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After successfully playing basketball on three different levels, Anthony Witherspoon has transitioned nicely into the role of trainer and motivator.
For the last three years, Witherspoon, 34, has been consistently training many players in Atlanta, including a number of prep-level talents from southside schools such as Westlake, Jonesboro and Southwest Atlanta Christian.
“Wanting to train players comes from just my passion for basketball,” Witherspoon said. “I’ve been around basketball my whole life. I’m a coach’s son (Anthony Witherspoon, Sr.) and a gym rat. I just love the game. I love to compete and love the hard work and the sweat and the grind. I like to see young men and women just go for their dreams, work hard. I like to show them how to build a work ethic.”
Highly-touted players Chuma Okeke, a 6-7 small forward, and Danny Lewis, a 6-4 shooting guard, are both coached by Westlake’s Darron Rogers and have been in the gym with Witherspoon.
“Spoon’s close to the players’ age and I like that,” Rogers said. “I’ve been knowing his father pretty much my entire career and when he was over at Clark we used to go to a lot camps. Spoon is character. He has also helped kids on the collegiate and pro level so he brings a wealth of experience and he’s actually played on the college and high school level at a high level.
“His rapport and the way he gets along with the kids has been very good too,” Rogers said. “I just thought he would be an excellent choice and he’s turned out to be an excellent choice. The guys look forward to coming in and he is just as enthusiastic. I really appreciate his hard work and what he has been doing with them.”
A 6-6 forward, Witherspoon played at Banneker High School, then Clark-Atlanta and Georgia State, and afterwards in South America, China and the World Basketball Association (WBA) before his body gave way to the rigorous demands of basketball.
“I went to draft camps but didn’t make it,” Witherspoon said. “I had a nice run, enjoyed it but because of some injuries I had to cut my career short but now I’m back at what I love to do.”
And that is guiding players in the direction of being better, starting with the basics.
“My regiment includes a lot of fundamentals,” Witherspoon said. “I think it all starts with fundamentals. Everybody’s skill set is so different especially when you are doing group work. But regardless of your skill level or your athleticism, these are some of the things you should know how to do. With the high skill-level guys, I do more combination drills and a little bit more extensive drills where they got to think more and react more.”
These sessions are intense as well because Witherspoon knows greatness doesn’t come easily.
“With my training, I try to bring a lot of intensity,” he said. “I tell the guys you got to bring some type of intensity to these workouts. It’s not going to be fun. It’s not going to feel good but if you want to be successful at anything at life you got to go through the pain–the hard parts.”
Speaking with plenty of credibility, Witherspoon constantly reminds those he trains, especially the gifted athletes, that focus helps them continue to climb the basketball ladder.
“I try to tell them that you got to bring it everyday,” Witherspoon said. “The level that these guys are going to–top 25, top 50, top-100 programs–those coaches are looking for good athletes every month so you can never take a day off. Your job is never secure. If the coaches don’t win, they lose their jobs. If they don’t win, they look for better athletes so I always try to tell them that you can never take days off because it is another All-American coming to that bench who averaged 20-something points in high school.
“With that in mind, you got to bring it,” Witherspoon said. “You got to bring it everyday so you keep your job and let the NBA worry about itself. If you play the game the right way, produce and learn the game, the NBA will come find you so don’t worry about that just learn the game and be coachable.”