Game Theory: The Hoops Whisperer on Confidence, Excuses

by April 02, 2012

He’s back. After a successful string of columns, we took a couple more of your questions and posed them to Idan Ravin, a.k.a. The Hoops Whisperer, for his column in SLAM 157. Below are the answers from the man who’s trained LeBron, Carmelo, CP3, KD and many more elite NBA players. Enjoy!

Q: I am 12 years old and have some skills, but I really need help with conditioning and confidence. When I get the ball I’m usually thinking, He is yelling my name, I better pass it! I know I am better than most kids but I don’t have the confidence to use my skills and prove it. Please help me. My parents are even starting to doubt me and I want to prove them wrong.

A: Imagine spending a week studying for a math test. You are certain you know all the material. For some reason, you don’t put down on paper everything you know when you sit for the exam, and consequently you earn a C. Your teacher knows you understand the material because you raise your hand and always participate in class, but she can only grade you for what she sees on paper.

This same thinking applies in sports. You can say you are better than the other players, but it really doesn’t matter if you don’t produce when it counts: on the court, with referees, coaches, scoreboards, pressure and teammates.

I hope you reframe your definition of “better.” From your question, it sounds like you define “better” narrowly. “Better” means better skilled, better conditioned, better game-time performer, better understanding of the game, better worker, better teammate, better vision, better humility, better confidence and better person. If you really were better than your teammates, I doubt you would have issues with confidence. Your parents wouldn’t doubt your commitment, your coaches wouldn’t doubt your ability, your teammates wouldn’t doubt your reliability and you wouldn’t doubt your game.

Q: I played basketball throughout high school. I racked up all-tourney awards. I also hold the scoring title at my school, but have yet to get to college. I’m in better shape and am a better ballhandler, but no colleges seem to care about that since I’m 20 years old and 5-10. I love the game too much to give up now.

A: I don’t like excuses. If you are as good as you claim, college teams wouldn’t care about your age and your size. I want you to review the rosters of 10 college basketball teams and you will find countless undersized players who attended prep school and entered college at age 19 and 20. The hard-to-swallow truth is you may not be as good as you think.

I encourage you to get back in the gym and improve in areas necessary to play at the collegiate level. You would be an undersized point guard in college, so you must become a great defender with cat-like quickness, amazing and efficient handles, a reliable jump shot, a high basketball IQ and the ability to run a college offense.

Playing college ball is no different than finding a good job. Most employers require a résumé with relevant job experience and skills it values. In other words, years of cooking experience probably won’t matter to the graphic design company. It takes time to build a job résumé and it takes time to attract the eye of college coaches. I assume you don’t have a substantial, eye-popping basketball résumé. This doesn’t mean you should stop dreaming, but it means you should redirect your focus and start developing your basketball résumé. Consider attending prep school or junior college to show coaches at four-year colleges you can play ball at a level above high school but just below college. Also, consider walking-on at a university but, to get in the door, highlight your good grades from high school, your reliability, and commitment to the idea of “team.”

There is always an avenue for your dreams, but it first requires you to accept the fact that you are where you are meant to be. You are 20 years old. It is time to take the game and your life more seriously so you can live life on your terms and without excuses.

Need advice from Idan? Email him at and your question might run. For more, check and hit him on Twitter (@IdanWan) and Facebook.