Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Turnback Tuesday: Brady Heslip's Monstrous AAU Run

July 24, 2009:

Grassroots Canada, the herb which yields the basketball seed in the hockey hotbed of Toronto, has enjoyed a scalding July in the NCAA's open evaluation period.

A number of high-major programs are digging into their pockets and paying attention to one of the world's prospect-packed AAU programs. The program is grooming a torrent of homegrown talent like never before.

One-time NBA all-star Jamaal Magliore and former UConn guard Denham Brown are prime examples of area products who have thrived in Grassroots Canada, which has elevated from another so-and-so to a veritable Division-I launchpad.

While Grass-roots came in waves and waves this weekend, nobody made the brand name stick like crafty guard Brady Heslip.

The gym rat nephew of Jay Triano, Heslip's quick-strike 3-point shooting has opened up mega interest.

"The phone has been ringing off the hook," explained Ro Russel, the program founder and Heslip's current coach.

"The way he's been shooting the ball, everyone is looking at him."

Heslip morphed into the mad bomber in Cincinnatti, scoring 37 points in the opening matchup.

 Opponents threw a variety of schemes at Heslip, an all-men-aboard clamp down operation.

Nothing stuck.

Great frustration was etched across the face of each man tasked with neutralizing Heslip.

 This was most notable during Heslip's individual 17-0 spurt.

"He was on fire no matter what they threw at him," Russell said.

"He's really starting to blow up. He's like a Mark Price, Scott Skiles type. He's the last one to leave the gym, always. He'll shoot all day."

Fast forward to March of 2012.

Heslip, sporting that eyesore highlighter-yellow Baylor uniform, gets a momentum jolt after finding a fortuitous bounce open 3-pointer.

 The lucky roll is a portent of what is to come.

 Yet "lucky" should never be listed in the same sentence as Heslip.

Not even the same paragraph, the same pages, the same chapter.

Pushing himself through his own maniacal work rate, amped up to silence all detractors, Heslip had a janitor's supply of gym keys in high school.

He traipsed the sidelines of Raptors games as a youth, watching the likes of Chris Bosh.

 He watched the Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Jerome "The Junkyard Dog" Williams teams before them, sold on a franchise rebirth.

During a hot streak this past winter, countless comparisons for the floppy-haired shooter emerged.

Gerry McNamara. Colin Falls. Steve Kerr. Andy Rautins. Kyle Korver. Steve Novak without the height. (Enter known white 3-point specialist here).

Yet on Baylor's tournament opener against Colorado, Heslip separated himself from his uncle's brand name and every other quintessential kick out shooter.

Heslip pieced together a shot-after-shot clinic, decimating Colorado to the tune of 27 points (9-for-12 3FG).

 The Boston College transfer got the annual adrenaline pumping for the tournament, as Baylor scored an 80-63 victory over balanced Colorado.

Back to the future.

Playing for the Reno Bighorns in the D-League, Heslip averaged 24.5 points per game.

 And that deadeye shooting, which spurred Canada's blurring bolt into AAU relevance, escaping obscurity well before the day of Andrew Wiggins?

It's helped Heslip twice break the D-league record for 3-pointers made in a game.

His performances have become emblematic of the true sniper role.

After bagging 11 3-pointers in a game, Heslip shot 13-for-20 from beyond the arc in a single game.

In transition. Off the dribble. Quick catch-and-sticks, you name it.

The same draping coverage, to the extent of face-guarding, has done little to change the form or trajectory of Heslip's shots.

Heslip is currently in Bosnia, emerging into a 30-Point+ threat for KK Igokea of the Adriatic League.

He's had his fair share of doubters, drawing on about limitations.

At the same time, he's been pigeonholed as strictly an outside shooting specialist.

Heslip's perseverance has turned the critics into crickets, as the superhuman workload has never tailed off.

"What Brady has is what I call a blackout work ethic," said NBA trainer Cody Toppert, who has helped cultivate Heslip's development and focus, pushing him through the wear and tear of innovative one-on-one workouts.

"It's a non-stop, relentless work ethic. In High School, he was doubted. When he went to Baylor, he was doubted. He has a perpetual chip on his shoulder."

Toppert as well as world-renowned NBA skill development trainer Ganon Baker have seen the competitive juices spike with Brady, though his insatiable everyday hunger has yet to peak.

Remember, he's only 24.

He's slayed the odds and thrived in the fiend-like face of adversity much of his career.

Despite his scoring exploits, despite his will to prolong his career in the pro ranks, Heslip will not want to hang them up with a clichéd "tried everything within his capabilities" swan story.

"He's one of the best shooters on the planet," Toppert said.

"He's got an NBA skill shooting the ball. He's a better ball handler than people think. He's a better defender than people think. I'm sure he still wakes up with fire in his heart knowing he wants to get to the NBA."