May 19, 2011
MADISON, Wis. -- To play like an NBA player, Jon Leuer has learned, you have to practice like an NBA player.
Allen Iverson aside, of course.
That’s been part of Leuer’s on-going education in preparation for the scrutiny that he will come under during the pre-draft camp and all of the individual team workouts that will follow.
The training regimen has taken Leuer from Chicago to Los Angeles, where he has come under the wing of Don MacLean, who became the Pac-10’s all-time scoring leader while starring at UCLA.
The 41-year-old MacLean, the 19th overall pick in the 1992 draft, played nine seasons in the NBA for the Bullets, the Nuggets, the 76ers, the Nets, the SuperSonics, the Suns and the Heat.
Big (man) on Big (man). The 6-foot-10 MacLean has already had an impact on the 6-10 Leuer.
“He’s taught me a lot so far,” Leuer said. “He really pushes me.”
MacLean has been schooling Leuer and his training partner, Florida’s Chandler Parsons (the SEC Player of the Year), on what they should expect when they begin trying out for select NBA teams.
MacLean has kept it simple.
“Be tough in the workouts – don’t back down from anybody,” Leuer said.
Survival instincts are on the check list of every NBA general manager and coach.
“That’s one of the things they look at – when a guy gets tired – how do they react,” Leuer said. “Are they going to push through it? Or are they going to give in?”
MacLean has tested their mettle during two-hour morning practices.
“The first part is usually shooting, a lot of post-up drills and ball-handling,” Leuer said. “The second half of the workout is one-on-one, two-on-two. That’s kind of how the NBA workouts are.”
The aim is to simulate what the environment is going to be like for Leuer and Parsons.
“They’re making it as tough as possible on us,” Leuer said, “so nothing is going to be a shock and we’re not going to be overwhelmed by how hard it is when we go through it.”
So how did someone from Orono, Minn., get paired with someone from Winter Park, Fla.? How did such an odd couple like Leuer and Parsons find themselves in a SoCal classroom with MacLean?
The driving force is Mark Bartelstein, the agent who represents Leuer and Parsons. The pre-draft program is part of the total package with Bartelstein, the CEO and founder of Priority Sports.
In his recruiting literature, Bartelstein touts how his clients will “have the opportunity to work individually with our basketball skills coach and our strength and speed coach in twice-daily personalized sessions leading up to the draft” on June 23 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
For Leuer, the comprehensive training began in Chicago. “After a couple of days, my legs were so sore I could hardly move,” said Leuer, who was joined by Parsons and Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore. “In the time that I’ve been out here (Los Angeles) my basketball game has improved a lot.”
During the process, Leuer and Parsons have hit it off, too.
“We’re from a little bit different cultures, but we definitely get along great,” said Leuer. “He’s a Florida kid always talking about laying by the pool and I’m a Midwest kid trying to find sunscreen.”
Their objectives have been the same. “I feel like I’ve been doing things the right way,” Leuer said, “in kind of building up and getting ready for the draft. Most of the training is for the team workouts. I will be going all over the place working out for teams; probably 10 to 15 workouts.”
Although the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement is set to expire shortly after the draft on July 1, Leuer recognizes that he has no control over what potentially looms as a lengthy lockout.
“You have to keep training,” he said, “and keep trying to get better.”
What’s the one question that he thinks NBA teams may have about his game?
“I don’t know if there’s one question, that’s tough to answer,” he said. “I have to go there (workouts) and work my butt off in whatever they ask. I have to go there with something to prove.”
Leuer is still drawing inspiration from the way the UW season ended in a Sweet 16 loss to Butler.
“That was definitely tough because we had a group of guys that could have really made a deeper run,” he said. “Obviously, I didn’t have my best performance, to say the least.
“And it’s something I will carry with me and I’m going to use as motivation to get better. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
The Badgers must replace Leuer and Keaton Nankivil on their frontline. Do they have the right pieces to the puzzle? How will Mike Bruesewitz, Jared Berggren and Evan Anderson fill the void?
Not to worry, Leuer says.
On Bruesewitz: “You always know what you’re getting from Mike. He’s a tough, hardnosed kid who’s going to work his tail off.
“And he’s getting more confident offensively, too, in knocking down shots and taking it hard to the rim. You’re never going to be a disappointed with a guy like Mike.”
On Berggren: “He’s knocking on the door for some big minutes. The biggest thing is his motor. He has to be high energy all the time and he can be as good as anybody. He’s skilled, he can rebound, he can do a lot of things. If he keeps his energy level high, there’s no reason he can’t be an All-Big Ten guy.”
On Anderson, the freshman redshirt: “He’s a guy who just got better throughout the season. Late in the year, he was looking really good on the scout team. At times I was matched up with Evan. He’s as big as a house. When the play would get pretty physical, he didn’t back down at all.”
That has to be Leuer’s attitude when he gets into those NBA workouts. And that’s why he has been so willing to take part in these pre-draft training sessions designed to toughen mind and body.
“I have to go out there and prove that I’m a tough kid,” he said.
Leuer was reluctant to speculate on where he might go in the draft.
“It’s really too early to tell,” he said. “The workouts and the interviews will ultimately decide where you go. Right now maybe late first round, early second if all goes well. That would be good.”
Leuer has already proven that he’s a good student. When the opportunity came up to train in Chicago and Los Angeles, he made sure that he had everything covered with his UW professors.
“They’ve been great so far in working with me and allowing me to finish up this summer,” Leuer said.
“I’m only a few credits away from my degree. That’s huge. I’m right there. I can see the finish line.”
He can also see the realization of a life-long dream.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do ever since I was a kid – and that was to play in the NBA,” Leuer said. “It’s crazy sometimes when you stop and think that you’re this close …
“You’re actually training for the NBA right now … It’s a pretty cool thought.
“I’m just thankful I have this opportunity and Wisconsin was a great step in that direction for me. Coach Ryan and all of my coaches and teammates have helped me get to this point. And I feel I’m right there …
“So I’ve got to keep pushing and hopefully I can have a long and successful NBA career.”