Many of Ravin's drills are intended to create a state of confusion. In one he throws tennis balls at a player, who must catch them while maintaining his dribble. (Ravin could be seen doing this in a Nike ad with Anthony a few years back.) The goal is not to improve hand-eye coordination but rather to create sensory overload. "You make the player focus on everything else except the game, so that the game skills become automatic," explains Ravin. "You try to make the unreasonable feel reasonable."
With Young and McClinton, for example, Ravin set up 13 cones within the key, to the top of the circle, and had the players dribble among the cones without hitting them. With two balls. Moving forward and backward, left and right. Then bouncing one high and one low. This was Young and McClinton's fifth day of this drill, and upon seeing Ravin set it up, McClinton said, "This is some hard-ass s--- right here."
Indeed, it looked like a nearly impossible drill, like riding a bike through the pieces of a chessboard. Still, both players fared pretty well, only occasionally backing into a cone. "You should have seen us when we started," McClinton said.
Ravin dispensed subtle draft tips and motivation as he went. While Young ran sprints, Ravin shouted, "Lengthen your strides! Show them you're an athlete!" As McClinton ran: "Avoid your heels when you run. It makes you look heavy and slow."
He threw in references to draft position—"Let's say you're picked 10th," Ravin said at one point to Young—trying to keep them aspirational but realistic. "You never want to lower expectations," he explained later. "You're stepping on dreams here." When criticizing, Ravin didn't raise his voice. He said, "Terrible shot, Jack," in just the same calm tone as, "Finish strong, Sam."
Jordan, the 76ers' coach, believes this is an undervalued aspect of Ravin's approach. "The voice is important these days, whether you're a head coach or an assistant coach," Jordan says. "It's crucial that players know that you respect them. They've been yelled at so much during AAU and on up. You need a confident, direct voice, and [Ravin] has that."
Ravin also kept the workout moving at a brisk pace. He didn't use a chalkboard, didn't lecture and did most of his talking during the action. When he introduced a drill, he didn't explain it but ran it himself to demonstrate. Once the players understood what to do, he provided verbal reinforcement, saying, "Sit! Sit!" to remind them to stay low when dribbling, or "Feet parallel!" during crossover drills.
"You have to give them bits," says Ravin. "They all have ADD. They can't sit through two hours of coaching theory. Not one kid wants coaching theory." Instead Ravin makes everything interactive. "I have ADD too," he says. "As a player I'd rather do it and fail, do it and fail, than have a coach move my hand to [show me] what to do. These guys learn by movement."
The higher the skills of his clients, the more evolved the drills. When working with NBA players on finishing at the rim, for example, Ravin addresses a common shortcoming: On a drive to the basket, most players bring the ball down as they prepare to jump, exposing the ball to the defense. So Ravin has them keep the ball high as they begin their ascent.
To drill the move, Ravin stands to the side of a player, let's say Carmelo Anthony; as Anthony runs, Ravin keeps his hand waist-high, where the ball is. "I tell him to visualize Earl Boykins [defending]," Ravin says, referring to the superquick, 5'5" former Nuggets guard. "You have to give them someone in the league they recognize to visualize. They all know Boykins and Brevin Knight, guys who have quick hands. So if I say, 'Brevin Knight is here,' they think, F------ Brevin Knight, if the ball gets too low, he strips it."