Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Hoops talk with Ganon Baker

Hoops talk with Ganon Baker
by rick olivares

Last Saturday, American basketball coach and trainer Ganon Baker taught a session for the Ateneo Blue Eagles (he also previously had a session for the La Salle Green Archers) at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. He was to conduct the first of his four-day basketball camp that is sponsored by Breakdown Basketball Invitationals in the same gym.

I was impressed that he literally joined the Blue Eagles for the drills. Obviously, Baker was in phenomenal shape.

The American coach took it as a compliment. “I think it’s the best way to communicate what you are teaching,” succinctly put Baker. “You lead by example.”

Baker isn’t sure that the tag of “coach” suits him. “Coach is fine but the word ‘teacher” suits me fine too. Every teacher needs enthusiasm. And there are three things that enable me to get the job done. One, is the spiritual aspect because it my faith that sustains and carries me. Second, is the physical aspect where I try to get eight hours of sleep. I try to eat correctly and drink a lot of water. Now that gives me a lot of energy. And three, emotionally, I love basketball and what I do. I love working with young kids.”

“I’m intense joyfully or in a disciple like of way. When players aren’t paying attention, I can become the Incredible Hulk,” he added. “Young guys will be young guys but basketball unless it’s recreational, is serious business. Being silent ain’t gonna help.

When Baker was still playing professionally (in Iceland, France, and Austria), he found himself oft injured. Instead of being frustrated, he channeled his energies to something more productive. “I got injured a lot and I’d be sitting on the bench,” related the highly-regarded skills trainer. “I was injured every year I was playing. There was something always wrong with either my hands or feet so I spent a lot of time on the bench. It sounds kinda corny but I took a lot of notes. I soaked in a lot of information. Now as a point guard, I had a lot of training in that. As a point guard you have to stay attuned to the game. My edge were my skills, tremendous toughness and a mind for the game. My 100% attention was always up. Even on the bench when you change your perspective of the game, you understand the nuances even more.”

Playing in Europe helped mold baker’s way of teaching and the skills he emphasizes. “I played in Europe for a while. I think that Europeans have a high basketball IQ. I love how they bring in a lot of different skills to what they do. They can play a multitude of positions and execute very well. I’ve incorporated many things from my experiences into what I teach.”

While Baker wasn’t able to achieve his pro basketball dreams, he channels his energy into helping others realize their own ambitions. Baker has worked with quite a few players for a long period of time “to plant seeds” as he says.

“I spend anywhere from three months to three years with certain players,” he revealed. “While I am on the road a lot in these past few years, I try to spend even a few days to a few weeks with those wards of mine.”

Baker names current Dallas Maverick Harrison Barnes as one of those players he is most proud of having come up through his school. “I spent some time with Harrison. I saw him grow up. And eventually, he did some videos for me back in the day. Some seeds I planted in him I see in him today and that is good. Not every guy I work with is a superstar.”

“A lot of people do not remember this guy he is from my hometown. Ryan Barbosa is from Huntington Beach, Virginia.  When I got him as an eighth grader, he couldn’t shoot and couldn’t play the game. I helped turn him into an All-State player for a Division III school in Virginia.”

“And there’s Colin Hunt who is a white kid who played in an all-Black HS.”

Baker also points to current Boston Celtic Terry Rozier and Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson who came to him for the pre-draft workout.

Players aren’t the only ones Baker teaches and influences. There’s Cody Toppert who is with the Houston Rockets organization. “It good that the people I get to work with are also planting the seeds of our work with others. If it grows then it grows.”

Baker waxed excitement about the possibility of seeing a Filipino basketeer in the NBA. “Well, I think that guys like Jordan Clarkson gives them hope. I think the Philippines will eventually produce a NBA player. I love the guys here because they are respectful. The love to play. Their quick. They’re skilled. A high and fats-pace of game. They just need to work on toughness because I find them too reserved. They need to work on that pitbull in them. To channel their inner Manny Pacquiao. They need that Russell Westbrook kind of swag.”

“I don’t really have a system. I teach and convey information about basketball. It will be gone from the students and coaches I teach unless they take note and study it.

Baker still has two more days to his basketball camp for Breakdown Basketball Invitationals (September 9 and 10 from 4:30-6:30pm) at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center. Check out BBI’s Facebook page for more details.

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