Gym teacher and AAU basketball coach Sandy Pyonin (right in photo) has trained 32 NBA players over the last 35 years—including Randy Foye, Al Harringon, Dahntay Jones, and the number one pick in the 2011 Draft, Kyrie Irving—all in an unimpressive, beat-up gym in Union, N.J.
Pyonin personally selects each player he trains, and he focuses on teaching the finer points of the game of basketball. He also coaches the N.J. Roadrunners, an AAU team that has won three AAU national championships and sent more than 300 players to Division I programs.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Pyonin, who is training his next prodigy, 6’9″ Roselle Catholic High School senior Tyler Roberson. Although Pyonin didn’t reveal much about his specific coaching strategies and techniques, he did offer some pointed advice and suggestions based on his philosophy of coaching, which may help put things into perspective for aspiring basketball stars.
Focus on Fundamentals
“Most of the time I spend with the kids is working on fundamentals. At least 6 days a week. Incorporate dribbling skills into all skill work, and put up 500 to 1,000 free throws at the end of practice.”
Fine-Tune Your Flexibility
“[Yoga] is important to enhance your body to be more flexible.”
Build up Your Conditioning
“After skill work, we play full court one-on-one, first to 100, by 1. If you challenge yourself on the court, you can build conditioning and mental toughness. ”
Hone Your Mental Skills
“Mental development is equally important as building yourself up physically. Mediation is very important.”
“I don’t think just anybody could be an NBA player, but if you have that potential, along with the discipline and willingness to focus, I can take you there.”
Take Care of Yourself
“I find myself preaching about the importance of replenishing fluids, getting good rest, things to eat the night before a game. I’ve also never smoked or drank a day in my life.”
Find Your Competitive Instinct
“There’s a moment when you come to fully understand the need to be competitive on every play, offensively and defensively—like it’s your last day on earth. If you don’t mind losing, then you’re not there yet.”