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The NBA’s Gary Harris: First Year NBA Experience, Advice for Athletes and Parents

Dr. Mark: Tell us about your first year in the NBA.

Mr. Harris: It was tough. When you enter the NBA, and you have always been the best high school, college, and AAU player on a team, you expect to have similar results. For me, that was not the case. I was inactive for the first 7 games and had to sit on the bench in a suit. That was something I had never experienced in my basketball career. Then, when I finally did get the chance to play, it was not a lot of minutes. We had several veterans on the team who played my position, so my minutes were very small. Around the All Star break, some veteran players were traded, so I saw more minutes but not a dramatic increase. I finally did get a chance to start the last two games of the season, and I played well.

Dr. Mark: Can you tell us about the emotional side of your experience?

Mr. Harris: You go through many emotions. There was some uncertainty surrounding my game. Not from management or coaches, but personally. I knew I could play, and I put in the work and continued to put in the work. But when you’re worried or unsure if you’re going to play in a game, then worried about making a mistake or messing things up as well as trying to play perfect for the small amount of time you’re on the court, that brings up all types of personal questions.

But I believe in putting God and family first and then basketball. Also, people around me kept telling me to be patient and that I was a rookie, but I wanted to play because I knew I could play. I started to just focus on playing as hard and smart as I could, and that emotional uncertainty faded.

Dr. Mark: Complete this sentence: Parents and Athletes…

Mr. Harris: Have to put everything in perspective. They have to have that balance, and the earlier the better. For me, it was football. Early on I played basketball and football, and it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I focused full-time on basketball. I knew basketball was the sport I wanted to excel in. I wanted to get better; plus, I had one of the best trainers in a guy named Christopher Thomas (CT) who really worked with me.

Dr. Mark: You worked with a basketball skills trainer. Do basketball players need a skills trainer?

Mr. Harris: I think so, because you have so much to learn about the game and what is needed to become a good player. Apart from basketball skills training, I enjoyed my relationship with CT. He pushed me to become better. If players are serious about improving, they have to be pushed to their limits and keep building. Having a trainer builds confidence, which is a huge part of becoming a good player. I understand everyone can’t have a CT as a trainer, but finding a really good trainer that actually knows what they are doing is really important.

Dr. Mark: My son, Nathan, is 15, plays HS and AAU basketball. What message can you give to him and his peers?

Mr. Harris: School, first and foremost—you have to get the grades if you want to have an opportunity to play college basketball. The short amount of time you are in high school should be enjoyable, and if you desire to move on to the next level, the foundation you set regarding academics will pay off in college. If you get recruited, take your time. Don’t take the first offer that comes your way unless that is an offer you really want. Selecting a college has to be the right fit for everyone. Finally, don’t grow up too fast. A lot of kids—especially athletes—want success now, and need to realize success takes hard work and patience. Above all else, have fun, and never take it for granted.

Dr. Mark: What is the Gary Harris Brand?

Mr. Harris: I am in the process of defining that now, and at the moment it is centered around God and family first, and then basketball. I have an AAU team that I am involved with. This gives me an opportunity to give something back to young athletes who are trying to go down the same road as I have. I want to share my experiences with them, so they can hopefully have the same or similar opportunities. In time, I plan to expand my brand to other specific areas, but for now, my focus is on assisting young athletes in their overall development and continuing to work hard toward establishing myself in the NBA.

 

This interview was made possible by Jay Keys

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Dan Tudor on Tudor Collegiate Strategies

According to the Washington Post, despite a lack of coaching or recruiting experience, Dan Tudor has built a successful business teaching coaches how to sell their programs to recruits.  Some might wonder, why would a college coach who has years of experience coaching, require training in understanding the dynamics of college recruiting?  As you will find the recruiting process is a serious take no prisoners business.

 

 

Dr. Mark: How long have you been training coaches on the art of recruiting and why?

Mr. Tudor: I started working with college coaches in 2005. Why? They’ve never been trained how to recruit and communicate with the prospects they need for their programs. It’s surprising how little some know about the process of the “sale”, which is really what they are doing: They are selling the idea of playing for them and their program to a 17 year old kid and his or her parents, as well as their coach. And if they don’t know how to do that, they’re going to struggle and have a short, unsuccessful college coaching career. This skill set is the most important they can learn as a college coach…it’s the difference between being a mediocre coach and a great coach.

 

Dr. Mark: What makes a college recruiter, a great college recruiter?

Mr. Tudor: First, I think that most coaches agree with the idea that if you recruit great players, it’s amazing how good of a coach you become! There’s a little bit of humor in that statement, but also a lot of truth: The great coaches understand that being a great recruiter is much more important than learning even more of the X’s and O’s in their job.

A great recruiter has the same skill sets as a great business owner or sales professional in the non-sports world: They have a plan, they are systematic in the way they approach and sell to new “customers”, and they know how the human mind works through the sale process…in short, they understand why someone “buys” and how to lead them to that point in the sales process. We help college coaches understand how to do that as effectively as possible.

Dr. Mark: Can you give us your thoughts on recruiting websites that offer kids a chance to receive a scholarship?

Mr. Tudor: Exposure websites, such as beRecruited.com and NCSAsports.org are great, in my opinion. It’s another tool for a family to use to get their name and skills in front of coaches, and a great way for coaches to see kids from other parts of the country that they might otherwise overlook.

When my daughter wanted to run competitively in college, she used resources like the ones I’ve described and it set up some great conversations that she would have never had before (she ended up running for the University of Iowa). So for athletes and coaches, I think it’s a great tool. That being said, the athlete still has to have the talent and also be ready to communicate with coaches and put work into the process.

Dr. Mark: What are some of the things parents and student athlete should consider when speaking with college recruiters?

Mr. Tudor: Great question! They need to remember that coaches are going to gravitate to the athletes that reply to their emails, texts and phone calls. The biggest mistake that I see kids and their parents make is to not reply to a college coach because they “haven’t heard of the school” or that the school isn’t in their pre-determined “top three” programs. So, not communicating regularly with coaches and being foolish in how they determine who they are going to talk to ends up really hurting a lot of kids’ chances at competing at the college level.

Dr. Mark: Are coaches concerned with the personal development of athletes? If so, why aren’t college coaches making PPD mandatory year-round?

Mr. Tudor: Of course, college coaches focus on the overall development of a high school athlete. It’s what I call a “tie breaker”. If you take two athletes that are equal in terms of performance, but one has developed as a person academically and personally, it’s a no-brainer: That coach is going to be drawn to the athlete that has developed in a deeper way than just their performance on the court, field, pool or track.

And conversely, a lot of athletes lose opportunities at the next level precisely because of their lack of personal development, or glaring shortfalls in their character or maturity. Once a college coach we work with see’s that a prospect has the athletic ability to perform for them, they immediately start trying to uncover the recruit’s characteristics and personal development depth.

Dr. Mark: Should the well being of a student athlete post graduation, be the coaches responsibility?

Mr. Tudor: Tough question: On the one hand, you could say that it sounds like the right thing to do. On the other hand, the college coach is under pressure to win and do the job at the college…so it’s rare that a coach takes responsibility for one of his or her athletes after they leave the program. Do they love them, root for them, and offer advice and friendship? Absolutely…the vast majority do. But I would stop short of saying that a college coach should be responsible for their athletes after they graduate.

Dr. Mark: As winning continues to become more important, how big will the role of the college recruiter become?

Mr. Tudor: We’re already there: Just like personal development is the tie-breaker that separates one athlete from another, recruiting skills separate one coach from the other. Good recruiters will ALWAYS have a place for themselves on a staff and in college athletics. In some respects, college coaches are fairly equal in their knowledge of the game and how to implement strategy and training techniques. But those coaches that are great recruiters stand out from the crowd and separate themselves quickly from the pack.

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