January 30, 2012

Ahern works his plan

Kevin McCarthy

Most ballers truthfully believe they work hard. However quantifiable such beliefs are or aren't, what is true is that improvement is based on how much effort is put in but, just as important if not more so, the how and what of such work. Motion may be work and indeed effort, but by itself doesn't guarantee improvement.

No, this will not be a philosophical treatise on objects at rest staying at rest or just the opposite. It's about an actual individual, David Ahern, a backcourter for Marin Catholic High. Not inherently blessed with Iverson-like quickness or Nate Robinson-like jumping prowess, he set about maximizing his physical potential and advancing his basketball talents with the goal of reaching his potential.

photo of David Ahern player

It was educational giant Robert Hutchins who is (dis)credited for saying, "henever I feel like exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes."

Mr. Hutchins, meet David Ahern.

Here's the 6-foot Ahern's daily summer routine:

Here's Ahern during the non-basketball season school year:

Now some may worry that this schedule might negatively impact Ahern's academics. Try making that case as, according to Ahern, "my cumulative grade point average is a little over 4.0 and I take pride in my grades. It opens up options."

There's smart and wise and while in some individuals they are never introduced to each other, Ahern is both.

If anything, his work ethic carries over to academics and vice versa.

"My plan is to be training smart and efficiently," Ahern explained. "I'm not the tallest or the most naturally gifted but reaching my potential is my goal."

There are also ancillary benefits.

"I'm viewed as a leader on the team, running workouts and making sure things are getting done and in the right way."

Ahern added, "working out and working hard is something I enjoy. It's a great opportunity to bond with teammates."

In talking about his evolution from freshman to senior on the court, he offered "I'm a lot more aggressive with my playmaking and in going to the basket. I'm more confident having the ball in my hands and with taking big shots at the end of games." Granted, experience plays a factor here but the improvement that comes from intelligent preparation is also critically important.

Possibly the most remarkable factor in Ahern's development is his physical one: "I've added 40-50 pounds since my freshman year."

So far this season, Marin Catholic is 16-4 overall, 6-2 in league play and has won two tournaments -- the Redwood Empire Invitational and the Don Bambauer Memorial Holiday Classic. The latter was especially important to Ahern and his teammates because "we haven't won that tournament in its 16-year history until this season."

Ahern credits his summer efforts for his progress, especially his workouts with Jeremy Russotti: "all summer going against the Josh Akognons and college guys really got me ready for the season."

Here Russotti summing up: "David has an old school work ethic. He is how every kid should attack basketball, constantly trying to improve while never boasting about his game. That is the only reason I allowed him to train with other college and pro guys. His work ethic never slowed us down a bit."

Let's finish with Russotti talking more about his protégé: "I always told David to be patient, that it takes one to two summers to be able to learn how to correctly separate from a defender. By the end of summer, David was consistently separating and getting his shot off anytime he wanted against top overseas professionals, high school All-Americans and college players. He wasn't necessarily finishing off the play, but that's what will occur with another summer session of maturing as a player.

By the end of summer, I was telling David and his father (Terry) that the pace of the high school game would become so easy for David, where he can dictate just about anything he wanted to do on the court. Looking at his numbers, it appears like he is playing much better and stronger than the previous year [last week, Ahern put up 37 against Drake and is averaging 22 points per game, tops in the Marin County Athletic League, versus 13.6 last year].

"It was great to see a guy like David really stand out in the workouts session at the "NorCal's Finest Super 100" camp. His hand speed and separation ability was on another level than all the other players. Guys like Alan Stein and Phil Doherty could see his intensity and knew he was going to be a player. Training is all about hard work, eliminating over-innovation, staying functional and keeping a player efficient. David definitely is an efficient player."