School’s in Session
Former UConn point guard Craig Austrie is teaching the youth.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Life presents many possibilities for those who don’t immediately make it to the League coming out of college. While professional basketball may not be the number one option, graduating players are fortunate enough to have earned an education and degrees from some of the top universities in the nation. Coaching is always an alternative and armed with four seasons of big-time game and life experience, they have the opportunity to use their talent and skill to give back and help usher in a new generation of ballers.
Craig Austrie, the former Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year and key contributor on some very successful UConn teams, recently opened his Basketball IQ Skills Elite Development Program in Stamford, Connecticut, and people are raving. “There are many basketball development programs in the Tri-State, however few offer the opportunity to work with a former Big East Guard and Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year,” says one proud parent of a child mentored by Austrie. “In the time that my son has worked with Craig, he has improved his game, excelled on the court, and he just made his elite travel team.”
Austrie’s number one goal is to improve every aspect of someone’s game, from the correct way to shoot a jumper to their understanding of the little nuances that make good players great. There are tons of basketball academies and camps out there that all offer the promise to better a players game. But, for a young player with aspirations of making it big, there’s no better athlete to learn the game from than Austrie. He knows firsthand what it takes to succeed at a high level and that the mental part of basketball is just as important as the physical aspect.
“For myself, I’ve always been a guy to have a high basketball IQ,” he says. “I didn’t make it because I was the tallest, fastest, or quickest. I made it because I was a smart basketball player and that’s what I want to give back to the community.”
Described as a cerebral player by those who have coached him, Austrie had the esteemed privilege of playing under one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time in Coach Jim Calhoun. During his time at UConn, Austrie played against some of the top players in the country and in some huge games, including the 2009 Final Four. Balling in a stacked Big East and playing a pivotal role in the marathon Big East Tournament game against Syracuse in ‘09, Austrie always had a cool, calm demeanor on the hardwood that stemmed from the confidence and consistency he gained from hours of practice and hard work. Due to his excellent decision making and heady play he was trusted on the court during crunch time and counted on to maximize his team’s performance.
He was the prototype floor general under Calhoun; he could handle the rock, make the extra pass, find open teammates for an easy bucket, hit his free throws and knock down open jump shots when the opportunity presented itself. “Growing up, even playing at UConn they always complimented me on my basketball IQ, being the one to bring that calm factor out there and do the right thing,” Austrie says. “No matter what, I was always in at the end of the game because I had that ability to almost be like a coach on the court…I wasn’t the tallest kid or the fastest kid, I didn’t make it because I had height I made it because I had skill.”
After spending countless hours in the gym practicing with elite talent, Austrie learned what it takes to achieve greatness in the high ranks of college basketball and is now passing that knowledge along to upcoming players in the Tri-State Area. Unlike other coaches and trainers in the region, Austrie has been through the ringer and has the experience and knowledge to take those kids that are right on the brink of becoming contributing players and getting them over the hump through his development program.
“I learned from Coach Calhoun, I’ve taken a lot of his teaching and combined it with mine and created a program to really develop players,” he says. “I played against a lot of the top guard in the Big East like Jonny Flynn and Gerry McNamara. I played with a bunch of NBA players on my team in practice everyday. While I was going through the process, I was taking notes on how to develop someone’s game. Through all the rigorous training and hours i put in the gym, I came up with this program that really helps players elevate their game.”
Never one to sell himself short, Craig has set his sights high and looks to become the elite program in the area with one goal in mind: he simply wants to turn kids into smart, effective basketball players. And thus far, he has succeeded in that goal. Of the 70 players that he has trained with over the last year, a staggering 93 percent of them have made their teams. Austrie hopes to continue to train and develop young hoopsters and ensure that his teachings give them the best chance to succeed during the season. “I want to be the elite program out there,” he explains. “I want to be the guy that people come to to get better or to have that chance. I feel like what I have to offer, I know that I can do it. It’s a no-brainer, I’ve been doing this my whole life, I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, I’ve been a coach [at the PG position] on the court. If I can be the guy for people to come to to get to that next level or over that hump, then I’ll be satisfied.”
For more information on Craig Austrie’s Basketball IQ Skills Development Program, check out www.craigaustrie.net.