The years of countless sweat and skill-building sessions in stuffy gyms punctuated with tears of those who have been along for the journey since the beginning. The tailored suite, draft cap and embrace with commissioner David Stern. A select few young men will experience this moment next Thursday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey for the NBA Draft.
For some players such as University of Pennsylvania product Zack Rosen, their entrance into the league is more Greyhound than the private jets the lottery lifestyle can provide. Brace yourselves for Rosen’s extravagant draft night plans.
“I’ll be in the gym somewhere,” he says bluntly. “Lindsey Hunter just walked by us (Phoenix Suns team scout) and said there’s no such thing as a gym rat anymore and I challenged him on it. I think if there is one it’s me. So I’ll be in my home if you wanna call it that. Be in a gym somewhere.”
Having just completed a pre-draft workout with the Suns, Rosen has been right at home whether competing at the Portsmouth Invitational, Brooklyn Nets Combine or a workout with the Philadelphia 76ers. You won’t catch the 6-0, 177-pounder popping up on mock drafts, but after a conversation with Rosen, you can feel the sincerity in his willingness and ability to prove any doubters wrong and find a spot in the league. One thing is certain, he will make sure no one will out work him.
“I read a book called ‘The Talent Code,’” Rosen explains. “It’s written by Daniel Coyle. The contention is that people play up all of this extra certain skills and talent when the reality is a lot of it and most of it boils down to hard work. There’s two factors that you can’t seem to change genetically and that’s your height and your physical makeup. But everything else you can work on to change and the premise of the whole thing is that people don’t work and people don’t change things because they believe that others are just more talented and gifted and more blessed than they are to accomplish those goals.”
Take a look at Rosen’s numbers at the Nets combine and maybe the guy isn’t giving his talent its just due. His vertical jump measured out at 33 inches and he had the fastest 3/4 court sprint.
“That’s a lot of work,” he says. “A lot…a lot…a lot of work. I did not come out that way.”
Rosen credits his muscle activating work with former Sixers strength coach Jim Ferris for his impressive measurables. His attitude toward the game was developed in North Jersey’s spirited hoops culture. A standout player on the hardwood and diamond at Colonia High (he says he was always a better baseball player), Rosen broke his throwing elbow which all but made his transition to hoops set in stone.
“You can’t play basketball in North Jersey without being a tough guy,” says Rosen. “I think that’s ingrained as a part of you and your makeup as a player. That’s number one. I had the benefit of watching a guy like Mike Nardi, who played at Villanova, just really work and get better. If you wanna make this thing happen, you gotta work at it. There’s a lot of guys chasing the same dream in that area.”
Rosen finished his high school career at the famed St. Benedict’s playing for Dan Hurley (named Rhode Island coach in March). He was a part of the No. 5-ranked team in the nation in 2007 and state prep title winning squad in 2008. St. Benedict’s helped prepare Rosen for the daily grind, having to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to make school and not getting home until late at night.
Rosen’s hoops education was amplified that much more playing for Hurley, the son of Hall of Fame high school coach Bob and brother of former Duke guard Bobby. The two don’t go a week without checking in.
“He pushes you to the limit where he’ll make you question whether you really want to play basketball or not,” Rosen says of playing for Hurley. “He’ll bring you to those points a lot. He’s the most challenging, demanding guy I’ve ever been in a gym with. That alone shapes your competiveness. It makes you really decide if this is something you really wanted to do or whether it was just something that you liked to do.”