After a very busy summer, Ground Zero Training Founder and CEO, Tim Anderson, and Executive V.P. and Director of Basketball Operations, Jason Benadretti, sat down for an in depth interview.
Q: Tell us a little about your background.
I grew up in the inner city of Chicago and used basketball as a way to not only get out of an undesirable living situation, but also to get myself an education. Growing up in a tough neighborhood can shape someone, but it can also break them too, and I’ve seen so many people go down the wrong path. I’ve lost family and friends to the wrong things, but I was very fortunate to have some great mentors to help guide me in the right direction.
Tim and I arguably have some of the biggest differences in upbringing and environment, but some very real similarities too. I grew up in Irvine, CA, which is ranked as one of the safest cities in the country year after year. As the son of African immigrants, I was brought up with a very real perspective on life and a sound appreciation for cultural differences. And, just like Tim, I was fortunate to use basketball to obtain a degree. This game is a major driving force in so many of my life experiences.
Q. How did you get into player development?
My path has been a winding one for sure, but one that has always placed player development and relationships at its core. Growing up, I attended one of the toughest, and most talented schools in the country, Crane High School, where I played alongside NBA players, Tony Allen, and my brother, Will Bynum. Even at a young age, I had a passion for increasing skill development in others and made an effort to train players. After I finished playing in college at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, I played semi-pro ball and then jumped right into coaching. I coached at the HS, JUCO, D2, and D1 levels, where I was always in charge of the player development programs. Watching my players improve as the days went on was a motivating factor for me, and that was really what drove me to start Ground Zero Training.
My path has undoubtedly taken some twists and turns as the years have gone on. I was an average player, with a passion and hunger for the game that was off the charts. After college, I jumped head first into the coaching world, very eager to blaze a path forward. I spent some time working in the college ranks at the JUCO, NAIA, and D1 levels. That then led to an opportunity working as a scout in the NBA. Through it all, I constantly had the desire to help players improve their game. That desire reached a new level during my time spent scouting, as it was the first time I didn’t have the opportunity to make an impact on the outcome of a game. This made me really analyze player strengths and weaknesses, and I found myself more eager than ever to help players take it to a new level. When the opportunity came to help Tim build up GZT, I jumped right on it. I’m very fortunate to do what I do today. Working with someone I consider family, and some of the top basketball players in the world is special, and special should never be taken for granted.
Q. Is there credence to the old saying, “players don’t care what you know until they know you care?”
That saying couldn’t be more true and it’s what we base Ground Zero Training off of. Our goal is to help every single player improve their skills as well as help each one move onto the next phase of his or her life. The relationships we develop in the gym, and off the court, last a lifetime. This is family.
Q. Why the name Ground Zero Training?
There are two things that really went into the name. First off, we are at the epicenter of player development. In the last three NBA Drafts we have had 15 players drafted with 10 of those being 1st Round Picks. Beyond that, multiple players have signed NBA contracts. Just look at what guys like Sean Kilpatrick, Marshall Plumlee, and Kyle Wiltjer have recently done. Going from undrafted to signing multi-year contracts. That’s just at the NBA level too. We’ve been fortunate to be a part of the process for so many players who have secured professional contracts overseas, college scholarships, and even improved their standing at the high school and youth levels. The second thing that went into the name is huge – GZT was shaped by our backgrounds. We want to show everyone that there is a way out of any situation through hard work and refusing to settle for anything less than your best. To this day, I’m extremely proud of what Ground Zero Training stands for and represents.
Q. What does a typical day consist of for GZT with your NBA players?
Each day is a bit different and it really depends on whether our players are in season or out of season. First off, you need to treat each player as his or her own mold. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and at GZT we aim to improve both of those areas every single day. That doesn’t just go for the players we train, but for the staff as well. We are big believers in film study, as the tape usually doesn’t lie. We need our NBA and professional clients to be able to continue to improve at a level that is so cutthroat. During the off-season, our NBA guys often go through a skill development workout, a shooting workout, and depending on the players and the timing, 3-on-3, 4-on-4, or 5-on-5, where we are able to institute certain NBA aspects a player might see in a game. We are available 24 hours a day to our guys. The fight to be at the top is so intense, and sometimes you find yourself having to go at it a bit with some of the guys in order for them to just get some rest. It’s not rare for Will Bynum or Jabari Parker to call at 3:00 or 4:00am and want to get a workout in. I know I can speak for Jason about this too – we feel the highs and lows of our players’ performances. If a guy has a bad night, we may get a call or text asking to come in and lend a hand, or to give him some feedback. So we’re constantly trying to balance trusting the process and figuring out what can be done to help our guys.
Q. Is there anywhere you won’t go to help a client?
Not really. Like Tim said, we are essentially on call for our guys. This is what we do and we want to make sure everyone has their best chance to be successful at their respective level. We don’t just serve them domestically, but internationally as well. Tim has previously spent months in China with Will Bynum, and Yi Jianlian when they were with the Guangdong Southern Tigers, and today both players are back in the NBA. I personally just returned from Colombia where I spent a few weeks helping a pro team, Aguilas de Tunja, get ready for their season. You never really know who is going to need you, and when, but we are always more than willing to do what is necessary to help our clients.
Q. What’s next for GZT?
We’re looking to expand our brand even further. People have to realize that nothing is more important than your reputation and name, so we have purposely passed on some opportunities and built GZT to what it is today in a very deliberate manner. We’re at a point where we do feel comfortable looking into some expansion opportunities now. This is definitely an exciting time for GZT and we look forward to the future as well.