The final goal is a spot on an NBA roster. To get there, though, college basketball's best spend the months between the end of the NCAA season and the NBA Draft working on everything a organization will analyze from on-court skill to physical conditioning to how they interview. The IMG Academy basketball program has successfully prepared prospects for the NBA Draft combine, private workouts and NBA career for years, including names like Kobe Bryant, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Jrue Holiday, DeJuan Blair and many others.
For years, the Pitt men's basketball team has focused on team success and defense over individual stardom. Hailing from Philadelphia's rough-and-tumble high school leagues, that was just fine with Brad Wanamaker. After four years of ups and downs, the do-it-all guard left Pitt with a 111-30 record. He recently took time to talk about growing up in Philadelphia, being a father and the best place to get a cheesesteak.
Brad Wanamaker on...
...how he honed his game: I played a lot on the streets growing up. We went all over the city. Wherever people were playing, we were there. A lot of the places where my dad grew up playing, he would take my twin brother and I. To this day, I can say that I've never beat my dad. We would always try to cross him up like Allen Iverson, but he quit playing us as soon as he knew we could beat him.
...life in Philadelphia: I grew up near Temple, and it's not the best neighborhood. There's a lot of drugs and violence. I've had a couple friends get involved in that, and my mom wanted me to get away and grow up. We had summer leagues where they had to stop the game because of shootings. It wasn't always safe to play outdoors, so I played indoors when I could.
A lot of my uncles were into selling drugs and going in and out of jail. I knew that wasn't the route for me. My dad introduced me to basketball, and my brother and I couldn't stop playing. Basketball kept us busy. It would let us get out of the neighborhood. My mom and dad worked tremendously hard to keep us out of trouble.
...getting dominated during his freshman year at Pitt: My freshman year was tough. Things didn't go how I thought they would. Coach Dixon was hard on me, but he pushed me to be the best I could be. He helped me grow up. He pushed you to grow as a player and as a man.
But Levance Fields? He torched me. Not a day went by that he wasn't killing me in practice. I'm getting frustrated because I thought I was playing good defense. He talked so much trash. He would talk for three days straight. Then the coaches would talk about it and we'd watch film - it was endless for me. But it made me hungry. He made me bring it every day, which helped in my development.
...Pitt's early outs during the NCAA Tournament: My sophomore year, we lost on a buzzer-beater by Scottie Reynolds. My junior year, we had a lot of people doubting us, then when we finish 2nd in the Big East only to lose in the 2nd round to Xavier and Jordan Crawford by three points. This past season, there was no doubt in my mind that we would get to the National Championship. Then in the last 5 seconds of the Butler game, it was a mix of highs and lows. It was a game we should've won. When the game was over, it was tough for me. Once I got to the locker room, I lost it. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was crying. I couldn't believe my career ended like that.
...Eagles vs. Steelers: I'm a die-hard Eagles fan. Die-hard. But I'm a fan of the Steelers, too. They would come out to the games. Santonio Holmes used to come out and say âWas upâ to the guys. I was in Pittsburgh for two Super Bowls. When they first one, everyone on campus was running around like crazy. They were lighting chairs on fire and everything. I'll never forget it.
...being a father: The first two or three months of having my son, Brad III, was really tough. They need the attention, and I'd wake up at 4 a.m. or something then have to be at class at 8 a.m. He's got a little ball and a little court. He's already interested in basketball. My girlfriend is the best thing that's happened because she's been so good through everything.
...the best cheesesteak spot in Philly: Pat's and Geno's are pretty good, but you've got to go with Max's or Ishkabibble's on South Street. It's been a long time... about a year. I've got to get one every time I go home.
...his IMG training: Coach Dan Barto and I talk a lot. For hours. I listen because I know he has positive things to say. People tell me that I'm tight in the hips. I do a lot of hip movements and feel better going through the cones and changing direction. It's been a great experience. I'd definitely recommend this place to anyone.