By Madisen Carter
On Thursday, July 29th, 60 young men’s dreams of becoming an NBA player came true as they heard their names announced at Barclays Center for the 2021 NBA Draft. Five of the talented young men that were selected in the draft, including the fourth overall pick, spent eight weeks in Santa Barbara working out with Unlimited Potential Basketball’s very own, Coach Packie Turner, preparing for that moment and their future endeavors in the NBA.
The players Coach Packie worked with included Scottie Barnes, Greg Brown III, Neemias Queta, Kessler Edwards, Balša Koprivica, Ethan Thompson and MJ Walker Jr. Florida State University had two of their players selected as Barnes was selected fourth overall in the draft by the Toronto Raptors and Koprivica was selected 57th overall by the Detroit Pistons. Brown is now a Portland Trail Blazer, selected 43rd overall, while Queta was selected 39th overall by the Sacramento Kings and Edwards was selected 44th overall by the Brooklyn Nets.
During the summer, Coach Packie traveled back and forth to Santa Barbara from his home in Oakland to prepare the players. He said that he basically lived in Santa Barbara for two months and would travel back home on the weekends.
Along with Coach Packie, player development coach Michael Orlich worked out with the players, as well as Jason Hughes and Chris Head. Barnes’ trainer since 7th grade, Brian Macon, was also in Santa Barbara, and he and Coach Packie collaborated together on Barnes’ workouts.
“It's a really special time just because it's guys achieving their dreams, and you're a part of that process with them as they're pretty close to it,” Coach Packie said. “You're helping them, you know, make a jump to really solidify themselves and make a team take them, so it's a special time just in general [and] a lot of good energy. All the way around it's an exciting time for them as they begin their professional career.”
Coach Packie said that before the players arrived in Santa Barbara, his first step was to get familiar with the guys and how they play. As their film was watched, Coach Packie and the other coaches figured out what their strengths and weaknesses were, as well as what they could improve on during the eight weeks they would be in the city.
All the coaches worked with each player all together. Most of the workouts focused on one player at a time, making sure they hit everything that needed to be worked on. Coach Packie said they would work out six days a week, starting at 7:30 A.M. and ending around 3:30 P.M., working with each player each hour.
Coach Packie stated there were two main things that he focused on with the players: scoring and having a motor. He said everybody was getting better mechanically and improving their shot, while he also instilled that the guys need to be ready at all times.
“You're the one percent with one percenters. So, it's an elite group with only 450 guys, so you [have] to be ready for it, always bringing that [motor,] so that's another big thing,” Coach Packie said. “Then making sure that they just understand certain things that are going to be asked of them in the NBA, whether it's spacing, how to move or defensive concepts a little bit. So [we also focused on] getting them familiar with a few things that they're going to need so when they get there, they're not a fish out of water.”
Along with the physical training that was addressed and worked on in Santa Barbara, there were also ways Coach Packie taught the new NBA players mentally. He mentioned that now these young men are in a fishbowl and there are so many more eyes on them, and he wanted them to know that people are going to say good and bad things about them, but they just have to keep pushing through and continue to know who they are.
“We never want to get too high, we don't want to get too low, just want to stay [leveled] the whole time,” Coach Packie said. “You know who you are and you keep doing that every day. So [we were] giving them those tools, and helping them learn to just trust themselves.”
Outside of training, Coach Packie, the players and other coaches were able to watch the playoff games together and go out to eat dinner together, and once a week they would all get together in the gym to play a game. He said overall Santa Barbara was a really good experience and vibe as a whole to spend their eight weeks of training, and that he felt all the guys felt that way too and enjoyed the speed of the town.
“I definitely don't take it for granted,” Coach Packie said. “I take a lot of pride in being able to be a part of this, and I'm very thankful for the opportunity that the [BDA Sports] agency gives me, and [the opportunity] that the guys give me, putting their trust in me.”