Quick Study

Drummond’s smarts, attitude leave an impression on Arnie Kander

Arnie Kander already sees Andre Drummond's potential.
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images
Andre Drummond’s coaches and teammates alike found him a willing and eager listener and learner during their time at the Orlando Pro Summer League last month. Arnie Kander can confirm their assessment.

If you wonder what the guru who sees things others cannot sees in a player described by many as a physical wunderkind, it’s all good stuff.

“What an incredibly attentive young man,” the Pistons strength coach said of Drummond this week. “You ask him, ‘Andre, what did we talk about yesterday?’ He’ll repeat it, verbatim. He’s really taking it in, taking it home with him.

“He was here for four days. We had worked on his right leg – normal stuff, just develop a little more flexibility. He came back and I’m like, ‘Whoa, what happened? This is from A to at least somewhere in the middle of the alphabet. That’s pretty significant.’ He said, ‘Well, you told me to do it. Isn’t that what I was supposed to do?’

“I said, ‘Yes, but you did it like, really well.’ He said, ‘Well, I figured if it felt good and I was getting better at it, I should continue to do it.’ ”

Kander looks at Drummond and sees immense potential from a physical standpoint.

“Genetically gifted, body wise. What I love is the lower extremity body structure – big hips, big thighs. Kids that are big in the upper body but have smaller bases, a little more fragile. Things can go wrong. When you start off with a great foundation – like a house, you build from the basement up – he has it.”

And with Drummond’s quick mind and eagerness to improve, Kander sees the signs pointing to Drummond ultimately realizing that immense potential. Without knowing the specifics of Drummond’s situation at UConn as a freshman last season, Kander believes his underwhelming statistics – about 10 points and 7.5 rebounds a game – might have been Drummond looking to fit in.

“He’s not a selfish player,” Kander said. “He’s not going to try to get his numbers. He’s going to fit in to what he’s expected to do. I think if they’d actually told him, ‘We need 15, 18 points and nine rebounds and that’s what you’ve got to give us every night,’ I think he would have gotten that. He’ll put his energy into what you tell him you need. And that’s a great thing. To have an 18-year-old who actually does what you tell him to do? That’s all I’ve seen. Anything you tell him to do, he’ll do.”

Drummond has been working with both Kander and assistant coach Roy Rogers extensively during workouts at the team’s practice facility – Kander in the weight room and for movement and conditioning drills, Rogers for shooting drills, post footwork and moves around the basket.

First on Kander’s agenda: getting Drummond in tip-top shape.

“First thing always with a big, conditioning,” he said. “Get him in unbelievable shape to be able to run, be endurantly strong – the same mechanics, the same stride, active hands. Get good at turning. I’ll use Tim Duncan as an example, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace. Whether it’s blocking shots, rebounds, posting up, turning into a step-back – all of that. To really getting equal with both sides of the body with rotation, left side, right side.”

Kander would like to see Drummond gain a little more upper-body strength, but is amazed at his overall strength given that Drummond came to the Pistons without ever having done any weight training.

“This is all natural,” he said. “So like anything, you’ve got to take your time with it. You can’t throw everything at him. His body’s got to adapt. But his learning curve is pretty high, so we’re going to take him at a pretty good pace here. This isn’t going to be a long-term thing. He’s going to be a guy who is going to advance real quick.”

In watching Drummond run, from end to end or in shorter bursts in half-court defensive settings, Kander sees things that go beyond what physical measurements and timed drills could ever tell him.

“He’s got a very elegant stride, beautiful mechanics,” Kander said. “Good running technique, head locked in. When he runs, he’s not bobbing back and forth. He’s very mechanically efficient. He stops quickly, transitions. He’s quick laterally. He doesn’t compensate or tip or lean, which a lot of bigs do. A lot of the bad habits you have to break, he hasn’t developed them. There are some things you work on when you get a little bit older, he’s right at that stage. The fact he shows that work ethic and wants to learn, the concentration and the focus on it, I see nothing but incredible upside.

“He’s got incredible lateral length. Some guys have long arms but have no lateral length. A guy might have a 7-3 wing span, but you get on the court and he’s 6-3. His testing and his movement are both good. He’s got that motor-neuron connection of when I move, I keep my length. I expand, I reach. That’s what you want to see. I hate the guys who static measure and then you watch them and they don’t use it.”

Part of Drummond’s evolution will be conditioning his mind as well as his body, Kander believes.

“I think he’s a thinker,” Kander said in assessing why Drummond might sometimes appear caught up in watching play unfold around him instead of forcing the action. “He might even be in the process of something that happened the play before, focusing on what he probably should have done. That’s just part of the developmental process, emotional maturity. Any drill we give him here, when you give him a concept, he locks in. He’s going to get a lot of different skill sets. Something happens in a game that’s different than what he learned in practice, he’s still learning to be able to stay with anything that comes at him that might work against what he’s used to learning. He’s learning to expand his reflexive field.”

Kander, like Pistons coaches who saw the way Drummond absorbed their lessons in Orlando, is eager to help him expand everything about his game.

“The things he does, you can’t teach. But he’s got to learn to expand the repertoire of the reflexes. A rebound means I’ve got to get quickly lateral and if something didn’t happen, I’m not with that anymore; I’m with the next thing that’s occurring. But 18 … he’s got so much potential.”