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June 25, 2008

King: Taking draft preparaton to next level

CHICAGO Tim Grover said I had 45 minutes.

Around a quarter-til-nine Monday morning, I'd called one of the world's most high-profile trainers and asked if it would be possible to get a quick tour of Attack Athletics, the $15 million facility he opened last August, some time soon.

"If you can make it here by 9:30, we can do business," Grover said. "After that there will be a lot of athletes here, and they don't want a bunch of reporters standing around while they're training."

Awkward silence.

"No offense," he said.

None taken.

As I parked my turquoise Impala rental car between a silver Range Rover and a black Escalade, I could tell the mad dash to 2641 West Harrison St. was going to be worth it.

Not just to meet Grover whose list of clientele includes Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade but to see where some of the top college players have been honing their skills in preparation for Thursday's NBA draft.

For the past two months, projected first-rounders Chris Douglas-Roberts, Brandon Rush, Donte Greene and Jason Thompson have been living in Chicago and working out with Grover and his nine-person staff. But it was a comment in May from high-profile guard O.J. Mayo that piqued my interest in Attack Athletics.

"When you get done working out," Mayo said, "you can take a shower, lay down and then work out again. It's the best facility you can possibly train in. As a basketball player, it's like heaven.

"I spend most of my day at the gym."

Indeed, as Grover guided me through the 60,000-square foot facility, I couldn't see why anyone would ever want to leave.

There are four NBA-sized courts in a gym that seats 1,500. Last spring, Grover said the facility hosted a round of the Chicago high school playoffs. The weight room is breathtaking with more than $750,000 worth of equipment. When I was there, Antoine Walker and WNBA star Sylvia Fowles were lifting and/or rehabbing.

A few minutes later, Grover showed me the massage room as well as a room with a hot tub, a cold tub and an underwater treadmill. Nearby was the mini-barbershop that Mayo referenced, and then Grover opened the door to one of three bedrooms.

Next was the rec room, where a 110-inch flat screen television was flanked by recliners and stereos and video game equipment. A pool table sat in the back of the room along with a ping-pong table.

"The difference in our facility and an NBA practice facility is that this is a hangout spot, too," Grover said. "In the offseason, guys want to get their work in. But they also want to socialize. They can come in and get treatment and then watch a movie. They can work out on the court, get in the hot tub and then stick around to play video games. It's a place where everyone can congregate."

Impressive as everything was, nothing beat the locker room, where Kobe's space is next to M.J.'s. Reading the nameplates above each stall told you everything you need to know about the reputation of Grover and Attack Athletics.

Paul Pierce, Jalen Rose, Dwight Howard, Michael Finley, Tim Hardaway. The list goes on and on.

"We're selective about who we bring in," Grover said. "They have to mesh with our current clientele. We like to put our stamp on guys, so we ask for a six-to-eight-week commitment. We don't call them clients unless they've worked out with us for at least six weeks. So if someone has only worked out with us for a week we're not going to throw them on our website and say, 'Oh, this is our client.'"

One of Grover's biggest focuses of late has been preparing players such as Mayo, Rush, Green, Douglas-Roberts and Thompson for the NBA. Other draft hopefuls working out at Attack Athletics are Bill Walker, Stefhon Hannah, Tyrone Brazelton and Shaun Pruitt.

"We're getting those guys ready," Grover said. "We know the teams and the kind of testing they do. The NBA game is different from the collegiate game. There are different things you can do at the NBA level that you can't do in college. We show them all of that stuff and some of the things they'll see in different workouts. We make sure they're in tip-top shape."

Grover's responsibilities often extend beyond the court and weight room. When Mayo parted ways with agent Calvin Andrews last spring, Grover began handling his affairs. Although the situation is temporary, it's certainly been a huge help to one of the biggest names in the draft.

"We've been in this business so long that we know all of the NBA teams," Grover said.

"Sometimes we'll have the workouts here at the facility. The teams really respect us because we tell the truth about players. When we set up a workout we don't hide anything. We're not here to showcase only their strengths. We show the teams everything from top to bottom.

"You can't fool these guys. You're not going to fool a Pat Riley or a Kevin McHale in a private workout. If you're trying to hide something, they've been around basketball enough to where they're gong to know it. We show them everything. Ball handling, defense, left hand, right hand . We don't just make it a shooting exhibition."

Apparently, Grover is doing his job. Mayo could go as high as second in Thursday's draft. Once pegged as an early second-round selection, Rush should be picked anywhere from No. 11 to No. 17.

Rush said his agent suggested he train at Attack Athletics.

"It turned out to be good advice," Rush said. "I've felt prepared at every workout I've been to. It's amazing how much someone can help you in two months."

A former Division I basketball player at Illinois-Chicago, Grover caught his big break after reading a newspaper article about Jordan in 1989. In the story, Jordan said he was tired of the physical abuse he endured against teams such as the Detroit Pistons.

Grover, who had just received his Master's degree in exercise science from UIC, contacted the Bulls and, just like that, Jordan decided to give him a shot as his trainer.

"He said we'd try it out for a month," Grover said. "Before I knew it, a month had turned into years and years of basketball, baseball, golf and then basketball again.

Grover worked exclusively with Jordan and traveled with him during the season. But in the offseason he began training players such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley.

This summer he's helping Wade recuperate from knee surgery so he'll be ready to compete for USA Basketball in the Olympics.

"People always say that I'm not a basketball guy," Grover said. "But of all the guys that do this kind of thing, I'm one of the few who actually played D-I basketball, so how could I not be a basketball guy?

"Plus, learning stuff from guys like Michael and Scottie and Olajuwon and Barkley those are four of the Top 50 players of all time. There was a lot of knowledge that was bestowed onto me. How could I not benefit?"

Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

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