Some players find success early. We anoint them as stars in junior high school. We see one and think that is the way it goes: stars have natural talent which is evident early.
However, not all great players are discovered early:
[Miami’s Jack] McClinton did not crack the Calvert Hall College High starting five until senior year. He wanted to go to Maryland, but the Terps never offered a scholarship. Siena offered him a spot as a walk-on. After the season, though, playing in the Charm City Classic at Towson College, South Kent (Conn.) Prep coach Raphael Chillious approached McClinton’s parents, telling them their son was the best in the gym. Soon after enrolling at South Kent, McClinton rewarded Siena coach Rob Lanier’s interest with a commitment.
Whether discovered early or late, the talents who emerge work hard:
McClinton wore holes through his Air Jordans from playing so much. A regular at the Cecil Kirk Recreation Center, he competed alongside future pros Josh Boone and Rudy Gay in AAU…Awake before classes, he worked on his shot. As lights went out at 11 p.m., he and teammate Dorell Wright, who would go on to be drafted by the Miami Heat the next summer, knew which entrance was unlocked and shot all night.
Even when the coach is not watching, the best players find ways to make themselves better:
Once in Coral Gables, McClinton battled guards Robert Hite and Guillermo Diaz in practice. When the team went on the road, he greased Miami’s arena security guards with a Gatorade or peanuts to let him enter the gym. Haith would call about that time and hear his transfer’s heavy breathing. “He was ideal,” Haith said. “Never had to keep him focused.”
However, to develop into one of the top players, players must get outside their comfort zone and work on all their skills:
Looking to improve his ball handling, he attended the Steve Nash Skills Academy and trained in the sand pits off the Miami football practice field over the summer. Undeterred by the 90 degree heat he mimicked teammates with defensive slides and offensive steps. All the while, he improved his reaction skills, strengthening his ankles and adding agility. “The reaction,” said Miami strength and conditioning coach Mac Calloway, “is so important to his game.”