Kenneth Faried, Jamal Murray on Helping the Next Generation at adidas Nations

Faried and Murray were in California last week to teach their secrets to the best high school players in the country.
by July 05, 2017
Kenneth Faried, Jamal Murray

“He’s OD.”

These are the two words Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray uses to describe his teammate Kenneth Faried to a group of people standing around the baseline as they watch two teams scrimmage. The term “OD,” an acronym for over-doing, is probably not the first time someone has used it when talking about Faried.

It’s a Wednesday morning at Sports Academy, a performance facility in Thousand Oaks, CA, and adidas is hosting its annual Nations Training Camp. The camp, which will be held for two days, is a temporary home for some of the best high school players in the nation.

Players are broken up by position and participate in skills development sessions for two hours all throughout five regulation-sized basketball courts. Some of the guards in attendance are working on various dribbling combos with Drew Hanlen, founder and CEO of Pure Sweat, a skills development company that works with an array of NBA clients from Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Bradley Beal.

“My goal is to show them that there’s still a lot of room for growth,” says Hanlen on his objective when he works with grassroots athletes. “If they want to play at the highest level in the NBA, there’s a lot of little nuances they’re going to have to pay more attention to.”

Faried and Murray are two of the Three Stripes’ athletes who are getting work in with the young bucks. In the middle court, Faried decides to step on for a half-court scrimmage. As the ball makes its way around the perimeter, the defense is scrambling and Faried sees an opening as he drives to the cup from the top of the key. Once he puts the ball on the floor, everyone in the gym knows he’s going straight to the basket.

As he rises up, some players in the paint attempt to stop this freight train coming at them with no mercy, but it’s too late. Faried is trying to put anyone in the vicinity of the rim on a poster. But he gets fouled and misses the dunk. There’s a sigh of relief from the defense as they realize none of them got baptized. Onlookers on the baseline look around with that Did you just see this shit? look.

The next time Faried’s team is on offense, the play starts with a high ball screen. The Manimal, a nickname Faried earned because of his intensity on the court, sprints from the paint to set the screen. No one on defense calls out the pick, and Jules Bernard, a 6-5 small forward from Windward (CA) HS, is a victim of a vicious screen that leaves him grabbing his side as he tries to get back into the play.

“It’s good to experience because in high school, I’m normally the more stronger player in the nation as a guard, so knowing that that’s what an NBA screen feels like it tells me I need to get stronger,” says Bernard. “Right now, I still have room to grow—strength-wise—and it shows me more I have to grow to be an NBA-caliber player.”

Summertime is an important period for players looking to take their game to the next level. Highly touted athletes trade in personal time with friends and family vacations for two-a-days and AAU tournaments in different cities every weekend. And events like adidas Nations—with NBA athletes, coaches and trainers on-hand—serves as an assessment for what aspects of their game need improvement.

For Moses Brown, a 7-1 center from Archbishop Molloy (NY) HS, who’s ranked No. 6 on ESPN’s Top 100 in 2018, these two days are vital as he looks to be regarded as an all-around player at a time where the traditional center is a thing of the past.

“You get to see the physicality that’s at the highest level when you’re playing against those guys,” says Brown, “You can tell the difference between your skill-set and theirs and how much stronger they are.”

Bernard also makes sure to soak up as much knowledge as he prepares for his senior year.

“The little details they use—footwork, stuff like that, that make them great players,” he says.

For now, these kids are still students of the game, but Faried knows he’ll be suiting up with and/or against some of these same faces in a couple of years.

“These are going to be the kids that are going to replace me in the League and hopefully be All-Stars or superstars and everything else in the League,” says Faried. “So I just get a glimpse at our future and some of these kids are going to be my future teammates.”

Drew Ruiz is a contributor to SLAM. Follow him @DrewRuiz90. Photo courtesy of adidas