Player development profile: Jon Ishop

By: Blake Moore, Pelicans.com

With his 220 pounds balanced on his right leg atop a foam block, New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans quickly reached out to catch a ball thrown to his high right by Jon Ishop, the Pelicans’ head athletic trainer and director of sports medicine.

Then Evans had to snag a ball to his high left. With the pace accelerating, Evans had to grab balls to his lower right, then lower left. Up, down, side to side, Ishop pushed Evans through this drill and many others on a recent weekday morning as the team’s star guard continues to work his way back into shape after undergoing minor arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after the season ended.

Ishop has been dealing with multiple rehabilitation situations this off-season as the Pelicans suffered a number of injuries during the 2013-14 campaign.

“We try to build a solid foundation,” said Ishop, a 39-year-old who has been with the Pelicans for four seasons. “We try to build balance, strength and power as we go up the pyramid.”

Although Evans isn't quite at the power level yet, he has been working on increasing his balance and strength.

“They are working hard, but we are working smart,” Ishop said. “We build on the evaluation of last year so we can prepare for next year. It’s all about implementing offense, defense and how we work.”

Ishop said he believes in never telling a player to do something "just because." He wants players to understand and be motivated when it comes to their performance and to maximize their potential. He wants each player to leave the team’s practice facility with a clear plan.

“Clarity through information,” said Ishop, who was a trainer with the Houston Texans for eight seasons before joining the Pelicans. “We want to be as clear, concise and open with the guys as possible.”

Ishop said he encourages players to ask questions and share their ideas. When a player comes from another team and has an experience, skill set or philosophy that is value-added for others, Ishop is open to implementing the idea.

“I like to bring a bunch of minds into a situation to find the best solution,” Ishop said. “So everybody feels like they have a piece of the ownership.”

Along with his approachable attitude toward ideas, the players obviously appreciate Ishop. A recent example was a player stopping by to wish him a "Happy Father's Day."

“We’ve had players who have left here and gone to other teams, they still call Ishop for help which is unheard of,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “That just tells you how good Ish is and what he means to our program.”

As for the upcoming season, numerous players have been in the team’s practice facility working hard to improve their weaknesses and solidify their strengths.

“Everybody is geared toward the same goal,” Ishop said. “We all have different jobs to get there, but our main goal is to get as many wins on the board as we can.”

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