Training Tips from Professional Basketball Player Nick Novak
Hustle With Us Podcast Episode 1
Craig: Welcome to the Hustle With Us podcast. Episode number one. For everyone out there listening who is new to Hustle, Hustle is the number one athletic training app out there today for coaches and players. So if you don't have the Hustle app already, download it today in the app store or through Google Play. Or visit our website at www.Hustletraining.com or visit us on Twitter or Instagram at Hustle with us. I'm your host Craig Musheno and with me is the founder and CEO of Hustle, Matt Michaux. So Matt we just finished recording with Nick Novak. A professional basketball player. Matt what did you think of our conversation?
Matt: Nick has a lot of great insights on what it means to be an undersized player. He's a point guard, 6 foot tall which means as a human being that's pretty tall but for a basketball player not so much. He's had to do a lot throughout his career in terms of getting to the bucket, using his body, create contact, using different shots like the pull up jump shot to get open looks. For any point guard who's out there listening who wants to get better, listen up because there's a lot of great drills and insights that Nick brings you.
Craig: Yeah I thought Nick had just really strong energy in the podcast. I'm looking forward to everybody hearing this. I especially liked how he talked about his evolution, talked about his high school experience, the type of coaching that he got, the types of things that he could get away with then that he couldn't get away with in college. The types of training that he did going into college. And then talking about making that transition to the pros. I think that was really cool. We'll get right into that podcast with him now. Alright Nick Novak is here. Nick's a pro player out of Oviedo Spain. Nick thanks so much for being here with us.
Nick: Hey, thank you for having me man. Good to be here.
Craig: Yeah, great, I'm really excited to talk with you today. So let's get right into some of the questions that we've got for you about your experience as a pro player. Let's just kind of kick things off for those people listening at home. Can you give us some background on yourself?
Nick: I'm a Pittsburgh kid. I'm from Murrysville Pennsylvania. Grew up playing high school basketball at Franklin Regional in western PA. Followed up by, I played division 2 basketball in college at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. And this past season when I finished up in Spain that was my 5th season as a European Pro. Right now just a lot of working out in the Summertime. Staying in shape. Trying to continue to play basketball as long as I can.
Craig: Yeah, at Hustle we've got a lot of high school players and coaches that are out there listening. So kind of, let's take it back to when you were in high school. What did you do to get better? How did you become a better player when you were in high school.
Nick: Going into my freshmen year my goal personally was to start varsity. Number one thing, I think this goes for anybody but, I was a everything. If I was hurt I was still there. I wanted to be, I wanted to make sure people knew that I was committed. But as far as what I was working on, I was smaller. I'm still ... Right now I'm 6 foot, 185 pounds on a good day. My thing was I was a super late bloomer too so I had to figure out what I needed to combat that stuff because not that this is the NBA level or anything, it's high school basketball but I was a lot smaller than everybody else. So I had to figure out a way ...
Nick: I had to figure out a way to produce at that level without being an older, stronger upper class man. But one thing I did was I worked on a lot of pull up jump shots in the middle of paint and a lot of floaters and a lot of mid range stuff. I did a lot of it on my own. Like I said, I was at everything for the school team. My dad always harped on me my whole life. I did all kinds of stuff but I got in the gym on my own and worked on anything and everything that I could to figure out what I needed to do to play at that level.
Craig: Size was kind of a limitation but you knew how, you know, you knew that types of things to focus on to compensate for that. It sounds like what you're saying.
Nick: Right. Even, I mean 8th grade is still I wasn't the biggest kid in 8th grade but I was always good at getting to the basket and stuff. Even in high school it changes a lot. You get bumped off of your drive. You have to get your shots slotted a couple times in those first couple Summer league games and you say like, okay you know what I need to figure something else out. You can't do the same things that always worked because guys are gonna be bigger and stronger than you so. Just, like I said, my dad took me to everything. Every single Summer league game we had and he's a basketball mind so he kind of said hey, quit trying to get to the basket every time. You gotta stop and take that little mid range pull up or take a floater or something. Once it started working for me I got addicted to it and I decided that was my thing I was gonna work on throughout, you know, especially my early years of high school. I shot thousand and thousands and thousands of you know, toss the ball to myself. One dribble pull up, right around that foul line area.
Craig: Nick, looking back on your high school career can you bisect the in season preparation versus the off season preparation? What are some different things that you did during the Summer versus in between games?
Nick: During the Summer was a lot more, I would say, drill aspect. I remember going to a lot of stuff. The Summer open gyms. We did a lot of skill work. That's what it comes down to at any level I think. You're getting a lot of your skill work in the Summer time. And then when you get to the end of season, yeah you're gonna have certain drills to do, certain things but I think everything has to be a lot more tailored to game play. Especially with more than one guy. I think you have to work on things in groups of 3 or 4. And then eventually build up to 5 on 5. Now of course you're still gonna do some skill stuff. A lot of shooting, a lot of drills like lay up drills. Just stuff to get everybody involved so guys are standing around but in the Summer time I just feel like you're in small groups a lot so. You get a lot more reps of ball handling. If you're doing moves at a chair, cone drills. Those types of things which in a way too, that's great for if you have the mindset that you want to work on something on your own. You can get your drill set up and you can get in the gym and you can do them on your own. You don't need all those guys to work on your individual skills. You can do that stuff during the season.
Craig: Yeah, little plug for Hustle, a lot of those drills that Nick was just talking about, you can find on the Hustle app. So download it today. Nick moving from high school to college basketball. Was there anything that surprised you? Anything that caught you off guard in that move?
Nick: Probably, a funny story, probably one of the biggest things that you have to kind of adapt once you get to college is ... I could talk about a lot of obvious things as far as well it's a little bit faster. The plays are a little more complex. You have to play better defense, stuff like that. But probably one of my favorite things thinking about going to college was when I came out of high school I averaged, I led the WPIL in scoring. I averaged 30 points a game. And I got to college, I knew a couple of guys that were gonna be on my team from the Pittsburgh area. My coach had offered me really, really early he said hey man just go for your division 1 shot. If you don't get it come here and I'll give you the ball. I remember freshmen move up to college about a week early. Before everybody else gets there. I get to school, meeting a lot of people, telling them I'm gonna be on the basketball team. 30 points a game. Okay yeah, all this stuff and then finally a lot more team mates start showing up and ... I didn't know. I had gone up on a visit and watched some games and stuff. I didn't personally know everybody that was from the other team and I met outside my dorm room one night there's people, college kinda hanging out, talking outside. One of these guys come up and he's on the team. I heard of him. I've played with him before. Just getting to know him personally and he starts ... We're excited about some of the new guys. I heard one of the guys coming in scored like 30 points a game. I said yeah that was me. He said that was you? This is Danny Branch. About 6 foot 4 from inner city DC. Really big high school conference he played in. He'd been in college for about 2 years. I'm thinking he's gonna say oh cool, glad to meet you, I can't wait to throw you the ball. First thing he says to me, he says I can't wait for practice because, he says, you're not scoring one bucket on me.
Craig: Nice. The competition started right away.
Nick: Right. One of the things I think you have to learn right when you get to college is that especially college guys compared to incoming guys, if you want to expand from your team onto other team, literally no one cares what you did in high school whatsoever. There's been guys that have been doing it at the college level that actually it's a whole different ballgame. It's a lot more, better basketball. For any advice for anybody who's going from the high school level to college or even college to professional level, something to keep in mind is you have to have that same mindset to show up and prove something and to show up and prove that you can play with better guys than what you were doing because quite frankly no one cares what you did at the level below you.
Craig: Yeah. Yep, it's a fresh start. So talk about coaching. You've had experience in a number of different levels but let's specifically talk about the type of coaches and the type of coaching that you get in high school compared to the type of coaching you get in college.
Nick: A big difference for sure would be the execution. What's expected of you as far as what you have to know. High school, there are certain things that are not excepted at the college level. High school coaches, they're not gonna let you go out there and mess up any plays or they're not gonna be that happy about it. In high school you can get away with certain things. Especially if certain guys are a little bit more talented. And that's as far as breaking off a play or maybe making certain decisions. There's a lot more expected of you at the college level. There's gonna be a lot better players. A lot better athletes at the college level. You can't kind of go off on your own tangent and say kind of like how we said from moving up to the next level. If something used to work for you in high school like maybe breaking off a play a little bit earlier or taking a quick shot that you're comfortable with. At the college level, with a shot block and those kind of things, a little more pressure to say hey we gotta make good decisions and we have to execute things the right way. Get the best shot we can. Not okay we're gonna get another one the next time. We'll probably get an open look next possession and it's not as big of a deal. Each possession counts a little bit more due to the higher level. I think college coaches are, if you kind of have your own agenda or you're not focused and you're making a couple mistakes, that's not just offensively, that's defensively too. You're just expected to execute at a higher level. If they tell you something it's because you need to get it done and not like oh I saw something else. You need to execute a certain way.
Craig: From a skills development standpoint, what's it like in college versus high school? What do coaches drive home that just isn't available or kids don't think about?
Nick: Especially during a season is the amount of shooting that they want you to get in. And in high school you're almost kinda of receiver but you know getting in, getting some extra work out on the gun, getting lots of shots up and things like that. That's like oh okay, like this guy really wants to shoot but during college I know certain programs that every player on the team is expected about ... They wanted, need to get extra on their own outside of scheduled practice times. Getting about like 500 makes in per week. Although they'll chart that, you know, they'll put that on the board. Who's making more than the next guy and stuff like that. Where I played we never had something that specific. It was an everyday thing. You need to stick around and get some extra shots up or there was stuff built into practice that we were getting game shots up. Outside of like the drills or the game like the scrimmage during practice. Also, just guys that want to play more or guys that, maybe it's your go to guy that's in a little bit of a slump. Shooting was a huge, huge thing too. At the end of the day that's the name of the game is putting the ball in the basket. More reps, more shots, more makes. It was just much more emphasized in college.
Craig: Alright, so fast forward. You've had a successful college career. You graduate. You step off a plane after you signed your first contract. You're going to play pro basketball in Europe. What's that like?
Nick: It wasn't a complete surprise as far as what I was stepping into but it was a lot different down the road because I was actually lucky enough to play on a tour in college. We went over to Belgium and we played like 8 to 10 days. We played 4 or 5 games. I had went on that trip with all American guys. So guys from like 5, 6 different schools and we had a team and we did a little bit of a tour. That was one of the most fun experiences of my life. We were playing ball and it was honestly like Euro Trip. It was like senior week but like just in college now and we were in Europe. It was a lot of fun. So fast forward that past my senior season now I couldn't wait to play basketball overseas. It was one a personal goal but I was like man, Europe is awesome. That was so much fun. I can't believe what I'm about to go experience. So when I get off the plane you do get a little shell shocked when you're by yourself because that was completely different than being with that team. I get off and I'm like by myself, trying to figure out like how to get my bag. How my phone is supposed to work. I don't have seven other American guys with me. I don't have a coach with me or anything. I'm just by myself waiting for the owner of my team to pick me up at the airport and mind you I don't know what this guy looks like. I'm just kind of in a little bit of a ... Not to shut anybody down for wanting to play professional basketball but you get a little bit of a sinking feeling like you're stuck on an island somewhere because you're like oh boy. I have to figure this all out on my own. And then to touch back on it not really being Euro Trip anymore. I ride back with this German guy that I just met. He takes me to my apartment. Makes sure everything is good. He says okay, I just want you to get settled in. This is at about 8 am in the morning. He says like walk around town, find your way and then he says we have practice tomorrow night at 6 pm, it's right up the street. He says you walk about a half a mile up the street and make a right and that's our gym. He said I'll see you there tomorrow. Yeah a little bit different. You're on your own and you have to figure out a lot of things. You have to figure out a lot of things on your own.
Craig: It's kind of like what do I do all day now? What do I do with myself to stay busy?
Nick: Yeah not only all that day but all the next day until I had to go to practice for the first time. After that you ... That was the pre season but then during the season you get into a lot of, you have a full schedule of practice twice a day. Games on the weekend. Travel for away games and stuff like that. It is not, my first experience, it is not Euro Trip at all. You are now working. This is your job and your job is to go over there and be bored and be ready to go to practice.
Craig: So let's talk about your game today. What would you say are the strengths of your game and how have they evolved over time?
Nick: Probably the biggest strength in my game right now would be scoring out of the pick and roll. A reason that has evolved is so much the pro game. I could make things happen in college with the pick and roll but in high school I played one on one for the most part. And that's not, just walking the ball before. That's just catching it somewhere and making a play but the pick and roll is so big in Europe. It's an understatement to say it's so big. It's like you don't function without it. It's every game, every quarter, every second is a pick and roll in some way, shape or form. A reason that works out for me though is because I have probably the best aspect of my game. Outside of that is the pull up jump shot so. There's a lot of defenses that a pull up jump shot out of a pick and roll is really deadly. It's something that I did well in high school and college. Translated into the pro game and that's the reason I've been blessed with the opportunity to play is because that's something that I can do well. And also how much I've been doing it now. I mean, I'm a point guard too so I pass pretty well out of it. Just how much I do it. It's incredible how much I've noticed that I've gotten better too.
Craig: So in this day and age, players coaches are looking for, any kind of edge that they can get their hands on. Do you use technology in prep for practice and prep for games? And if so, what kind of stuff do you use?
Nick: Muscle is kind of the only thing of it's kind that I could relate with as far as training. Other than maybe finding something on YouTube or maybe a highlight that I saw. Just searching. Weeding through all the things. But as far as finding something organized that can keep track of what I'm doing and is easy to use rather than like finding something randomly and maybe trying to write it down. That's probably the first thing that I've encountered that I use as far as technology without counting like the gun or something. Which is really more equipment. Just because it keeps track of your shots and stuff like that. Other than that I used to just ask to get on the gun all the time but technology wise, the app is the pretty much the only thing I've come across in my experience.
Craig: Before we wrap up, we wanted to ask a rapid fire five questions. So are you ready for that?
Nick: Let's do it. Yeah, I hope I'm ready for it.
Craig: Alright. Here we go. What's your favorite defense drill?
Nick: Remember when you asked me what my best aspect of my game was? Defense is not near the top of that list at all. There's a good one that we did in college. It's just 3 on 3. It was, I liked it because of the intensity of it. So we called it 4 on 4 base line drive. And it basically starts with the ball in one corner and you just have to swing it around the perimeter and then the four guys on defense, you just have to shift with the ball. But the guy in the opposite corner, he has to let his guy beat him to the base line and then you have to help him recover from all of the positions from there. Which is a difficult drill, especially in college when you get like your team mates and you kind of get the right group and everybody gets fired up. It's really competitive.
Craig: Yeah. Oh I bet. I bet it's good for conditioning too.
Craig: Okay, question number two. What separates great players from the rest?
Nick: In a way it's your attention to detail and doing it more times the right way than everybody else because every good player can go out there and make a play or even something at a high level. Maybe a lucky play. But guys who are great work on doing it at the highest level every single time that they do it. Something that I even, when I helped train kids, something I'd say is whenever you do a drill each rep, each dribble should be harder than the last one that you do. And I think the guys, whoever you can see at the top of the game right now. I think everything that they do, they're doing it at that highest level every time. They're never just going through the motions.
Craig: I hear you're a bit of a sneaker head. Do you have a favorite sneaker?
Nick: Favorite sneaker? How bout favorite basketball sneaker to play in of all time?
Craig: Okay that's good.
Nick: Is the Nike Kobe XI low. And I'm really disappointed because like they don't make them anymore because Kobe retired.
Nick: They only make ...
Craig: Collectors item now.
Nick: Yeah they call them the Kobe ADs now which is, that's amazing. That's an amazing marketing tool right there. The Kobe AD. If you think about that, what they're kind of saying about Kobe [crosstalk] . In my opinion Kobe has the best basketball shoes. Even out of anybody with a signature shoe because his were just like they were the best to play in because you could tell that Kobe put that extra, no, no, no, these need to function a certain way. Not just look a certain way.
Nick: But Kobe XI low for sure my favorite of all time.
Craig: Alright everybody try and find a pair of those. Maybe on Ebay.
Craig: Okay let's see, we're on ...
Nick: Feel free to send them to me.
Craig: Yeah. Yes, absolutely that's a good one. Okay, I think we're on question number 4 here. What's your favorite pre game meal?
Nick: Oh favorite pre game meal, probably something very, very, very plain. I'm a really picky eater. So in Spain like if I would make food on my own, I would make like literally like a lunch meat, like a turkey sandwich with like just turkey and cheese. And then I would eat like an apple with it.
Craig: Okay. Nice. Keep it simple.
Nick: When I ate that, it was game time and I know I'm ready to go. That means it's game time. If I have a turkey sandwich and an apple it's time to play.
Craig: Puts you in the mindset. Alright, I like it. Last question in the rapid fire five question tier. Say you could have met this person or not but who is an inspirational coach that you look up to?
Nick: Inspirational coach. Man, when I was a kid I really, really wanted to go to Duke. I'd probably have to say I'd love to get to meet like Krzyzewski at some point because just the level of, I don't know, prestige around the whole program. And I like a lot of stuff just even that I've seen on social media or seen online. He seems like a very, a great mix between a players coach and a coach who's in charge. You know what I mean?
Nick: I think that in my opinion that's the best mix you can have because guys that air too much on the player side, they don't have that control and guys that have too much control and don't listen to anybody ever, guys sometimes have a hard time playing for them. From stuff I've seen he has like the greatest mix of both of those and I think that's something that has led to that long, long, long success for them. But that was always, that was my first favorite school when I was a kid and I just remember I always wanted to play for Krzyzewski at Duke.
Craig: Yeah. Coach K is a legend for sure. Alright, well. Nick. We wanna thank you so much for talking with us today. For anybody listening, suppose they want to reach out to you. They want to get in touch maybe ask some questions. How can somebody get in touch with you?
Nick: Probably the best way would be on Twitter or maybe Instagram. If you just type in Nick Novak in the search I should come up. If you wanted to find my handle it's @Nicky_Nov1.
Craig: Okay, great. For everyone listening, I hope you enjoyed our conversation. And if you did please leave a rating in the review for the podcast. Even if you didn't enjoy it, please leave a rating and a review. It helps our podcast get noticed and it moves us up on these lists. And also if you haven't already, download the free Hustle app. You'll get the best content for players and coaches out there. For Matt Michaux, CEO and founder of Hustle. I'm Craig Musheno and we'll see you next time.