Prior to the Independence Day holiday weekend, I was contacted by a secretary for Impact Basketball, one of basketball’s premier training programs located in Las Vegas, Nevada.
From there, I was able to have a brief interview with the founder and director, Joe Abunassar, who has trained innumerable professional basketball players with Impact Basketball, such as Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups, and Baron Davis.
Erick Blasco: What sets Impact Basketball apart from other training programs?
Joe Abunassar: At Impact Basketball, we combine everything. At other programs, you lift weights, or you do skill work, or you play. Here, we combine everything.
You get skill work in the morning, usually around 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Then, you lift weights until noon, then you have a recess for lunch, and when you come back, you play five-on-five games and specialty work. It’s a full service. Plus, we have a brand new facility. It’s a beautiful new $23 million structure.
EB: Why did you end up getting involved with Impact Basketball?
JA: Well, I started off as a coach. I coached at Indiana under Bob Knight. Later, I moved on to Wyoming, but I always loved training players and I’ve always been interested in strength training.
EB: So you were a basketball guy who moved on to training, as opposed to a health guy who moved on to basketball?
EB: How long do players train for?
JA: It can be as little as a week to five months. Most people come in for six days a week and commit their summers. In September, though, most of the college and high school players leave for school. So for that month, it’s usually only the NBA guys that are around.
EB: I know you train a number of NBA players, Kevin Garnett and Baron Davis for example. But you also train college players and high school players. How do you train them differently?
JA: We don’t. We train every guy the same way. Basketball is a very simple sport. It’s the same repetition on every level.
The biggest difference is systems. In high school and college, it’s more about a coach’s system. The NBA has systems, too, to create individual mismatches. But in college, it's more about a coach’s system.
EB: Is the facility divided when it comes to NBA athletes and college players? And how many players are usually around at a given time?
JA: No, it’s always mixed together. NBA guys will be here with college guys and high school guys. We also get a lot of international players. We have 30 guys from China right now, and a Filipino basketball team. Usually, around 40 people are around at a time.
EB: You’ve worked with a number of players recently drafted from college to the pros. Who would you say has the biggest upside of the players you’ve worked with?
JA: They all have upside. Austin Daye has amazing upside. He’s so young and so talented at 6'9".
B.J. Mullens has amazing upside. Jrue Holiday, being only 18, has terrific upside. And they’re all better now than they were in college; they’ve improved physically, they’re better shooters, better dunkers, and better players.
EB: Who would you say is the hardest worker you’ve had?
JA: They all work hard, Kevin Garnett, Tyron Lue, Chauncey Billups. One thing you have to remember is that the people who participate are all paying. When you’re paying for something, you aren’t going to slack off.
EB: I asked because I know you’ve trained Kevin Garnett and his workout routines are almost legendary.
JA: Oh, he’s an animal. He’s intense. We start here at 9:00 a.m., but he’s here in the gym at 7:00 a.m. training. We have interns who help us out, and they get scared to go near him and say anything to him because he’s just so locked in.