How an Agent Prepares a Prospect for the NBA Draft
Let's get one thing straight: It’s not all court-side seats, Rolex watches and Jerry Maguire hugs for every NBA agent.
For every Arn Tellem, Jeff Schwartz, Rob Pelinka and Dan Fegan, there's a guy like Adam Pensack—a behind-the-scenes conductor lobbying for a modest stable of prospects night and day, lifelong dreams hanging in the balance.
His clients have long roads to NBA draft relevance, and odds are...OK. Clients Colton Iverson (Colorado State), Jack Cooley (Notre Dame) and Anthony Marshall (UNLV) all hope to have their names called Thursday night in Brooklyn's Barclays Center. Iverson is a virtual second-round lock.
There's no grad school program for Pensack’s job. From the moment he signs a player to draft night, he has one objective: sell his players to NBA front offices.
Pensack recently exchanged emails with Bleacher Report at length to reveal the magic behind one of the sports world's most misunderstood jobs.
Q: One big element in entering the draft’s spotlight is learning how to handle the media. How do you prepare your guys for moments in front of the microphone?
We always work to come up with 2-3 talking points for each player. Each player is different, so the talking points vary. For example, if a player is working hard to become a better shooter, we want the player talking about the efforts being made to become a better shooter.
We also typically set up an interview very early in the process with a not-so popular media outlet to gauge how the player does in a live interview after we've coached him. This gives us another opportunity for additional coaching before we interview with major media outlets.
We do show video of what to do and what not to do whenever we deem it necessary.
The most common mistake made by players is being too robotic or thinking too much. We want players to be themselves. The best way to ensure this happens is to give the players as much practice as possible so they get comfortable with the interview process.
Q: With clients scattered across the country, where do players attend specific workout facilities? Also, how involved are you in your client’s pre-draft workout programs?
There are a couple major workout facilities throughout the U.S. The best large facility is Impact Basketball in Las Vegas. There are other great facilities that are smaller, but do tremendous work.
A few of my favorites are Evolution Athletics in the Chicago area and Project Basketball in Oakland. Joe Abunassar at Impact Basketball in Vegas is a world-renowned trainer and Jeff Pagliocca from Evolution Athletics and Kelvin Potts from Project Basketball are truly world-class basketball skills trainers.
My agency is involved to the extent that we have a very good feel for each player's strengths and weaknesses and know what the player needs to work on to maximize his chances to make it at the NBA level. We formulate a plan with the trainer to help each player get to the next level. Some agencies just leave it all up to a trainer, but we are very hands on and provide a lot of input in this process.
Q: As an agent, how do you secure workouts for your clients with NBA teams?
Any agent can get workouts for good players. The real key is the quality of the workouts obtained. There are three key variables that determine the quality of a workout for a player: who the opponent is in the workout, where the team hosting the workout is drafting, and how many players at the player's position are under contract already for the following season.
The key is to get as many high-quality workouts as possible, and we spend a lot of time studying each of these variables to ensure we get the most high-quality workouts possible for each client. This year alone, we've obtained over 50 pre-draft workouts with NBA teams for our clients.
The pitch to get workouts often includes the player's statistical accomplishments and accolades received. It is also important to stay incredibly proactive throughout the pre-draft process because additional workouts can be obtained simply by being more diligent than other agents.
I typically am on dozens of phone calls every day regarding workout opportunities, and I send/receive hundreds of text messages per day with teams about workout opportunities. My brother/business partner [Ben Pensack] puts forth similar effort on a daily basis.
Q: How much time a day/week are you talking to your players. What are you telling them? How are you keeping them motivated/focused?
I am in constant communication with my clients either by text or on the phone. Multiple times per day, every day. How much time does this equate to per week? Hard to say, but it's a very large part of what we do.
I constantly provide them with feedback from NBA teams and let them know about new opportunities. I also monitor other players very closely to determine who our competition in the draft is and how we are being viewed relative to those players. Good players/clients don't need to be motivated in this process because this is the opportunity of a lifetime so they generally are very self motivated.
Q: What is draft day like for you and your players? Are you on the phone all day with teams and your player?
Draft day is exciting. We prepare players extremely well, on and off the court, for this day, but it can be nerve wracking regardless for some players. After all, this is the day many players have been looking forward to their entire lives.
Yes, I am on the phone all day. In fact, I've been on the phone virtually all day every day for the last month, so draft day won't be much different.
The best draft-day memory I have is when we got Kaniel Dickens from Idaho drafted. He wasn't even Honorable Mention All-Big West, and nobody thought he would be drafted except my agency and Kaniel and his family. We got him 15 pre-draft workouts, and the Jazz ended up drafting him. He then went on to play for four NBA teams.
When we began working for him, the Director of Scouting for the NBA told us that Kaniel had no chance to get drafted. A couple months later, he got drafted. It just shows that hard work and dedication pays off.
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