During an illustrious career at Webster Groves High, Drew Hanlen masqueraded a lack of height with a deft 3-point shooting touch and proclivity for hitting the open man.
Bolstered by a unique, extraterrestrial work ethic, the 5-foot-11 guard sustained his childhood aspirations to play Division-I basketball.
After a high school career that saw Hanlen re-script the record books by scoring 1,648 career points, doling out 420 assists and pick-pocketing ball handlers for 262 steals (establishing program records in all three categories), Hanlen found his way to Belmont.
Rewind the clock back to November of 2011.
The Bruins are up against a mighty Duke team loaded with NBA talent.
Shedding any fear of the Blue Devils, then piloted by Austin Rivers, Hanlen spearheaded Belmont's perimeter game with four deep treys. Duke ended up surviving the Bruins' scare, gutting out a pulsating 77-76 battle.
Savoring the maniacal work ethic instilled in him, Hanlen's game continued to grow. His 3-point shooting percentage cracked the nation's upper crust. He stayed true to his trade, working out and training a bevy of St. Louis' finest ballers during the off-season.
What began has a hobby has evolved into Hanlen's livelihood. We caught up with the basketball trainer in one-on-one fashion, dissecting his basketball birth. We spoke about Hanlen's "dream job," which jolts him out of bed everyday, ready to install drills and run even the most finely-tuned professional through a rigorous workload.
) You hail from an area of St. Louis that is pretty much a basketball hotbed. How much of an impact did the game have on your life, growing up, and when did your love for hoops grow?
Basketball has always been a huge part of my life. As a kid, I always had a ball in my hands. I worked hard and was fortunate enough to win a state championship in high school, played in multiple NCAA tournaments in college and now get to travel the world helping players improve their game. I really can't imagine my life without hoops!
ZS: Tell me about your experience at Belmont. What was your role on that team and what experiences from that era of basketball will you cherish?
DH: I loved my time at Belmont. The players became my brothers, my coaches helped me succeed on and off the court and truly cared about me as a person and the entrepreneurship program pushed me to grow Pure Sweat to a new level. On the court, I'll remember a lot, including games at Duke and Kansas and multiple NCAA tournament appearances. Off the court, I'll remember the countless memories with my teammates and the mission trips that I was fortunate enough to be apart of.
ZS: Greatest game you've ever played in?
DH: State championship in high school. My high school coach, Jay Blossom, did so much for me as a player and person, so it was awesome to be able to win him a ring. He deserved one!
ZS: Toughest guy you've ever guarded ?
DH: John Wall. Most players that are super quick you can bump off the ball, but with his strength, once he gets a step on you, you can't do anything to get him off his line besides foul him.
ZS: Who was your favorite athlete(s) growing up and how was their style and swagger instrumental in your development as a player?
DH: Michael Jordan. His supreme confidence, combined with his unmatched will to win and "it factor" had me in awe growing up. I also loved watching small college guards such as Jason Williams (Duke) and Jason Gardner (Arizona).
ZS: Tell me about being an NBA trainer. What are the essential attributes one must have. What is the schedule like? What are the perks of the job and what are the difficult aspects of this line of business?
DH: There's only one requirement to be an NBA skills coach: You have to be able to improve NBA players. I think caring for the players, being there for them on and off the court and working just as hard for them as they work for themselves are also very critical though. I'm on the road three weeks out of every month checking out games or making adjustments with my guys. There are tons of perks to being a skills coach, such as attending games, hanging with celebrities and traveling the world, but trust me, it's a lot more work than most think. The countless hours studying film to find solutions to every one of my client's problems goes unnoticed by most. They just see the glamour of the job.
ZS: You started training guys such as David Lee and John Jenkins immediately after leaving Belmont. How did you transition so quickly, and what helped accelerate the process?
DH: Training kind of just happened for me. I was a hard-working player and knew how to improve my own game. Other players started asking me to share my workout techniques then I fell in love with helping others improve. Once I developed a passion for training, I dedicated myself to perfecting my craft and gained the knowledge that is required to help high level players like the ones you named.
ZS: Run me through a typical day of training with a professional. What are the essentials for the workout ?
DH: It varies with each guy. A vet may do more video work and less on-court work to keep their body fresh for the season. A rookie or pre-draft guy may do a skills workout in the morning, video and lifting in the afternoon, then come back for another workout at night. It's all about working smart and accomplishing what you need to accomplish. No fluff. It all comes down to being the best player on the court when it matters, which is during the season!
ZS: As the playoff race is in full effect, and a good deal of your clients are eyeballing a deep run, what are your expectations? Anyone in particular who you have lofty aspirations for?
DH: I have high expectations for my guys every time they step on the court, whether that's the playoffs or a workout. I make sure they bring it every workout and every game. We learn from the mistakes they make and try to make adjustments so they're better the next time they step on the court. To answer your question, I want the best for all my guys!
ZS: What has been most gratifying about being a trainer? Is there any athlete in particular that you've worked with, who has grown immensely since you started working him out?
DH: I love when my guys succeed. I'm truly in it to help them. Two moments that stick out are when Brad Beal was drafted, because we put so much work in while he was in high school and college and when David Lee was named an All-Star for the second time last season because he did all the right things to make it happen. I get proud every time one of my guys accomplishes one of their goals.
ZS: You get to travel the country in a pair of Nike Shorts, sporting basketball kicks, as well as your beloved orange sphere and a set of instruments to gauge the athletes. On paper, it would appear to be a pretty sweet gig. How much of a blessing is it to be able to operate in a field you love, around the game that has shaped your life so much?
DH: It's a HUGE blessing! I'm a guy that's never satisfied, so I'm always trying to do more, be more and get more, but I truly appreciate everything I have in my life and I know I'll be proud of myself and all that I've been able to accomplish when I look back at my life when I'm older. I think the greatest thing someone can do is help others succeed, which is what my job allows me to do.
ZS: Top 5 pre-workout songs that blare through your IPOD speakers?
DH: Any old-school Lil Wayne, Wiz & Nelly or new school Drake, Wale & Kid Ink. Too many great songs to give you a top 5! Also, check out Spenzo's song Wife Er. Good new song from an up-and-coming rapper.
ZS: Most inspirational person you've ever met, and why?
DH: Great question. Honestly, I would have to say my little sister LuLu. She's originally from Haiti and was born with multiple birth defects.
Doctors didn't think she'd live longer than a few months and she's now healthy and happy at 7 years old.
They didn't think she'd live and she made it. They didn't think she'd be able to walk and she's walking. They didn't think she'd be able to understand anything and she does. My family loved her like crazy and I truly think the love kept her going and brought life back into her. Pretty special story!
ZS: Any motivational quote or adage you look to?
I'll give you 3 of my favorite quotes:
Workout motto: "The image of a champion is someone bent over, dripping in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when no one else is watching."
Work motto: "Put in the work that others won't and you'll have things others can't!"