Be sure to check out our feature on Enes next month in SLAM 150.– Ed.
Since Kentucky lost to UConn in the Final Four, Enes Kanter has been a bit of a mystery. Keeping a low profile, Kanter has been stashed away in Chicago for a month now at Attack Athletics training with the same man who worked out with MJ, Kobe and DWade: none other than Tim Grover (and his staff). Coming away impressed after checking him out a little over two months ago in Lexington, SLAM and CityLeagueHoopsTv were invited to come in and check out Enes before anyone else. We walked out of the gym in Chicago pondering whether or not Enes could ultimately wind up as the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Grover’s right hand man, ATTACK Director of Basketball Operations Mike Procopio, put Enes and the rest of the players in attendance through a series of rigorous workouts that took us from 10 a.m. to past 4 p.m. with a small break in between to grab some grub. Florida State’s Chris Singleton, Illinois freshman Jereme Richmond, Michigan State’s Durrell Summers, UIC’s Paul Turner, Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, and Providence’s Marshon Brooks joined in the action.
Procopio started things off by having the players go through a series of simulated pick and pop drills, with the guards pulling a deep jumper and a passer ready to hit the big man popping out to the wing for a mid-range J. Everything was done at full speed, with Procopio barking out directions that weren’t exactly PG-13 that served a purpose both as motivation and instructionally. Procopio, a renowned expert on the NBA game, stressed creating the proper spacing and passing angles throughout the process to prepare players for the way that defenses would rotate.
From the pick and roll drills, the players went through a series of takes to the rim that stressed on being able to finish with either hand over the defense. The morning session ended with the players doing spot shooting from a stand-still from the five main spots from the NBA three-point line. Forty-five minutes in the weight room and an hour and a half for so for lunch, and the guys were back at it again for session two.
The second session stressed more on shooting off on the move, with the players sprinting to the corners/half court and catching the ball on the move. Like in the morning session, fundamentals were drilled in the players’ heads about keeping their elbows up and stepping into their shots properly. One dribble pull-ups and some more off-hand work followed, before concluding the workout with each player attempting 50 NBA three-pointers. The second session didn’t offer as many players (just Singleton, Brooks, Turner and Kanter) but offered considerably more intensity. The fellas were all cheering each other on and getting each other hyped, bringing together a sense of camaraderie while maintaining an intense competitive nature. Though it wound up being nearly six hours in the lab for Enes, he loved each and every second of it.
“I love being here in Chicago. I’m 100 percent focused on basketball and getting in shape,” the excited Kanter explained. “I loved Kentucky, but now it is time for me to get ready for the NBA.”
The first thing that was noticeable about Kanter was how much better his body looked. Not that he was ever out of shape in the first place, the 6-11 Turk went from around 270 pounds in March to a shredded 258 pounds as of Monday. He claims that he wants to play at “around 265 or 270 pounds” in the NBA, but get his weight back up the right away. Either way, you couldn’t help but be amazed at the progress that he’s made on his body in such a short time frame. When pressed about what Grover and his camp have been working with him the most on, he immediately brought up his conditioning.
“They’ve been trying to get me in shape and I feel like I’m ready right now. I’m in great shape,” boasted the 18-year-old. “We are also working on my quickness and shot. In the NBA, I want to play both center and power forward. I want to be able to face-up and shoot the ball too.”
Having the chance to watch Enes shoot nearly 200 jumpers throughout the two workouts, we can tell you that this cat has certainly improved his J-work. He was nearly automatic inside of the European three point line, showing his potential to stretch the D as a 4/5 (whether he likes it or not, I’m sure he’s going to play some center). When the big man stepped out beyond the NBA arc, he showed off a smooth release and had solid, but not spectacular results shooting 13/25 and 15/25 respectively. More importantly, Enes made considerable improvement speeding up the release of his shot and cleaning up the loose ends of his form. “We worked on my form a lot because I used to drop my left hand every time and now they yell at me ‘left hand up!’ each time I shoot,” explained Kanter with an infectious smile. “Before, my elbow was out a little bit when I shot. Now it’s not, and I’m shooting the ball much better.”
In workouts of this setting, it’s often hella difficult to completely gauge all of a player’s skills. Many skills such as rebounding, basketball IQ, team defense, and things of that nature are impossible to get a legit feel for in something like this. But we were able to check out Enes doing his thing down on the blocks. The European sensation made a number of routine left and right hand hooks before finishing the workout with a dunk exhibition, including him nearly taking off from the free-throw line.
Once the workout was over, we sat down and rapped about some of Enes’ times at UK, their final four run, and Terrence Jones’ surprising return to UK despite being projected as a top-10 pick. He felt that “the lockout was a big reason why Terrence came back” and that Terrence will be “much better after working with Coach Cal again for a year.”
As for Enes himself, the plan is for him to wait until the ping pong balls fall and then decide where he’s going to work out. He says he’s going to be doing workouts by himself and “can’t wait to go and meet with teams after Pre-Draft Camp.” With no NBA summer league and the impending lockout looming, Kanter hadn’t really began to think about alternative options until we presented him with that question.
“I haven’t really thought about going to play in Europe [if the lockout lasts deep into the season], but now that I think about it, maybe.”