve had some high and low moments personally, but I think the best one in basketball was actually as a sibling and watching my brother (Wyatt) cut down the nets on the 1985 Villanova championship team.”

To check out Maker’s exclusive Championship Productions DVD, click here. To read more Q&A’s featuring some of the nation’s top coaches and instructors, click here.

Coaches Corner: Q&A with Southport (IN) Head Coach Wes Peek

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the latest edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions editor Adam Warner sits down with Southport (IN) high school boys basketball coach Wes Peek. The Cardinals’ head coach reveals his two favorite drills of all-time, details his affinity for social media, and explains exactly why Indiana basketball is so unique compared to any other state.

What do you find most rewarding about coaching high school basketball?

“We have the chance to have a real impact on kids. We may not have a ton of college-bound kids, so it’s about improving situations, getting a better education, and where they fit basketball-wise and academically. Meanwhile, there are a lot of habits you can change on and off the court. You see less of that in college. You get hand picked kids there but you take the good with the bad here. You do the best you can with the kids that you have. It’s a huge challenge every day to look at 15 to 18-year-old kids and get them to buy in and play together and put personal wishes aside. It’s a lot of fun to come to work.”

With all of the distractions today, what’s the key to motivating young players – especially over the course of a long season?

“Every day must be different, although you still have to have some routine to your drill work. We’re always looking for different ways to communicate. We live in a digital society now, so the team does a lot with Twitter. Plus, I think it helps with recruiting and communicating in general.

We also do a lot of things with competition. For instance, every drill has a winner and a loser at practice. While the winners get Powerade, the losers run and drink water. It’s the little things, but the kids get after each other for it. When you do this, you create an environment where they crave competition and get excited about coming to practice. The kids must know you care about them – and not just about them as an athlete. We attend football games, choir concerts, and more. We try to get to these different events all throughout the year. If you can motivate in other ways by showing that you care, then I think you’ll get the most out of them.”

What do you look for in the ultimate high school basketball player?

“We have set criteria. You must be competitive, unselfish, and have high character. While it’s important that you’re able to play, I’d rather have a high charcter guy that competes and is team minded over a guy that’s talented but just wants to do his own thing. If you can find guys that are all competitive and can share a common goal — regardless of talent — then you can certainly work with them.”

You’re a coach that’s well involved in social media. What got you into it in the first place and what role do you think social media plays in sport today – even at the high school level?

“For us, we use it to promote our kids. There aren’t many college coaches that don’t follow Twitter now. I have over 600 followers and it’s certainly a way to get kids’ names out there and inform others of what they are doing. It has increased the amount of traffic in our gym during evaluation periods and has allowed our kids to be more visible. Also, kids today communicate differently. They’d rather text or send a Facebook message than talk face-to-face. It’s certainly the quickest way to get information to them now. I got into it when I first came here to Southport when I had guys that were recruitable.”

Can you talk about some of your all-time favorite team drills?

The first one is called “5-on-5, Three Times and Out.” It simulates being down six, tied, or up six. You got to get three stops and three scores in a row to get out of the drill. It’s basically what the game of basketball is, a game of making runs. You start with a time limit and get three points for every score or stop. When the other team scores, you add a full point back on to their total. It’s all about getting a stop, and valuing a possession and score, and I think its something very valuable. When we get into a time out situation and maybe the game is tied and we need to pull away, we tell the players “5-on-5 Three Times and Out.” It’s a good drill, builds competitiveness, and forces your leaders to lead.

Also, there’s “Two Trip Flow.” It’s a 5-on-0 offensive drill where you start with the ball out of bounds. Players take it the other way and then come back with a half-court set. In a short amount of time, you can build your transition offense, half-court man offense, and zone stuff, too. Our kids have gravitated to this drill. It’s fast-paced, plus they must think, make quick decisions, and communicate with each other. And it’s been a good tool for teaching them what they need to do in order to win.”

What’s some of the best advice you can give to a new coach out there just getting started in the game?

“Don’t compromise what your values are. Don’t try to be something that you aren’t. Kids pick up on that quickly. From a consistency standpoint, you can’t be tough one day and then easy the next.

Second, your kids must know you care about them. You can’t be an in-season coach.  Take interest in them year-round. Make them feel like you really have a love for your guys. For us, I think we’re father figures for a lot of them. We try to make it a family situation.

Also, whatever you’re going to do, you must know how to teach it. There is so much stuff out there today and different ways to do things. As a coach, you must have a comfort level with knowing what you are doing and talking about. Take an entire offseason before implementing something entirely new to you. If you’re going to teach something, know it in and out.”

What’s so different about Indiana basketball than anywhere else in the country?

“It really matters, especially in the smaller communities. On Friday and Saturday nights, you know where everyone in town is at. I can’t imagine another state being as rabid about basketball. From all of the TV, newspaper, and Internet coverage, it’s a big deal around here. The fans are passionate and it makes it so fun to be a part of.”

What’s one of your biggest pet peeves?

“A lack of toughness.”

What’s your career highlight to date?

“Watching kids graduate.”

What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

“My iPod is similar to what our players’ iPods look like. I’m not as old as I look or old as I seem.”

Wes Peek has teamed up with Championship Productions to produce a pair of new basketball DVDs highlighting the Pick & Roll Offense. Be sure to check out our newest basketball DVDs by visiting our hoops library. The latest videos feature the likes of Tom Izzo, Matt Painter, Seth Greenberg, and Billy Donovan.

Coaches Corner: Q&A with Georgetown Women’s Coach Ricky Fried

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In the latest edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions editor Adam Warner sits down with Georgetown women’s head lacrosse coach Ricky Fried. Now in his eighth season as head coach of the Hoyas, Fried has compiled an overall record of 84-47 and led his team to five NCAA tournaments — including a Big East Championship in 2010.

In this week’s Q&A, Fried explains what he looks for in the ultimate lacrosse player, details one of his all-time favorite drills, and even reveals some of his coaching superstitions.

Talk about your background and how you eventually came to be the head coach at Georgetown.

“I grew up playing men’s lacrosse and had aspirations to coach after college. I started out coaching at The Gilman School as an assistant. After my second year, I had a great opportunity to get into girls lacrosse and eventually coached at Johns Hopkins as an assistant and helped transition the program from Division III into a Division I contender. The Georgetown assistant job became available and I applied to that and got that job with Kim Simons.  She eventually decided to stop coaching and it fell into place. After 11 years as an assistant, I became a head coach in 2005.”

How would you define your coaching philosophy?

“Every coach’s philosophy will evolve to some degree. A lot is based on the talent level you get, the type of players you get, and dictated by the school you are at. I believe that anyone successful will evolve their approach to what they do, but not necessarily drastically. The big thing now is that players know that you care about them as players and people. When that happens you can push them more. It’s not personal and you can get the most out of them. It’s a lot about relationships and what motivates your players and what motivates you.”

What’s the key to developing a winning program and keeping a winning tradition year after year?

“It’s about confidence in the players. They all have skills and they’re all competitive. But developing the confidence in individuals leads to what you are teaching them, whether it be rides or offensive sets. It’s also about bringing in quality players and people so we are constantly competitive. True competitiveness allows you to rise to the top.”

What does it take to motivate players today?

“It’s all about relationships — getting to know what drives them and pushes their buttons. They are all competitive or else they wouldn’t be doing it. Plus, it’s key to have a healthy balance. Education is clearly more important than lacrosse. While it doesn’t minimize it, no one in the near future will make a living playing lacrosse. So the players need a healthy perspective. We only go three days a week in the fall. They understand the goals and why they are here. I think the down time in the fall keeps them fresh.”

What do you find most rewarding about coaching college lacrosse?

“Watching young girls grow into women and the whole maturation process. For instance, when the girls learn about themselves on and off the field and the lessons that carry both ways. Watching them mature and do things they didn’t think they could do when they first got here. And then seeing them surpass those goals and how it correlates into the success they have as adults in the real world.”

What are your personal goals as a lacrosse coach – short and long term?

“I have no specific goals personally. I am very happy where I am. And coaching at the US level, it’s very exciting for me. For me, the annual goal is about getting the most out of our players and seeing improvement on and off the field. Also, it’s important that we are competitive not only at the conference level, but also at the national level on a consistent basis.”

From a recruiting standpoint, what do you look for in the ultimate college lacrosse player?

“We look for lots of intangibles. Most players at this level already have their skills developed and have a sense of the game more, so some of the biggest things are competitive nature, how they react to mistakes, and how mistakes affect them for an extended period of time. Also, outside of stickwork, speed, and agility, it’s about attracting players that want to be here and have priorities comparable to mine and to Georgetown’s.”

What’s the best advice you can give to a fellow coach just getting started in the sport?

“Know the rules. Understand the difference between men’s and women’s lacrosse so you can teach it safely. It’s vital. Second, reach out of your comfort zone and talk to those at a higher level and ask them questions. Get videos to teach you. Go to coaches clinics and conventions and enhance your ability to learn new things. We still do this and figure out new ways to learn and how to tweak things and make it better. Also, coach because you enjoy it. If you are easily getting frustrated, you are coaching for the wrong reasons.”

Talk about one of your all-time favorite drills. What’s it called and why is it effective?

“It’s called the Yale Drill. It’s a simple drill but everyone gets excited about it. It’s offense against defense. It involves smaller tight situations so players must make quick decisions. It works on player skills, especially catching and throwing and defensive positioning. When moving the ball to an open area, we focus on reading the defense rather than focusing on offense. It’s like a quarterback in football, he looks at what defense is doing and that tells him which receiver is going to be open.”

Do you have any coaching superstitions?

“Getting out to field before anyone else during the day and having a moment where nothing is going on. It’s a special feeling and it gets me excited for the rest of the day.”

Do you have any pet peeves?

“Offside calls or non-calls.”

What do you consider your career highlight to date?

“Winning the gold medal in Prague with the US World Cup team. There’s also my first season as an assistant coach at Johns Hopkins and going to the Final Four. And then there’s the 2010 Big East Championship. Hopefully, the biggest is yet to come.”

If you weren’t a lacrosse coach or involved with the game, what do you think you’d be doing professionally?


What are your hobbies and interests off the lacrosse field?

“Biking, spending time with my family at the beach, and being outside in the water.”

Can you reveal something about you that most people don’t know?

“I was born in Germany. Also, my given name is Page.”

Ricky Fried recently teamed up with Championship Productions to produce the lacrosse DVD “Small Drills for Offensive Lacrosse Fundamentals.” To check out more skill development videos in our extensive library, click here.

Coaches Corner: Q&A with Navy Coach Rick Sowell

By adam.warner - Last updated: Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In the latest edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions editor Adam Warner sits down with new Navy men’s head lacrosse coach Rick Sowell. After going 47-26 in five seasons at Stony Brook and leading his squad to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2010, Sowell accepted the head coaching position at Navy earlier this year. In this week’s Q&A, Sowell explains why he accepted the job at Navy, details one of his all-time favorite drills, and also reveals how his coaching staff prepares during the offseason.

First off, talk about how the transition has been from Stony Brook to Navy?

“It’s been great. It really has. The support surrounding the program has been amazing. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms and it’s been a relatively easy transition.”

What prompted you to take this new challenge with Navy?

“I’ve been fortunate to work at some tremendous academic institutions throughout my career: Georgetown, Dartmouth, St. John’s, and Stony Brook, but this opportunity was unique. The combination of working at such a prestigious institution with young men who aspire to and will someday become future leaders of our great country was a unique opportunity.”

You have a track record of giving new life to programs. What’s been the key to building a new or struggling program into a winner?

“I think there are a variety of factors that come into play. Starting with the team, it’s about changing a culture, or developing one if it’s a new program, which for me is based on being good citizens in the community, working hard both in the classroom and on the field, and doing the right thing at the right time.

On the field, my philosophy is about player development, which I try and keep simple. We look to develop sound fundamental habits, I expect our players to give 100 percent effort every day, and then from there, it’s about utilizing the talent that we have assembled. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with great assistants over the years who have been dedicated to helping me develop these programs.”

Talk about the offseason a bit. It’s now October, what’s the coaching staff currently focused on? Walk through a typical week for the coaches.

“Currently, we are focused on finding out just who we are as a team, what are our strengths and our weaknesses, and how to take advantage of the talent we have here.  This process started about a month ago, and I will say it has been fun getting to know the guys, getting to hear their stories and how they ended up at the Naval Academy, and what it means for them to be a part of this program. A big part of it is taking the time to evaluate the kids on the field, in the weight room, and get an opportunity to know them as people. At the same time, we are introducing our philosophy and terminology — whether it’s offense and defense, drills, or clearing. There are lots of things going on at one time.”

What’s a typical Rick Sowell practice like? Is it intense, fun, informative? How would you describe it?

“I would describe my practices as all of the above — intense, fun and informative.  I like practices that move along — from drill to drill to drill. We teach the fundamental aspects of the game. I like to keep things simple. Sometimes strategy is overrated so we focus on those little things that will resurface late in a game and could be the difference between winning and losing.

They aren’t necessarily run-and-gun practices. We try to scrimmage every day, and there is no better way to learn the game then to actually play it. As is the case, I believe, with most coaches, the focus shifts from day to day. One day it might be offense, the next day it might be defense.”

Can you think of a favorite drill of yours that you’ve used with your teams over the years? Why is it effective?

“We call it the Breakdown Drill. It’s a 1-on-1 drill. I’m a big fan of dodging off the pass, so many of our dodge drills are off passes. We like to incorporate a pass from the players or coaches throwing to the dodger.

We simply put a bag of balls at the GLE and a dodger will be up in an alley and close enough to catch and shoot it. Or he will make a dodge and make a play off the pass. The defender sags in off ball, and as the ball moves from GLE to the dodger the defender will come out to break down the player. That defender must fly out under the control and defend the dodger as the ball arrives.

This drill forces the defender to stop the offensive player’s momentum and he must run with him. Offensively, it lets you work on different types of dodges and using a defender as a screen. Also, it allows offensive guys to work on creative moves, incorporating stick fakes and shake n bakes. It allows a lot of repetitions. We also don’t like lines being too long. If you ask the Stony Brook guys, this is definitely one of their favorite drills. It’s not all that complicated. We will do it up top, down the alleys, down the middle, from the wings, from behind, and invert. It’s also a chance to develop good moves off the pass. We get a lot out of this drill.”

What’s the best lacrosse moment in your career?

“My senior year, 1985 at Washington College, we broke Hobart’s 44-game Division III win streak. We beat them 8-7 at home in overtime. I had five goals including the game-winner in overtime. That was a tremendous moment. Unfortunately, they beat us in the national title game a month later, so they had the last laugh. I grew up watching Hobart and to be able to break their winning streak was a huge thrill.”

What’s your biggest pet peeve as a coach?

“Velcro. When I’m in the huddle and I hear Velcro it drives me nuts, but the players learn quickly to not do it.”

What are some of your favorite hobbies off the lacrosse field?

“I like to stay fit and try to go to the gym five or six days a week. I try to mix things up, usually lifting or cardio. I also like golf but I stink at it and it is frustrating. I’m the type of athlete who needs to practice to get good at something, but at the end of the day my time is limited, so my improvement has been at a snail’s pace. I also play some basketball. A good workout puts me in a good frame of mind.”

What’s the best advice you can give to a new coach in the game? How about a rising player in the game?

“For coaches, try to gather all the information you can. When you’re young, it’s about trying to develop a philosophy. There are a lot of great coaches out there and you should try to tap into those resources. Go to practices, call them on the phone, and pick their brain. Don’t think you know it all. Be willing to seek information and different types of strategies. Eventually you’ll take certain concepts from different people and form your own philosophy. Try to learn and take in as much as you can and don’t be afraid to reach out.”

“As for players, make sure you play other sports. Be a multi-sport athlete. Especially at a younger age, the more sports you can play, the better — even if it’s just two sports. The value of what you get out of playing other sports far supersedes saying you’ll just focus on playing lacrosse year-round. It’s good to compete in other sports. There’s no better exercise than competition. Also, go to college games or pro games. You can really learn a lot from watching older kids play the game.”

Rick Sowell recently teamed up with Championship Productions to produce the lacrosse DVD “All-Access Lacrosse Practice with Rick Sowell.” To check out more All-Access videos in our extensive library, click here.

Q&A with Renowned Basketball Instructor Ganon Baker

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions’ editor Adam Warner sits down with renowned basketball instructor Ganon Baker. As the owner of Ganon Baker Basketball, the Hampton, Virginia native dishes out basketball training, instruction, drills, camps and clinics from the youth level all the way up to the NBA. Baker reveals some of his unique coaching techniques, how he trains NBA superstars, and describes some effective drills for shooting and ball handling.

Talk about your background a bit, where you grew up, how you got involved with the game.

“I grew up in Hampton, Virginia. My Dad was a high school coach and played basketball in college at Randolph-Macon College. He was my role model and I picked up the game from him. My grandpa Bill was also influential. He made a homemade basket on the porch of his house and lived across the street from us.

I played college basketball at Duquesne University and then later UNC Wilmington. I played pro basketball in Iceland. At the age of 30, I had a tryout with the Denver Nuggets for their summer league team. From the age of 18, I worked at Five-Star Basketball Camp every summer as a counselor. Howard Garfinkel was a major influence on me and really gave me the confidence to succeed.

I also served as an assistant college coach for five years, first at Hampton University, then Belmont Abbey College, and then Coastal Carolina University with Pete Strickland. He is one of the best teachers around. He turned simple concepts into dynamic teaching points.

The person now that I still learn from and continues to inspire me is Kevin Eastman, now an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics. I played for him at UNC Wilmington for a year and then we hooked up in 1997. He was running a skills clinic at Randolph Macon for 20 high school players in a gym that had no air conditioning. It was late at night and he was teaching us about the game. I remember him being so passionate. He ran this clinic long before it was even popular. Eastman was a pioneer.

Eventually, I took over some of these concepts of skilled workouts and built on those. There was a big need for it. I started my business at the age of 29 and I’ve been a skills coach for 10 years now.”

What’s your philosophy when it comes to the game of basketball?

“I’ve always thought that basketball is a platform to help kids succeed in life. My parents preached this, too. Jerry Wainwright came to UNC Wilmington after Eastman left and talked about life through basketball. I want to teach kids how good they can be in life. Basketball is only a short part of it.

I want to help them stretch their mind and body. I want to make them uncomfortable. I’m a confrontational teacher. I’m in your face and always going from good to great. I want to take an average player and make him good and make a great player into a superior player. I am never satisfied with what the players are doing. I encourage right and correct wrong. I deal in truth and reality.

I want to teach players about solutions. For example, when the defense does this, then you do this, this, or this. When I’m watching them, I have polaroid eyes. They can’t see themselves. I like to be efficient with my workouts. Kids must learn quickly these days. They must be stimulated or they quit easier than in previous years. The key is to get to success quickly. Therefore, I also must be a good teacher. After a week or two, or maybe after a few days, they start to see the light and say, “Yeah, I’ve got it.” It then becomes a light bulb moment.

I try to teach players how to have every skill on offense. I teach guards the same thing I teach the big guys. I don’t put numbers on players. So after awhile, they can all pass, shoot, finish, and play balanced. I’m looking to create a player who doesn’t have any offensive weakness.

I was around Kobe Bryant for five days at a skills academy. One day a kid asked him, “What are your weaknesses?” He responded, “I don’t have any weaknesses.” And he was dead serious. My goal is to create the ultimate basketball player.”

You now head up Ganon Baker Basketball. What drove you to wanting to become a basketball instructor? Why is it important?

“I love getting on the court and sweating with the players. I love the skill development aspect of it and making players better so they can make the team better. I have a passion for it and I love it.

I’m also a Christian. I thought that this was my calling and what God wanted me to do. I had no clue if I was able to do this or not. I’d say three or four guys around 2001 were doing what I was doing at the time. But I started out with one kid and $200 bucks in the business bank. And now we’ve been to 19 countries and have eight “Level 3” trainers and 11 “Level 2” trainers. I’m currently training Amare Stoudemire down here in Miami.

As a human being, if you have a purpose and a passion, you can be unstoppable. With God, all things are possible. He gave me a vision. And still to this day, I don’t have fear. A small business can be stressful. But I have no fear – this is what I am supposed to do. I want to leave a legacy of how to run a great program, help kids improve their skills and have a platform and the intangibles to be successful in life.”

Your clinics and camps take you all over the world. Can you name some of the most interesting places you have visited?

“Lithuania. I loved it because of the skill level of the kids and the overall passion. Scotland. I admired the grittiness and toughness of the kids. Qatar in the Middle East was memorable for the culture. For instance, the girls wore clothing so you couldn’t see their skin. They were starving for basketball knowledge. Also, Australia, the Bahamas, Germany, Italy, and Greece have been memorable stops in the past.”

You also work as an NBA Skill Development Coach. Talk about some of the pro players you have worked with over the years. How often do you still work with them and in what capacity?

“Their agents will call or they will call me directly. They’ll say, ‘I want to work on X, Y, and Z.’ They are very specific and detailed and how what exactly they have to work on. A lot of it comes from the coaches. They tell the players what they need to work on specifically. They are more mature than other players at lower levels. I don’t have to be as tough on them and I don’t influence them as much. I say, ‘Let’s Go.’ It’s more about keeping them not bored and having a good workout. The players will say to me, ‘I need to work on this, what do you have?'”

Can you recommend an effective shooting drill that you’ve taught over the years?

“For beginners, I recommend form shooting, one-hand shooting, chair shooting, and taking shots around the lane. For intermediate players, there are some great toss drills. For instance, you can toss the ball, let it bounce, and get it, and then see how many shots you can make in 10. For elite players, we do that same drill from 3, and then add a dribble move off of it or a triple-threat or jab move.”

Do you have a favorite ball handling drill?

“I love two-ball drills. So instead of doing everything with one ball, you do it with two. On my DVD’s, we throw the ball against the wall and then shoot with the other. There’s a lot of work on moving off the dribble, too. Players should really work on their ability to be equal with the right and left hand. It’s also key to have good hand-eye coordination, being able to pass, finish shots, and drive with both hands.”

You can certainly teach a player how to shoot or dribble. But how do you teach a player about motivation, desire, and drive?

“There is no drill for that. Players are in control of their own emotions and thoughts. All you can do as a coach is to create an environment that stimulates them. Speak powerfully and have works of affirmation. Drop “Bombs” and give them a word that penetrates them and gets them fired up. As a player, it’s up to you to be motivated.”

To check out more information about Ganon Baker Basketball, click here. To view our exclusive Ganon Baker DVD collection, click here.


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