NBA shooting coach David Nurse Asia tour

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What does it take to master a certain craft? In the book ‘Outliers’, Author Malcom Gladwell says it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

For two kids perfecting the art of shooting a basketball in a hoop, 10,000 hours is a lot of jump shots. But these kids were determined. They grew up in Pella, Iowa, a city with a population of just over 10,000 people. They would shoot from dusk until dawn, ignoring anything else around them but the ball and the hoop. They thought if they can just master the art of the jump-shot, everything else would be taken care of. And they were right. One of those kids made his first NBA all-star appearance this season, his name is Kyle Korver. The other just finished travelling across Asia hosting shooting clinics in Asia’s top basketball countries, his name is David Nurse.

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Nurse, 28, is an NBA shooting coach specialist. His NBA roster features the likes of Aaron Gordon, C.J. Watson, James McAdoo, Aron Baynes, Alex Kirk and other young college players who will be eligible for the upcoming NBA draft.

“I grew up with Kyle Korver, and he is one of the best shooters there is, and he says he never puts a time limit on his workouts. He just goes in the gym, does everything at game-speed, and once his shot feels good and he’s comfortable with everything, then he’s done for the day.” – David Nurse

His journey across Asia saw him stop in the region’s most dominant basketball countries. Nurse’s first stop was the Philippines where he met up with basketball legend Tim Cone and the Purefoods Star Hotshots of the Philippines Basketball Association. Next, Nurse was in China to workout the Tianjin Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association. Nurse would finish his Asia tour in South Korea and Japan where he would meet with various pro clubs and basketball academies in both countries.

Professional Shooting Coach David Nurse sets the World Record for the most 3pt field goals made in 1 minute from college 3pt line

We were able to catch up with Nurse on his recent trip to South Korea to discuss the development of basketball in Asia.

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What were your first impressions of the basketball here in Asia?

Honestly coming from America where all you know is NBA and NCAA basketball, you don’t really think much about basketball anywhere else. You hear about basketball in Europe, but Asian basketball is not really known in the States. But I was pleasantly surprised with the level of talent in Asia.

Were there some unique differences in the style of play in Asia compared to some of the other regions of the world?

The speed of the game is the biggest difference, and that results in the game being played a little differently. And honestly I think the speed of the game effects the shot selection. That’s the one thing I noticed, offensively the game is not played at the highest efficiency level as it could be. As far as shot mechanics go, it kind of varies from player to player, as it would anywhere. I think what needed most improvement throughout Asian basketball was shot selection and having teams run their offenses more efficiently. It’s all about making the most of each possession.

As a foreign coach coming in implementing new drills and new techniques, how receptive were the Asian players?

I was very impressed with how receptive they were especially because coming in I knew English wasn’t going to be their first language so a lot of it was just knowing the basketball language which is pretty universal. But they pick up on things quick, they are focused, even more so than some of the NBA teams I work with. The Asian players were really open to the new drills, and a lot of teams I’ve worked with over there have had a lot of success.

A lot of the Asian game revolves around the three-point shot. As someone who specializes in this feature, did you find the shooters to be on-point with their mechanics? And were there any shooters that stood out of you? 

There’s some really good shooters, especially in the Philippines. One player that stood out to me the most was James Yap, he’s a legend over in the Philippines. To be honest with you, he’s one of the elite shooters I’ve seen anywhere. In South Korea I think they put too much emphasis on the form. Shooting is about different situations almost like golf when you use a different club for different situations. You need to be able to get your shot off efficiently and effectively. And that’s what I work on with teams and individual players. I think for countries like South Korea and China it is important for them to work on these things if they want to keep up with the international game.

Different coaches have different ways of teaching the art of shooting. What are some of the common mistakes coaches make when teaching young players how to shoot? And in Asia, what would you say needs to be improved on the most when it comes to shooting?

There’s some really good shooters, especially in the Philippines. One player that stood out to me the most was James Yap, he’s a legend over in the Philippines. To be honest with you, he’s one of the elite shooters I’ve seen anywhere. In South Korea I think they put too much emphasis on the form. Shooting is about different situations almost like golf when you use a different club for different situations. You need to be able to get your shot off efficiently and effectively. And that’s what I work on with teams and individual players. I think for countries like South Korea and China it is important for them to work on these things if they want to keep up with the international game. The biggest problem I see in Asia is the lack of confidence. I see that everywhere but more so in Asia. In America, at shooting clinics i’ll ask the players, ‘how many of you think you are great shooters?’. Half of them will say yes and half of them will say no. In Asia I asked that same question and about 5% say yes and the rest say no. And confidence is the most important thing. You can have a not so good form but if you have the confidence to see the shot go in before you even shoot it, that’s the most important thing.

Can you talk about the differences between the work ethic of the NBA guys you train and the Asian players you were able to work with in Asia?

The NBA players are at another level. A sample day with them goes something like one day we will do hard individual workouts in the morning for about 45 minutes to an hour. In the afternoon we would hit the weight room followed by some shooting drills. And those shooting drills are done with situational game shots at game-speed. I try to replicate what would happen for them in games. Then in the evening we would play some pick-up ball. It’s all-day and very intense but the one difference between them and the players in Asia is that everything is done at game-speed and with a purpose. I see great work ethic in Asia, but almost to a fault where they will be in the gym too long and it kind of takes away from the effectiveness of the workout. For example, they would be in the gym for three hours and in those three hours they feel the need to put up 1,000 shots. But if you don’t shoot any of those shots at game-speed or in-game situations it doesn’t do you any good. I grew up with Kyle Korver, and he is one of the best shooters there is, and he says he never puts a time limit on his workouts. He just goes in the gym, does everything at game-speed, and once his shot feels good and he’s comfortable with everything then he’s done for the day.

You really emphasize on the importance of practicing at game-speed. I’ve noticed in Asia that practices are more quantity than quality. And when game time comes around it adds more pressure because they are not used to the tempo. Is this something you noticed too?

Definitely, if you are not practicing at game-speed then once the game is on you will not be ready for that speed. It’s almost cliche in America to say you want practice to be harder than the game so that the games come easy. But some of the Asian mindset is like the longer you are in the gym you are getting. But in reality, it’s how effective you use that time in the gym is how much it will pay off. And that’s something I was talking to the Tianjin Lions about. It was one of their first training sessions that was done with high tempo, high speed, game situational shots. They were surprised but really enjoyed it.

Asian guards are really quick. That is no secret. They can beat you off of the dribble but once they beat you they tend to not have tendencies to finish at the rim. The floater is a shot that could fit into the Asian basketball system but is rarely used. Do you have a system in place that can teach them the breakdown of a floater?

Yup, I teach a ‘Tony Parker two-footed floater’ and it’s highly effective. Even with the big guys, they need to have a quick touch floater. Everything on offense needs to be done half-a-second faster than the defense is used to reacting to. Because defensive players are getting better at timing different tendencies but if you can do it half a second faster than their timing then you get everything off. And that’s how I teach the floater.

David Nurse can be reached through his website at perfectshotsshooting.com

Nick Bedard (@bedardnick) is the editor-in-chief of Basketballbuddha.com.

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