Game Theory: The Hoops Whisperer on Teamwork, Competition

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 158. Below are the answers from the man who’s trained LeBron, Carmelo, CP3, KD and many more elite NBA players. Enjoy!

Q: I’m a 6-2 center in high school from the Philippines, and my parents don’t support my basketball dreams. Time is running out for me and I’m confused: Should I just go with the flow or go against the authority? I have won individual awards in leagues and a championship, and right now I’m working on being a combo guard for college. I have a good jumper and footwork that helps me in the post. I can play defense, but I’m not a shot blocker. I am still working on my quickness, shooting and am learning the principles of being a point guard. Please help me.

A: Parents always want the best for their children, but they don’t always know what is best for their children. You love the game and seem committed to improving, and unlike what your parents think, this doesn’t preclude you from finding a good job when you graduate from college. Basketball and a good job can certainly overlap. You can chase your basketball dreams. You can find time to study and earn good grades in college. You can leverage college alumni relationships to find solid internships during the summer. You can work with the academic tutors in college to help you with challenging classes. You can find a good job upon graduation. I encourage you to do what you love. At first, your parents will struggle with your decision. As they begin to see your happiness, commitment both on the court and in the classroom, and the coexistence of basketball and a good job, they will eventually accept your choices.

Q: I am a 13-year-old ballplayer from Britain and am playing my first season of organized basketball. I am a good shooter and passer and point guard, but because of my height, I play power forward. When I get the ball, I always make good passes to set up my teammates, but when I’m at forward it is hard for me to do that. Do I stay as a forward and try and improve my skills there or ask to play point guard?

A: You have a responsibility to your team and to yourself. Your team needs you to rebound, defend and block shots so your coach will understandably play you at the 4. Meanwhile, you have your own personal basketball goals, so I encourage you to work on your perimeter skills as often as you can and whenever you can. I assume your coach will not permit you to play on the perimeter at this level because he needs you with your back to the basket protecting the rim. I can assure you these guard skills will become valuable as you play with better teams and against better players. Years from now when you are playing professionally, your secret weapon will become your versatility and ability to play multiple positions.

Q: I’ve played ball all my life in Chicago until I recently moved out to Iowa for family reasons. I go to local gyms and colleges for games, but most of the time the gyms are empty, and if I do get a game going, it’s with old guys. The competition is just not there. Now when I go back home to visit my friends, they notice my game isn’t how it used to be because of me not playing ball with competition back home in Chicago. What should I do?

A: I certainly agree Chicago has some of the best players in the country: Jahlil Okafor and Jabari Parker at the high school level, Anthony Davis at the college level and Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade on the professional level. Your game could decline without good competition on a daily basis. Assuming you play in high school, I suggest connecting with a strong AAU team and attending top-flight basketball camps so you can compete against the best players in the country. Assuming you graduated college and work full-time, it will be more challenging to find a solid run. I suggest posting online, creating a meetup group, networking with former college basketball alumni at different universities to organize a weekly run, and contacting the women’s college varsity basketball teams and offering to scrimmage against their teams during the season.

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