We all know that the game of basketball is made up not only of great players, but also, and even more importantly, of great coaches. While players are on public display, the coach usually stays in the background. This is why it is a special pleasure for us to introduce our readers to Keion Kindred. His hometown Los Angeles is known for its rich basketball tradition and an endless flow of players who year in, year out compete in pretty much every country where there is professional basketball. In this Mecca of talent, he is the man on the sideline with the tactic board in his hand, the mind behind the play and the go-to guy for players such as James Harden when it comes to individual workouts. But his practices are not only open to NBA superstars. Keion Kindred’s handwriting can be found in the game of countless overseas athletes, everywhere from the Euroleague to the semi-pro level.
Keion, thank you for taking the time to give us an insight into your work. Please name some of the players who you currently work with. Where did they play this past season and how did they do?
Overall, I work with over 150 athletes, male and female. I probably have 2 or 3 players in every country at all levels. Here is some names from a really long list:
Bobby Brown – China Pooh Jeter – China Jonathan Gibson – China Dijon Thompson – Israel Dominique Johnson -Israel Marcus Williams – Serbia Mike Taylor – Poland Chuck Garcia – Korea Davon Jefferson – Korea Troy Gillenwater – Korea Brandon Bowman – Germany Casper Ware Jr. – Germany Kejuan Johnson – Japan Kwame Alexander – Philippines
Kejuan Johnson started his career in Regionalliga Germany and made it all the way to Japan, one of the highest paid overseas leagues. Did you see it coming with him?
Definitely. Kejuan is an extremely hard worker and a prime example of how far hard work can take you.
You were born and raised in Los Angeles, you were one of the best high school prospects of your generation out of Los Angeles and now you teach the game in Los Angeles. Would you say there is something such as a brand of the L.A. player, a common special feature that sets them apart from everybody else?
Players from LA are silent killers with touch of flare. We just play the game at a high level and take no prisoners.
What is the typical first conversation you have with a new player when he first walks into your gym? Every coach has his own unique approach to players and certain points that he stresses in the mutual work. What do you pay attention to the most?
First question I ask all my players is: who is your NBA replica? Reason I ask is because their answer will let me know how realistic they are about their skill set. For example if someone told me they were like Lebron but only 6’1 then I wouldn’t work with that player because they don’t know themselves.
My training and coaching style is paying close attention to detail. The smaller aspects of the game. Footwork, balance, how you breathe, when to be fast and when to slow down. I try to make my players see the game in slow motion while playing at 100 miles per hour.
In your opinion, is there a non-game related feature that makes or breaks it for a player when it comes to playing overseas? What does it take for somebody to have a successful international career? How do you encourage players from smaller schools who usually have to start at a lower level than decorated NCAA D1 athletes do?
I think it takes mental toughness to survive overseas. Being in a country where you don’t speak the language, understand the customs and culture can be difficult to adjust in such a short time span. You have to be zoned in and completely focus because it’s a new atmosphere and it can be overwhelming at times.
For the many guys I work with who didn’t have the greatest college careers or big time schools is, to remain hungry. Learn the game and what country your play style fits and harass agents on Euro basket every day. One of those agents will open the email and take a look and maybe give you some feedback or even try to help you.
Despite regular season and off-season, for a dedicated, hard working player, basketball never stops. How do your workouts vary between late spring, when most players start coming home and late summer, before they are headed back to their professional teams?
Training just like any regular season has it’s highs and lows. It’s my job to watch the level of fatigue and to either pick things up energy wise or to dial it back and have a light workout. For veterans its all about maintaining until we are a few weeks away from departure.
Your usual day starts at 6 in the morning and mostly doesn’t end before late evening. They say that you have to find something you love and make it your profession and by that, you would not work a day in your life. Does this saying apply to you?
Of course I never work a day in my life because I do what I love and I’m in a unique situation because I train and coach my peers. I’m one of the youngest trainers and coaches in the business. I grew up with my guys, played with and against them, now I’m just making sure I push them in another way but this time from the sidelines.
Please tell us something about the Drew League, your involvement in it and your personal project Air West. How did both events develop throughout the years of you being a part of them? You also do a lot of work in other countries such as Japan. How challenging is it for you to put everything under one roof and still work at the best of your ability?
I’ve been a coach for about 6yrs now. I’ve almost won everything in the Los Angeles summer Pro Leagues like the JBL and SPL. My team has been one of the Top 5 teams in the city and one of the best in the Drew League since I started. Over the last 5yrs I’ve won the most regular season games but the championship title eludes me because I lose my best players to leaving for overseas. It’s bittersweet but I love the challenge.
Air West is special. There is nothing like it around the world. I took the average pick up game and turned it into the greatest organized open gym on the planet. It’s a place where the best players come to play. From NBA to Overseas and top local talent. It’s an exclusive club that everybody wants to get in but your resume and game gets you pass the security.
As for training and coaching internationally, it’s amazing. I truly love what I do. Not only to have a chance to travel the world but to experience it with my players. I work in the countries where I have the most players, for example I have 5 players in China so I go there to watch them all. Same as for Korea and Israel. Being able to work with the pro teams out there and then the youth is awesome. The game is evolving globally and I want to make sure I have something to do with it.
As someone who has his hands in pretty much everything basketball related in L.A., do you ever take yourself times off from basketball? Where do you draw the line between Keion the coach and Keion the person, given there is this kind of line? Does Keion ever switch off his phone?
I definitely take time off after the long grind of the summer. I take advantage of being my own boss and I go on vacation to other countries that I haven’t been to for a few weeks. In this business you have to be able to keep personal and business separate at all times. In between those lines whether I’m your coach or trainer, it’s a different approach. I’m tougher on you, mean, and will say things to motivate you or test you. You have to respect it because of the position I’m in. Doesn’t mean after the game we can’t talk or remain friends. Just respect me as you would your coach overseas and I will do the same.
So far it has worked with no problem. I love my players and they know that. I do everything for them. Coach, train, mentor, film, edit the film, play agent if needed, etc. Anything to give my guys the best chance to succeed and live their dreams. I only turn my phone off on vacation lol after that I’m available to the world. There is nothing like seeing a friend achieve his/her goals.
Thanks Keion for your time.