By Richard Paige
Arizona Athletic Media Relations
“Sitting, Waiting, Wishing.”
It’s almost as if surfer-turned-musician Jack Johnson penned those words about the National Basketball Association draft process, kick-started by the end of the college basketball season in March. Those three words go a long way towards describing the three months that lead up to the June NBA Draft.
After spending the last four years as student-athletes, former Wildcat standouts Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire have quickly become students of the business of basketball, where agents, trainers and workouts are of supreme importance.
“Basically, all I do every day is play basketball for three or four hours,” said Frye. “The rest of the time I just rest my body. It’s been a beautiful adjustment. I’m very blessed to be in this situation. I’m living my dream and I’m just trying to take advantage of that. When you think about it, it’s awesome.”
Stoudamire echoed similar sentiments when asked about his new basketball-dominated lifestyle.
“I kind of like it, to tell you the truth,” he said. “It’s all part of the process. I’m going with it to try to increase my stock.”
Increasing your stock is the name of the game this time of year. Every player has the goal of moving himself up the draft board, but there is always a deadline looming. The 2005 NBA Draft is June 28 in New York City.
“It always seemed like the draft was so far away, but coming so quickly at the same time,” said Andre Iguodala, who was the ninth overall selection by the Philadelphia 76ers last year. “I tried to keep myself occupied by staying in the gym and working out.”
The NBA lifestyle that Frye and Stoudamire crave isn’t all that glamorous ?- at least not yet. Since completing his class work this Spring, Frye relocated to Chicago in early May to begin working out with Tim Grover of Attack Athletics, who formerly trained Michael Jordan and has become one of the leading NBA fitness gurus.
Frye wakes up every day at 8 a.m. He is at the gym and working out within an hour. His morning workout focuses on fundamentals and conditioning with the idea of replicating an NBA-caliber workout.
At 10 a.m., he moves on to the weight room. For the next two hours, Frye will go through a fast-paced, explosive workout with multiple sets, followed by supersets, and quick transitions to the next exercise.
Following the workout, Frye has to run a mile in less than 6:30 two times per week. After that, it’s on to treatment and lunch around 1 p.m. Every day after lunch, Frye takes 15 minutes just to get off his feet before he heads back into the gym.
The Phoenix native shoots on his own during the afternoon session, which lasts about 90 minutes. Here he works on form, footwork and technique. By 3:30 p.m. he’s on his way back to the apartment to relax.
“We have a lot of good people here,” explained Frye. “It’s a great staff. I’m having a blast and at the same time I’m working hard. I would have never thought I’d be in the situation that I’m in right now. A lot of that was through hard work, staying humble, and just enjoying the moment.
“Too many people get caught looking into the future with a lot of what-ifs instead of taking care of today. If you take care of today and leave it all on the court, you won’t have to worry about what-if because you know you gave it your all.”
Obviously, something is working for Frye. When he arrived in Chicago, he weighed about 243 pounds. He’s already added seven pounds to his 6-foot-11 frame. He has a goal of weighing 255 pounds by draft day.
“I hope people see the progress that I’ve made just in this last month,” said Frye. “Working with the people here in Chicago, I’ve gained seven pounds and I feel that my skills have improved by 50 percent. I’m in great shape, my jumper looks good, and my post game is better. If I continue to stay hungry, continue being a gym rat, I feel like the sky is the limit for me.”
His size, ability and the quality of his work have helped push him near the top of the draft on most experts’ lists. That luxury has allowed Frye to forego many individual workouts prior to the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp.
“I don’t think much will change for me (as the draft gets closer),” said Frye. “I think my spot is pretty much set. I will probably go between four and 11. Where I lie between those picks is where I lie. I’ve just got to work hard. Right now, I’m just trying to stay humble and work towards being the best.”
Having a draft day spot practically guaranteed can go a long way towards easing a lot of pre-draft pressure. Iguodala says that knowing he had a spot locked up helped him focus on what he felt was important. “Just by knowing that I was in the top 20 slots definitely made me more comfortable going into the workouts,” he said. “I only had to go in and show teams what I could do. I worked hard to prove that the negative perceptions about my game were actually positives.”
“The Travel Just Kills You.”
Stoudamire, on the other hand, is in Houston working out with his cousin Damon and former NBA player and head coach John Lucas. With a combined 30 years of NBA experience between them, Lucas and the former UA All-American have Salim approaching the draft with confidence.
“John and Damon have definitely helped me out,” Stoudamire said. “I’ve always thought that I was a little advanced in terms of fundamentals, but they have helped me prepare a little bit more. I feel like I am focusing 110 percent on basketball and it’s showing up in my workouts.”
Unlike Frye, Stoudamire’s draft status is far less certain, which means that the 6-foot-1 native of Portland, Ore., has worked out for eight teams already. The individual workouts usually run for an hour or two and focus primarily on drill work. Other things like one-on-one or two-on-two games, working with the pick-and-roll and spot-up and off-the-dribble shooting are also included.
“I don’t feel any pressure right now,” said Stoudamire. “I’m just going out and competing in these workouts and trying to do the best that I can. I know something good will happen for me.”
According to Stoudamire, one unexpected hurdle has been the travel. Sometimes it can be difficult to get your bearings when you are jetting across the country for one 60-minute workout. He’s already worked out in Boston, Toronto, Memphis and Sacramento, to name a few.
“I didn’t think the travel would be so rough,” said Stoudamire. “Going from the West Coast all the way to the East Coast, up to Canada and back, that’s the toughest part. It’s kind of annoying to bounce around, but it is good preparation for what the travel might be next year.”
Former Wildcat and current Los Angeles Laker Luke Walton agreed. Much like Stoudamire, Walton used a slew of individual workouts in 2003 to solidify his draft position in the second round.
“The hardest part was traveling from team to team doing workouts every single day,” said Walton. “I think I had workouts with 15 different teams in a 21-day time period. The travel just kills you.”
While the workouts may tax the players physically, it’s the mental challenges that sometimes prove more difficult. Rampant speculation about who will go where and to whom seems to change daily, even hourly, in newspapers and Internet postings. It can be difficult to escape.
“The most difficult thing is to read about what the draft looks like in the papers or on the Internet,” said Arizona head coach Lute Olson. “All of that speculation makes for a real challenge mentally. The unknown can really weigh heavily on you.”
Iguodala says he tried not to pay attention to the speculation, but in the end he couldn’t escape it. “I tried not to look at all of the stuff on the Internet, but I always knew,” he said laughing. I tried to use it as motivation.”
Ultimately, fear of the unknown is the fuel that drives the pre-draft hullabaloo. Most of the players don’t know what their fates will be until June 28. According to Olson, that’s something they haven’t experienced for some time.
“Whatever stress a player has is there because of not knowing where you will end up,” said Olson. “For most players, that’s something they haven’t experienced since they decided on where to go to college four or five years earlier.”
Frye took that thought a step further, saying the difficulty is that the players aren’t as in control as they were when they selected what college to attend. It’s a totally different feeling when you have to prove your worth to 30 NBA franchises.
“There is nothing I can do to control (where I’m picked),” Frye said. “It’s not like college, where you get to choose. It’s a totally different situation and hopefully my body of work will measure up.”
Perhaps it’s the measuring up that makes the workouts, interviews, plane flights and speculation worthwhile. The process will weed out those who don’t quite reach the elite status of playing in the NBA.
“I know there are a lot of guys out there trying to earn a spot,” Iguodala said. “The best part of the whole process was seeing all of my hard work pay off and proving that I belonged in the league.”
The sense of belonging is an important step, but not the last one. As Frye notes, Draft Day is just the first piece of a potential NBA career. The hard work doesn’t stop there.
“I’m not only preparing to be in the draft,” said Frye. “I’m preparing to be the best that I can and to be successful in the NBA. That’s what drives me.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time to get better. That’s why the days go by so fast. Yes, when draft day comes, I’m going to be nervous and excited and happy. I feel like whoever picks me will do so because I will be an integral part of their team.”
Since 1948, 57 Arizona players have heard their names called in the NBA Draft. Whether Frye and Stoudamire are able to add their names to the list remains to be seen. If that does happen, it will be a truly rewarding experience.
“When I finally did get drafted, it was definitely worth all of the hard work and time I put into it,” Walton said. “It was so rewarding to get picked. You know I’m going to be watching the draft and rooting for both Channing and Salim to be picked early.”
A lifetime of work boils down to one evening. Hopes are tested every time commissioner David Stern walks to the podium to announce a selection. As Stoudamire concluded, “I don’t care where I end up, I just want to hear my name called.”