Washington Wizards: Catching Up With Drew Hanlen

Feb 23, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) dribbles as New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) defends during the second half at Verizon Center. The Washington Wizards won 109 - 89. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) dribbles as New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) defends during the second half at Verizon Center. The Washington Wizards won 109 - 89. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Wizards: Catching Up With Hanlen

One of the main themes surrounding the hiring of Scott Brooks has been player development.

Brooks was an assistant then head coach during the development of the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder rosters that included Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Thabo Sefolosha, and Reggie Jackson and others.

How much credit he deserves for developing the respective players is up for debate, but he undeniably played a role and that has been a major selling point as to why Brooks was hired in Washington and a major goal for the team as they move forward.

Aside from Brooks, an individual who will play a key role in that development is Drew Hanlen.

Hanlen is a skills coach and founder of Pure Sweat Basketball. Why is that important? His client list, which includes Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Dwight Howard, also features two members of the Washington Wizards: Kelly Oubre and Bradley Beal.

While Beal is entering unrestricted free agency, the 22-year-old is expected to return. Of course, Oubre is already under contract. Two of the three youngest players on the Wizards’ roster (Otto Porter being the third) devote much of their time working with Hanlen.

I had wanted to reach out to Drew Hanlen since the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League. He had worked with Kelly Oubre Jr. during the pre-draft process. That work continued in Las Vegas as Kelly Oubre Jr. routinely worked out after games with Hanlen, despite being in the midst of games on back to back nights.

The results were impressive as Kelly Oubre Jr’s game came along well in his short time in Vegas, capping off his Summer League play with a 30-point performance on 9-14 shooting from the field and 5-7 from the 3-point line.

That was a far cry from Oubre’s Summer League start, when he shot 13-37 from the field and 1-12 from the 3-point line. The improvement in skills and comfort was apparent, and while Kelly Oubre Jr. did the work, Drew Hanlen deserved some credit as well.

I recently spoke with Hanlen and wanted to get insight on his background, how he formulates developmental plans for his players, his thoughts on the seasons that Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre had, and what the plan for their development was in the future.

Prior to become a renowned skills coach, Hanlen worked with Beal. This occurred before either player garnered recognizable names in high-school.

“His dad had requested that we work out, just because he knew I was a really hard worker in his area. I had played against his older brothers,” Hanlen said. “I had worked him out one time – he almost passed out after about 20 minutes. He hated me, hated my workouts and I didn’t see him for a while. His dad kind of pushed him back to me. He knew he needed to be pushed.”

Once Beal and Hanlen began to regularly work out, Beal saw improvement in his game and eventually won a state championship during his sophomore year. Peopel asked what he did to develop his body and his game, and that word-of-mouth helped him get other clients, like David Lee, who also went to the same school as Beal.

Now that he’s become an established skills coach, Hanlen has created a system that is built around the individual players he works with and much of that work occurs prior to even stepping onto the floor.

“The first thing I do is review every single possession that they were involved in during the previous season. I do a ton of research on them. I go back and watch every single possession, put together film edits and look at detailed analytics to kind of help shape where we need to focus our energy and time,” Hanlen said.

“I then list all the things they could possibly do to improve and help their team’s chances of winning next season. Then we prioritize together. We know that we’re only going to attack two to three areas maximum over the summer, and we really lock in on those.”

Hanlen prioritizes the team’s needs first and what the player needs to do to help them win, and then focuses on the player. He consults with coaches and the front office in developing his workout plans. As of our conversation, he had not yet touched base with Brooks, but he will absolutely make sure to make that a part of the process, he said.

“My cliché quote is, master the role that they want you to play now while working towards the role that you want to have later. You have to master the role you have now if you want a bigger role later.”

Both of Hanlen’s clients that suit up for the Washington Wizards had rather inconsistent seasons.

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Beal’s season was riddled with injuries and his hot start early in the year was quickly forgotten.

Once Beal returned, the staff put him on a somewhat flexible minutes restriction and he was never able to get back into a true rhythm.

Oubre was locked up on the bench by former coach Randy Wittman.

While Oubre did look impressive early on after the players ahead of him in the rotation were hurt – meaning, Porter and Alan Anderson – he never got much of a chance.

Now, both players are looking to use their individual seasons as motivation moving forward.

“With Brad, the number one priority is getting his body in the best shape as possible so he can play a full, healthy season. We thought he played at an All-Star level early-on before he got injured and then obviously the minutes restriction held him back and was a big reason why the Wizards failed to make the playoffs this year,” Hanlen said.

“We’re going to make sure to take his diet a lot more serious, making sure he’s doing a lot more rehab recovery-type stuff throughout the summer and making sure we’re managing his load throughout the off-season so that he can come into top shape. But also, we want to make sure we don’t wear him down so that he can have a healthy, 82-game season.”

“For Kelly, every rookie goes through a rookie learning curve. He was obviously frustrated at times, like all rookies are. But he understands the process. I think it was good because it put a little chip on his shoulder going into this summer where he’s locked in and ready to have a really productive player.”

Beal’s development has become hindered by injuries, but Hanlen is still focusing on developing the areas that he’s weak in – such as his ability to create for himself.

“For Brad Beal this summer, we want to improve his ability to create – meaning create shots for himself and become a better playmaker. We also want to improve his shooting from distance off the dribble. We also want him to become more efficient at the rim finishing.”

For the Washington Wizards, Oubre is still somewhat of a mystery. We’ve only seen a very limited sample size of what he has to offer. Hanlen envisions Oubre starting off as a 3-and-D slashing player who will play a lot off the ball.  Beyond that, the goals are ambitious and exciting.

“The guy’s growth that we kind of want to try to copy, if you will, is Kawhi Leonard. He’s a guy that keeps everything simple, stays within the system, prides himself on being a lock-down defender first and creates his scoring within the system on the offensive end,” Hanlen said.

“We kind of want to model his summer similar to what Kawhi did early in his career. We want to slowly build him up and slowly let his role expand to where he can be one of the better wings in the league. Obviously, if he ever gets to the Kawhi Leonard type level where he’s winning Defensive Player of the Year, we would love it. If we wind up getting anywhere close to it, he’s going to end up being a hell of a player.”

For the Washington Wizards to be back into playoff contention and make the leap to championship contender, it will take development of the core players that currently comprise the roster. Free agency and the coaching staff change will play a major role, but none may be as important as development from the young core currently on the roster and Hanlen will play a prominent role in this regard.

Fortunately for them, he’s a hard worker and demands the same of his clients. Hanlen wakes up at 5 a.m. (actually 4:59 to get a head start on those who wake up at 5:00 am) and starts his day listening to podcasts, reading books, and works out.

He continues to work out with his players so that he can feel their pain and where they are physically as they go through their sessions. He then watches film in the evening and does night workouts. The result is five hours of sleep a night.

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If the Washington Wizards hope to avoid repeating the disappointment of the 2015-2016 season, that mindset and Hanlen’s work this summer with Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. might be where it starts.