Aaron Torres On “The Unlikeliest Champion”

This evening I had the chance to chat with Aaron Torres about his new book “The Unlikeliest Champion.” We talked about the writing process, the challenges he faced during the writing process, what parts of the process have been rewarding , and he gave his case as to why this book would make a great Christmas gift.

Here’s the link to order the book. You can also contact Aaron directly via email (atorres00@gmail.com) if you want a signed copy of the book at no additional charge.

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Filippi Talks About “Shoot Like The Pros”

I’ve been playing basketball since I was in elementary school and coaching since I was in high school, so it’s tough to find a book on coaching or skill development that catches my attention.

I usually dig through a handful of books each year with the hope that I can add a new drill or improve my coaching in some way but there are times when this becomes a tedious routine. Adam Filippi’s new book “Shoot Like The Pros” managed to capture my attention while providing me with a handful of drills that I’ll use while coaching my team next season. He was able to use his 10 years as a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers and funnel all of that information into a book that is easy to read for everybody from coaches to players just starting to play the game.

After reading his book, I was able to reach out to Adam and talk with him about Jerry West writing the foreword to his book, the importance of the mental aspect when developing your shooting technique, he explained how he would improve the free throw shooting of Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal and a wide range of other topics from his book.

What did it mean to you when Jerry West agreed to write the foreword to your book?

Jerry West is no doubt the greatest basketball personality in the history of the game. His opinion is the most influential of anyone’s in the NBA…. and it’s always his honest opinion. It was the biggest honor to have one of the people I admire the most write the foreword.

But, it also meant that the book was that good, as Jerry, being the ultimate perfectionist, would’ve been honest and critical enough to tell me if it was not worthy.

When Phil Jackson is quoted as saying, “The best book on this topic I have ever read,” what does that mean to you?

I was kind of surprised! I had never had long conversations with Phil during my 10 years with the Lakers, so I didn’t even know how he would react to me sending him a copy of the manuscript. When I received his testimonial via email I was driving…. I had to pull off the road and it took me a few moments to realize how powerful his words were and how they would boost the book’s credibility. He is the greatest sports coach of all time… and I am grateful for his contribution.

A lot of times the mental aspect is neglected so I loved how you wrote an entire chapter on this. Besides mental visualization, what are some of the mental aspects of shooting that players can work on?

I believe that proper practice will lead to developing a “shooter’s mentality” and confidence. After you build proper technique, you will instill muscle memory in the motion through constant repetition: the more automatic your shot is, the least you will need to “think.” Over-thinking while shooting is often what distracts or inhibits players during games, so you want to avoid that mental frame.

Also, young players need to realize and accept the fact that even great shooters miss nearly half of their shots! If it’s a good shot and within your range, you should take it!

Speaking of the mental aspect of shooting, why do big men like Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal struggle shooting free throw? is it a physical or mental thing? If you were there shooting coach, what tweaks would you make to their free throw shooting?

It would be unfair to “rip” some of the bigger players for their struggles at the foul line. We have to remember that their larger hand size makes them grip the ball different. Just try shooting a volleyball!!! In addition their wider shoulders, especially in Dwight’s case, may not allow them to have an ideal alignment with the rim. They need to make some “natural adaptations” to their shooting techniques. Whoever is coaching these type players has to understand how to “personalize” a shooting technique that fits each athlete. Improper mechanics will lead to poor results, which then will affect the mental approach and confidence.

What tweaks would I make with Howard and Shaq? Well, unless you have the player in front of you, you may not get the full picture, and may think you have the obvious solution….but from what I see with Dwight – First, I would try rotating his body and feet very slightly (something that I do not recommend for most players although many pros have developed this method) to find a better alignment; then I’d force him to extend his feet more and extend elbow at eye level, and finish with his chest, head and shoulders slightly forward…even if he has plenty of strength in his upper body, his rhythm is out of synch and very stiff, so focusing on extending his entire body smoothly is key. I also would like to evaluate how well he sees the rim, as I always see him tilt his head slightly to his left which could affect his release. In addition I’d quicken his routine, as he does too much thinking which just increases the mental pressure on each shot.

Shaq actually has a little touch and you can see it on his turnaround. His hands are huge, but he also has a flexibility problem with his right wrist so he can’t cock it back at all as he grips the ball… this forces him “throw” the ball without any arc, so it has poor chances of dropping even if he is focused. I would definitely decrease the space between his fingers a bit in order to make his hand smaller on the ball and determine how he can “feel” it better. His foul shooting will always be deficient, but no doubt if he had been committed to practice he could’ve reached an acceptable percentage despite his limitations.

How have you used your years or being a scout and coach to write this book?

I love the combination of scouting and skill development. They complement each other great. This approach has led me to personal improvements in both fields. Scouting is the BLUEPRINT to player development: you evaluate the athlete inside out, find his strengths and weaknesses, so you know what to work on and what to perfect. My formation as a professional scout and just being a good observer has been a huge reason for me developing into a skills coach… All the knowledge that I acquired during this entire process led me to writing the book.

Even with your vast knowledge of the game, what are some things you learned while writing this book?

Great question and point. When I finished the book, even before approaching a publisher, I told my wife. “Even if the book doesn’t get picked up or just becomes a guide for my players, I feel that I have improved my knowledge and methodology so much….so it’s already been helpful.”

The project took me exactly two years (from my first words until seeing it released) and during that time I continuously came up with new ideas, concepts, progressions and drills… but also changed my mind a few times regarding some aspects of the skill.

Writing the book was like getting my Master’s in “shooting development”. A great learning experience, that also boosted my confidence in what I am doing.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? What was the most rewarding aspect?

It has been the most challenging project I’ve ever had for sure. The easiest part was what I had anticipated being the hardest: finding a publisher. It was picked up on its first attempt, which automatically told me that it was a good book!

Organizing the content, and then paging the diagrams and photos for my 1st official rough copy to present to people was hard work, but overall writing the book came easy to me. I really felt I was very prepared while I was putting it down on paper (initially I just thought I was writing an article for a coaches magazine… but just couldn’t stop!).

The last couple months before going to print was very stressful: choosing the right NBA photos, getting the players’ quotes, making final corrections and most of all reviewing the proof pages over and over with the editor, maybe finding a new little mistake or phrase that suddenly didn’t make sense.

I am hoping the rewards are still in front of me. I didn’t start this project for a monetary reward, I just saw it as an opportunity to better myself and to put myself in a position to be able to be even more involved with the game I love…. Camps, clinics, more visibility.

When famous NBA people or even friends praise your job it is nice, but even more when you receive emails or calls from total strangers that have enjoyed your work and want to tell you. All these aspects have been already rewarding… but when I opened my mail, and had the published copy finally in my hands …. It was a great satisfaction!

Good luck to everyone, enjoy the book!

Ira Berkow Talks About “Rockin’ Steady: A Guide To Basketball & Cool”

I get bombarded with requests from publishers to review books so over the past few years I’ve gotten kind of “numb” to the process and it takes a lot for a basketball book to grab my attention.

The reissued of edition “Rockin’ Steady: A Guide To Basketball & Cool” was able to grab my attention and I spent an entire evening reading through the book. Between anecdotes from Walt “Clyde” Frazier regarding his NBA career, the great voice the book was written with and some fantastic advice on dealing with women, it made for a captivating read that I had a hard time putting down.

After finishing the book I was able to chat with its co-author, Ira Berkow, about:

* His thoughts when he heard they were going to reissue “Rockin’ Steady”
* How it went from being a basketball instructional book to being an instructional book for life
* Woody Allen had a great response after reading the book when the book was initially released. Ira talked about this and how it gave him a glimpse into how basketball fans would embrace the book
* He explained how he was able to transfer the unique rhythm and style in which Walt “Clyde” Frazier talks into the book

The audio clip below is our quick chat about the book. Enjoy!

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