Before NBA trainer Idan Ravin began practicing with some of basketball’s biggest superstars, he was practicing law in San Diego.
After graduating from the University of Maryland, Ravin attended California Western School of Law. Shortly after completing law school, he was hired by a San Diego law firm doing litigation work. However, he quickly realized that he hated being an attorney. Even though he had invested many years into becoming a lawyer, Ravin decided to walk away from his job and guaranteed salary to find a new career path.
“It happened over many years but, in a nutshell, it was because I just didn’t like what I was doing,” Ravin told Basketball Insiders. “I was practicing law and I was miserable. I guess I chose a career that I was supposed to do rather than what I was meant to do. I’m working at this law firm and I’m dying inside. I didn’t have the courage to even think [about quitting] for a very long time. It was something that kind of grew gradually.”
While in San Diego, Ravin began volunteering as a basketball coach at a local YMCA to cheer himself up, and he managed to lead a team of pre-teens to an undefeated season. He had always loved basketball, playing countless pick-up games while in college – including some with Maryland Terrapins’ players. He dreaded going to work at his law firm, but he couldn’t wait for practices and games with his YMCA team. At that point, he decided to follow his passion and started pursuing a career in basketball.
“I was volunteering there with the kids just to escape from that life that I didn’t like,” Ravin said. “I started volunteering, hoping it would bring some normality into my life. Meanwhile, I was practicing law; I hadn’t quit my day job. But it got to a point after many years where I started realizing, ‘Wow, I really enjoy this and I’m actually pretty good at this.’ Then I sort of made that switch and started committing myself to doing it more full time. So it wasn’t like I just woke up one morning and said, ‘Okay, enough is enough, I am going to do this.’ It was more like I eased my way into it, just to be able to get out of the office.”
Ravin did eventually quit his job and moved back to Maryland. This was a risky career change, but Ravin was confident he could succeed in the basketball world. First, he thought about becoming an agent to put his law background to use. However, he soured on that idea, choosing instead to focus on training.
He started working out a group of players he had known from college, who were now trying to play overseas. A number of the players in Ravin’s group were friends with an extremely talented point guard who decided to participate in the workouts as well.
That point guard was named Steve Francis.
Francis, who is from Maryland and starred for the Terrapins, was intrigued by the former lawyer with the unique training methods (such as throwing tennis balls at players during dribbling drills). Not only did he train with Ravin’s group, he kept working out with Ravin after that. The two worked together while Francis prepared for the pre-draft process, and he ended up being the No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. Francis and Ravin’s workout sessions continued after the top prospect entered the league. Suddenly, Ravin was coaching one of the NBA’s best up-and-coming point guards not long after coaching YMCA kids.
“Working with younger kids led me to older kids, which led me to taller and faster kids, which led me to even better kids, which then eventually led me to college kids, professional [overseas] kids and then NBA kids,” Ravin said with a laugh. “I never ever intended to be here; I never envisioned that I would be here. It was just more like I found something that I really loved and I was just stubborn enough to believe I could do it.
“I think sometimes people think that I just went from practicing law straight to training NBA players, but it was really not like that at all. For a long time, metaphorically, I was the zero-star chef. Then, I became a quarter-star chef, then eventually a one-star chef, then a two-star chef and then, years later, I would consider myself a five-star chef. It was just something that took a lot of time.”
With Francis as his first major client, Ravin started getting some exposure and new players. The point guard was so impressed with Ravin’s training style and basketball mind that he started talking him up to other NBA players. Soon, thanks in large part to Francis’ referrals, Ravin began working out other pros such as Elton Brand (the No. 1 pick in the 1999 NBA Draft) and Juan Dixon (who was also from Maryland and starred for the Terrapins). Many other NBA players eventually followed, and Ravin became one of the top trainers in the business.
Today, Ravin’s client list looks like an All-Star team. He has trained LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love among many others. He has spent varying amounts of time working out these players, but he has trained all of them at some point. In addition to his superstar clients, he has also worked out well-known players like Al Jefferson, Wesley Matthews, Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Joe Johnson, Tyson Chandler, Ty Lawson, Josh Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire among others.
“It was just sort of a word of mouth thing, where one player would recommend me to another player,” Ravin said when asked how he built his client list. “I wasn’t soliciting; I didn’t have relationships with people [around the NBA]. I don’t come from that world. My parents teach Jewish history! They don’t know the NBA world or professional sports. My uncle isn’t an agent – he doesn’t work in the league office. I don’t have those connections, so I just continued to try to do a good job with everybody and then that person would tell another person who would tell another person and then, eventually, you have a good player. With each person, the most important thing is you have to help them excel. [Players came] because the proof was in the pudding. So if I did a really good job with X and then people see X’s growth, they would ask X, ‘What did you do?’ And then X would share a little bit and that led to Y and to Z [coming to train with me too]. That’s how it grew. That’s kind of how it went, very slow and organic.”
Ravin’s workouts are known for being intense and exhausting – as well as unorthodox – with the idea being that actual games will be much easier if a player’s training sessions are rigorous. Another one of Ravin’s specialties is designing different workouts to fit each of his players’ specific needs.
“He is able to put you through a workout that suits your game,” said Blake Griffin, who has only worked out with Ravin a few times but came away impressed. “He’s a good motivator and he has a good understanding of the game.”
When asked what separates him from other NBA trainers in the business, Ravin admits he doesn’t know much about how others operate as he has always just stuck to his own methods. But there are a few things he feels strongly about. For one, he limits the number of players he’s training at one time so his clients can get individual attention. Second, he plans out unique workouts for each of his players based on what they need to work on rather than training all of his players the same way.
“I guess I’m just more customized,” Ravin said. “I wouldn’t take on 40 players; I wouldn’t have 50 people in the gym. Everybody does their work differently, but that’s just never been my approach. I just try to create a more unique experience for the athlete and try to find ways to help them in terms of developing them physically and mentally. I can’t actually speak to what other people do, because I have no idea what other people do. I just really try to give an unconventional, customized approach to every particular athlete. I watch the Food Network a lot to try and learn how to cook. Now, imagine one of the Iron Chefs lets you go into his house and he’ll make an awesome dinner for you, but you get to pick all of the proteins, the veggies, the fruits and all of that. Well, I hope to give that kind of [customizable] Iron Chef experience to the athletes that I work with.”
Over the years, Ravin developed the nickname “The Hoops Whisperer” (which is also the name of his memoir). He has received rave reviews from some of the biggest stars in the NBA. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony among others offered testimonials for Ravin’s website, praising the trainer and his methods.
“Idan inspired me to see my full potential, to become more than others had ever expected of me and challenge myself to do more than I had even expected of myself,” Curry said. “He showed me the importance of resilience and determination, and to capitalize on all my opportunities I had coming out of school and even to this day. His challenge to never become ‘regular’ stuck with me and kept me fierce in my determination to be committed to who I am, what I stand for, and to leave my lasting fingerprints on the game I so dearly love.”
“Idan is the first guy that I’ve worked with that brought something different to the workouts, who pushed me past my limits, who made me think of the game on a different level,” Durant said. “He pushed me with his words, encouraged me and built my confidence as the days went on. Truly one of a kind and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from him.”
“I never imagined that when I first worked with Idan before my rookie year, our relationship would extend more than a decade,” Anthony said. “He has influenced me tremendously and I am very grateful for his loyalty, friendship and guidance. He is passionate about everything he does and, while some may consider his methods unorthodox, the end results for me have been remarkable.”
While Ravin now has the respect of many superstars and people within the basketball world, that didn’t come right away. Initially, people were skeptical of him due to his unusual training style and the fact that he was a former lawyer with zero high-level basketball credentials. Today, he’s largely accepted by the basketball community, but says he still faces his share of doubters and skeptics.
“Well, I mean, everybody still looks at me funny because that space is filled with a lot of judgment and a lot of prejudice; [The belief is], ‘If you don’t come from that world, how could you know that world?’ Ravin said. “That will always exist and I’m okay with that. It’s alright for people to be skeptical. I don’t work for them and my priority is to be happy. But yeah, it takes a long time to be good at anything [so I had to improve early on and then showcase my ability]. But at the same time, I think I have a gift with people, I think I have really good intuition and I think I can just figure out stuff sort of on my own [so I didn’t need to come from the basketball world].
“There are plenty of amazing chefs who never went to the French Culinary Institute, but when you taste their food, you aren’t asking them where they went to college. There’s plenty of amazing screenwriters who don’t have a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from Columbia, but when you see their film, you don’t say, ‘Hey, where did you study?’ I find that with the athletes – and the athletes are really, really smart – they don’t ask you about your playing credentials or your PhD in Exercise Science. They are just saying, ‘Wow, I have access to a lot of different people and this has been the most helpful thing for my career of all the people I’ve ever been around.’ So I didn’t find myself having to prove anything to anyone; it was more like I just had to do my best and give the athletes the best that I could. Over time, you gain experience and you obviously become better. I’m sure the first time you wrote, you were just okay. Now, you’re considered brilliant. It just takes time to kind of get better at your craft.”
Even though Ravin has established himself as an elite trainer, he continues to work extremely hard and put in the necessary time to continue being great at his craft. His daily schedule is brutal. He wakes up shortly after 4 a.m. on most days and gets his own workout in around 4:45 a.m. Then, he’ll train his first player of the day around 6:30 a.m. After the workout, they’ll typically get smoothies and some food. Later in the day, he’ll work out additional players in the afternoon and the evening. He lets players decide when they’ll train, since their schedules can be equally packed. And in addition to his training with players, Ravin also has a number of side projects that take up his time. He owns some businesses, invests in a number of others, and has a partnership with Dove Men+Care as a fitness expert. Even though his planner is often packed, Ravin couldn’t be happier with how he’s spending his time – mainly because he never has to step foot in a law firm.
“I don’t mind the schedule,” Ravin said. “It’s just like you: you found something you really love to do, so you just try to give as much time to it as you can. We’re both kindred spirits in that respect.”
This summer, in addition to working with his normal cast of veterans, Ravin has been training three of the top rookies in the 2015 NBA Draft class: Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor, Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein and Miami’s Justise Winslow. Ravin has enjoyed working with the prospects and insists that all three players have star potential. While he’s a bit biased since they’re his clients, Ravin has worked with many stars behind the scenes and knows what to look for when projecting how a player will develop.
“They have just been terrific,” Ravin said of Okafor, Cauley-Stein and Winslow. “It’s a really scary time in their life, going from that sort of cocoon in college to this world of grown men who are all tall, fast, strong, rich and successful with an amazing résumé. It’s a very scary place, but their ability to handle it all has been very impressive. I think they are all going to be terrific.”
Ravin gave his scouting report on each individual player and how they’ve looked.
Okafor: “I think Jahlil could be Rookie of the Year and eventually the best big man in the world. Like the others, he is just amazingly awesome, diligent, strong, super bright and thoughtful.”
Winslow: “I think Justise could be an absolute motherf***er. When you’re around Justise, you feel like you’re around a college professor because he’s just very mature, bright, thoughtful and hardworking. But it’s not just that he’s hardworking – he’s also very, very, very talented.”
Cauley-Stein: “I think Willie could be revolutionary. You know what’s interesting? I think Willie’s versatility is extraordinary and I don’t think people even know it yet. I think he’ll eventually be able to shoot it very well, he puts the ball on the floor well and he runs well. He’s incredibly versatile. I think it would be a shame to just put him underneath the basket and have him run up and down the court blocking shots. I think that wouldn’t be taking advantage of his gifts and I don’t think that’s what he’s destined to be. I think it would kind of be putting him in handcuffs if that is his role and that is what he is limited to, because he could be very special.”
If Okafor, Cauley-Stein and Winslow reach their full potential and do indeed become stars, they’ll join the long list of franchise players who have worked out under Ravin.
Many fans don’t know Ravin since he does all of his work with players behind the scenes (and typically during the offseason). But, without question, he has worked out a player from your favorite team. It’s even quite possible he helped your favorite player develop. Ravin’s training has had a huge impact on the NBA and many players have him to thank for their progress and success.
Not bad for a litigation lawyer and volunteer YMCA coach.
NBA Daily: Luguentz Dort – A Different Kind of Point Guard
The point guard position is a clearly-defined one – perhaps the most defined – in the modern NBA.
At the one, you are either an elite shooter (both inside and on the perimeter), ala Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, an elite passer, ala Chris Paul, Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook, or some combination of the two.
Luguentz Dort doesn’t exactly fit that bill.
The 20-year-old combo-guard out of Arizona State University didn’t shoot the competition out of the gym – Dort managed a field goal percentage of just 40.5 and hit on a meager 30.7 percent from downtown. And he wasn’t exactly the flashiest passer, as he averaged just 2.3 assists per game in his lone season with the Sun Devils.
He’s different. But, according to Dort, he has what it takes to run the point at the next level.
“I know that I can become a really good leader on the court and create for my teammates,” Dort said at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine.
Confidence and an “I-will-outwork-you” competitive attitude are at the center of Dort and his game. Those two aspects drive the engine that has made Dort one of the more intriguing prospects in the back end of the first round. He may not be the most talented player in this class, but Dort is hyper-competitive and can out-hustle anyone on any given night.
“When I play,” Dort said, “I’m really going at people to let them know it’s not going to be easy.”
There is a hunger in Dort – a desire to win that is evidenced in his game. An aggressor on both offense and defense, Dort’s motor is always going. His primary selling point is his defensive ability; built like an NFL defensive end, Dort can bring energy and effort to any defense. He has more than enough speed to stick with smaller guards on the perimeter and more than enough strength to bump with bigger forwards in the paint.
Dort has also shown a knack for jumping passing lanes to either deflect passes or outright steal the ball; Dort was fourth in the Pac-12 as he averaged 1.5 steals per game and 1.9 per 40 minutes.
Dort has made it a point to put that defensive ability and intensity on full display for potential suitors. At the Combine, Dort said he wanted to show teams “how tough I play on defense” and “how hard I play and the type of competitor I am.”
Offensively, Dort is an impeccable cutter. At Arizona State, Dort averaged 1.289 points per possession on cuts, according to Synergy Sports. When he goes to the rim, Dort used his size and power to his advantage in order to get to the basket and either drop it in the bucket or draw a foul. He isn’t Irving with the ball in his hands, but Dort can make a move with the ball to create space as well.
Dort isn’t a superb passer, but he has a solid vision and can make, and often made while at Arizona State, the right pass as well.
But can Dort overcome the inconsistencies that plagued him at Arizona State? Dort was, at times, reckless with the ball in his hands. Whether he drove into a crowd just to throw up an ill-fated shot attempt or forced an errant pass, Dort’s decision-making must improve. His shooting is suspect and his touch around the rim – two skills critical to the modern point guard – weren’t exactly up to snuff either.
There were lapses on the defensive end as well. Sometimes Dort would fall asleep off the ball or he would be too aggressive one-on-one. If he is too handsy or unaware, NBA veterans will take advantage of every chance they get against him.
But, according to Dort, he has worked on those issues.
“My decision making got a lot better,” Dort said. “My shot, my free throws, everything. I really worked on all that this season.”
But in order to truly make an impact at the next level, he’ll have to continue to work and refine those skills further.
More work has never been an issue for Dort. However raw he may appear, he has the look of and the work-ethic required of NBA-caliber talent. Dort’s ultimate goal for the Combine, other than draw interest from NBA teams, was simple: “learn about everything, get feedback and go back to Arizona and continue to work on my game.” Whether or not teams view him as a point guard, shooting guard or something else entirely is a matter for debate, but, standing at just over 6-foot-4, 222 pounds with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and high motor, Dort has the versatility and ability to stick at, and is willing to play, a variety of different spots on the floor.
“I want to play any position a team would want me to play,” Dort said.
He may not be the prototypical point guard, but with that kind of willing, team-first attitude, Dort, at some point or another, is almost certain to make it to and have an impact at the next level.
NBA Daily: Brandon Clarke Working From The Ground Up
Because of the unusual path he’s taken to get here, Brandon Clarke has established himself as one of the more unique prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft, writes Matt John.
When the draft time comes along, teams who have the higher picks usually look for guys who have the highest ceiling. Because of this, they usually decide to take players on the younger side because they believe those who have less experience have more room to improve.
This puts Brandon Clarke at a slight disadvantage. Clarke is 22 years old – and will be 23 when training camp rolls around – and only just recently came onto the scene after an excellent performance for Gonzaga in March Madness this season.
Competing for scouts’ attention against those who are younger and/or deemed better prospects than him would be quite the challenge, but because of what he’s been through, said challenge didn’t seem to faze him one bit at the combine.
“It was a different path for me,” Clarke said. “ I’m 22 and there are some guys here that are only 18 years old. With that being said, I’m still here.”
The Canadian native has clearly had to pay his dues to get to where he is. Clarke originally played for San Jose State, a school that had only been to the NCAA Tournament three times in its program’s history – the most recent entry being 1996 – whose last alum to play in the NBA was Tariq Abdul-Wahad. Props to you if you know who that is!
Playing under a program that didn’t exactly boast the best reputation wasn’t exactly ideal for Clarke. In fact, according to him, it was disheartening at times.
“There were definitely times that I felt down,” Clarke said. “When I first went there, I was kind of freaking out because I was going to a team that had only won two or three games prior to me getting there.”
No tournament bids came from Brandon’s efforts, but the Spartans saw a spike in their win total in the two seasons he played there. The team went from two wins to nine in his freshman year, then went from nine wins to fourteen his sophomore year. Clarke’s performance definitely had a fair amount to do with San Jose State’s higher success rate, but the man praised the program for the opportunity it gave him.
“We did some really big things for that college so I’m really grateful for the stuff I could do for them,” Clarke said.
After spending two years at SJS, Clarke then transferred to Gonzaga where he redshirted for a year before getting himself back on the court. When he did, he put himself on the map.
Clarke dominated in his lone year with the Bulldogs, averaging 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds – including 3.1 offensive boards – as well as 3.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. The man clearly established himself as a high-energy small-ball center at 6-foot-8 ¼ inches, and it paved the way for Gonzaga to get a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament and go all the way to the Elite Eight.
Brandon loved the experience with the Bulldogs, both for the opportunity they gave him and for what he was able to do for them on the court.
“It was a great year,” Clarke said. “I got to play with some of the best players in the country… It was everything that I ever dreamed of. I’m going to miss it a lot. From a personal standpoint, I was just really blessed that I was able to block shots… I felt that I was really efficient too and I really helped us on the offensive end taking smart shots.”
Both his age and the small sample size, unfortunately, go hand in hand so that it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly Brandon Clarke will be taken in the draft. The latest Consensus Mock Draft from Basketball Insiders has all four contributors disagreeing where he will be selected, ranging from being picked as high ninth overall to as low as 21st.
Where he will get selected will all depend on who trusts what could be his greatest weakness – his shotty jumper.
In a league where spacing is so very crucial to consistent success, Clarke’s inability to space the floor hurts his stock. His free throw shooting at Gonzaga saw a drastic improvement from San Jose State, as he went from 57 percent to almost 70. That’s not as much of a liability but not much of a strength either. His three-point shooting in that time took a dive in that time, going from 33 percent to almost 27, which definitely does not help.
To be a hotter commodity at the draft, Clarke had to prove he could shoot the rock from anywhere, which is what he set to do at the combine.
“That is my biggest question mark,” Clarke said. “I’ve been working really hard on it. So I’m hoping that they can see that I can actually shoot it and that I have made lots of progress on it, and that they can trust me to get better at it.”
The journey that Clarke has been on to get to where he is had made him all the wiser as a player. With him expected to enter the NBA next season, he had a simple yet profound message to aspiring young ballers everywhere.
“Trust yourself. Trust your coaches. Trust everybody around you that you love… Make the best out of the situation that you are in.”
NBA Daily: Nassir Little’s Climb Back up the Draft Boards
Nassir Little’s measurements and personality shined through at the Combine, leading many to believe he may be better suited for the NBA than he was for the NCAA, writes Drew Maresca.
From highly-touted prospect to reserve player and back, Nassir Little’s path to the pros has been an unusual one.
Little was a McDonald’s All-American and five-star prospect. And yet, he didn’t start a single game in his lone season at North Carolina.
He demonstrated the ability to take over a game at times – averaging 19.5 points per game through UNC’s first two games in the NCAA tournament. He also broke the 18-point barrier in six games this past season. But he also scored in single digits in 18 of the Tar Heels’ 36 games, resulting in him being labeled inconsistent by many professional scouts.
Luckily for Little, his skillset is highly sought after by NBA personnel. He is a 6-foot-6, 220 pound forward. He averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as UNC’s sixth man, demonstrating the versatility to switch between both forward positions fairly seamlessly.
And he very well may be one of the few players better suited for the modern NBA game than he was for the NCAA.
Little told reporters at the NBA combine that much of his struggles can be attributed to the hesitancy he developed in his own game through the lack of clarity provided to him by the North Carolina coaching staff.
“The coaching staff didn’t really understand what my role was, especially on offense,” said Little. “So it created a lot of hesitancy, which didn’t allow me to play like myself.”
But Little assured reporters that he’ll look more like the five-star recruit we saw when he was a senior at Orlando Christian Prep.
“Throughout the year I didn’t feel like I played like myself. The guy that people saw in high school is really who I am as a player,” Little said. “And that’s the guy that people will see at the next level.”
Not only does Little expect to be back to his old self, he sees greatness in his future.
“I feel like I am going to come in as, like, a second version of Kawhi Leonard and be that defensive guy,” Little said. “Later on in the years, add [additional] pieces to my game.”
And while a Leonard comparison represents a tall order, Little’s physical tools have fueled discussion about his defensive potential – which has resulted in his climb back up draft boards. Little measured in with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and posted an impressive 38.5-inch vertical jump (second amongst all 2019 participants), a 3.09-second shuttle run (third) and a 3.31-second ¾ court sprint (fourth) – all of which translates perfectly to the NBA.
While his physical prowess will certainly help him gain additional visibility throughout the draft process, Little claims to possess another attribute that everyone else in the draft might not necessarily have, too.
“A lot of guys talk about skill set, everyone’s in the gym working on their skillset. But me being able to bring energy day in and day out is something a lot of guys don’t do.”
To Little’s point, he projects extremely well as an energetic, defensive pest. He is an aggressive and physical defender who has drawn comparisons to guys like Marcus Smart and Gerald Wallace – both of whom are/were known for their high-energy play and dedication on the floor. While his athleticism and potential can open doors, his personality will ensure that teams fall in love with the 19-year old forward. Little came across as extremely likable and candid, which should factor into the overall process, especially when considering that other prospects with less personality project to be more challenging to work with. Moreover, the fact that he was named to the Academic All-ACC team speaks volumes to his discipline and dedication.
Little alluded to the fact that he already sat through interviews with 10 teams as of a week ago, including one with the San Antonio Spurs, which makes the Leonard comparison all the more intriguing.
“Each team has different needs,” Little said. “But they like my [ability] to score the basketball in a variety of ways and my defensive potential to guard multiple positions, they really like that. And my athleticism to be on the court and finish plays.”
If Little is lucky, he’ll be selected by the Spurs with the nineteenth pick. And if that happens, he would be wise to pay close attention to the advice given to him by Coach Gregg Popovich – and not only because he sees similarities between himself and former Popovich-favorite, Leonard. Coach Popovich has a long history of developing lesser known draft picks into borderline stars – Derrick White being the most recent example.
Considering Little’s physical tools, academic achievements and easy-going personality, he has everything one would need to have a long NBA career. Just how successful he ends up being is mostly up to him.
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