5 Must-Reads: Mental Preparation with Dante Exum

STACK chronicles the takeaways from five books NBA rookie Dante Exum will read as he prepares for his first season as a pro.

Australian basketball player Dante Exum, who was drafted fifth overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2014 NBA Draft, is primed for potential stardom. The 18-year-old point guard already has numerous sponsorship deals, including contracts with adidas and Red Bull, and he stars in several Foot Locker commercials, teaming up with agent Rob Pelinka, whose list of clients also includes Kobe Bryant.

Exum, drafted in the same class has high-profile prospects Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, plans to strengthen his mental game with a full bookshelf of stories and insights about basketball, life and personal motivation. Here are five books on Exum's shelf and the takeaways from each:

1. 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

The third installment in leadership expert John Maxwell's "Laws" series (following The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork), Laws of Growth outlines 15 ground rules for character development and ways to reach your potential, including:

  • The Law of the Mirror: You must see value in yourself to add value to yourself.
  • The Law of Awareness: You must know yourself to grow yourself.
  • The Law of Modeling: It's hard to improve when you have no one but yourself to follow.
  • The Law of the Rubber Band: Growth stops when you lose the tension between where you are and where you could be.
  • The Law of Contribution: Developing yourself enables you to develop others.

Maxwell also describes components of what he calls the "growth gap," essentially obstacles preventing you from personal improvement. You must address these obstacles if you intend to establish "intention" to progress.

The Takeaways:

  •  It all starts with preparation—or, in the words of Jim Rohn, "You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight."

RELATED: Growth Mindset: How to Think Like A Champion

2. The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team With Positive Energy

Jon Gordon shares 10 pieces of life advice with positivity as the driving force behind your accomplishments and pursuit of your dreams. He draws from his experience with leaders, teams, sales professionals, schools, athletes and organizations, providing real-life examples of people overcoming obstacles and helping their teams improve. Gordon weaves their stories with his own personal insights and provides roadmap strategies to get you to "drive your own bus." He also shares advice on how to stay on track, find other positive-oriented people, and fend off energy "vampires," while overcoming fears and cultivating trust.

The Takeaways:

  • Positive energy is the most influential motivator.
  • "You are never given a wish without the power to make it come true." 

RELATED: Use Positive Visualization to Improve Performance

3. Basketball

More of a collector's item, this book, which looks and feels like a basketball, features photos of many famous players, including Wilt Chamberlain, Dennis Rodman, Dikembe Mutombo, Kobe Bryant and other influential figures who helped professional basketball reach its current height of popularity.

In addition, the book offers a short history of the sport and provides some basic fundamentals of how to play.

The Takeaways:

  • Information on the sport's history and its greatest players.
  • The greatest gift is the game itself.

4. Assisted

Without a doubt, John Stockton is among the best point guards ever to play the game. Relatively unknown throughout his college career at Gonzaga University, Stockton was Drafted by the Utah Jazz in 1984 and played for the team for all 19 seasons of his career.

A 10-time NBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist with the United States "Dream Team," Stockton is the NBA's all-time leader in career steals (3,265) and career assists (15,806).

In this book, Stockton sets out to answer a single question: "How did this wonderful life come to find me?"

His junior high school coach, Kerry L. Pickett, replies, "Perhaps there is an appropriate irony in the fact that John's singularly spectacular art form—the assist—is inextricably a part of the answer to that question."

Stockton's autobiography provides insight into his personal life, including the places, people and experiences that shaped him and his career. Details and anecdotes of his childhood in Spokane, Washington, and his views on fame are just the tip of the iceberg, as Stockton humbly reveals his beliefs and values concerning friendship, family, loyalty, hard work and dedication.

In the book's Foreword, Stockton's former teammate and close friend Karl Malone writes: "From the very first, I realized that what you see is what you get with John. He lined up without excuses."

The Takeaways:

  • Self-confidence and hard work are key, but having a sense of humor is just as important.
  • Find the lesson to be learned from every major experience, good or bad.
  • Be prepared and act like a professional. Or in other words, "Line up without excuses."
  • Continuously acknowledge friends, family and coaches who have helped your game and shaped you as a person.

RELATED: Point Guard Drills for Better Court Vision

5. The Art of a Beautiful Game

Journalist Chris Ballard goes behind the scenes to hang with some of the NBA's best players. Shadowing LeBron James, Ballard tries to understand James's mental game as well as his astounding physical skills. He plays Steve Kerr in a game of HORSE to get a feel for a shooter's mentality, and he examines the playing style of famous big men like Shaquille O'Neal, Dwight Howard and Yao Ming.

Various chapters of "A Thinking Man's Tour of the NBA" feature pure shooters like Ray Allen, point guards like Steve Nash, and even rebounders.

Ballard writes in the Introduction: "I could explain how the pick-and-roll can be the oldest play in the book, or even the only play in the book, and people still can't stop it. Instead, what I've done is write this book. [The book] is simply a celebration of the game and those who play it at the highest level."

In one section, Ballard unveils a moment in Kobe Bryant's past that could be the source of "the Black Mamba's" fiercely competitive nature. It happened during a summer league game in which he failed to make a single basket.

Elsewhere, Ballard writes: "Because while the majority of what we read and hear about the NBA may be the day-to-day drama—who wins, who loses, who might get traded, who threw whom under which bus—this doesn't mean that NBA stars don't adore the game in all its myriad intricacies."

The Takeaways:

  • Basketball is "both an art and a science."
  • Never stop renewing your passion for the game, and don't forget why and how it became the love of your life.
  • Pick-and-roll.

Read More:

5 Pillars of Mental Toughness

4 Tips For Building Confidence

The Difference Between NBA and College Players

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock