Drew Slone isn’t the type to command attention when you enter a room. And when he’s practicing his craft to help others perfect theirs, he’s not strikingly different from any onlooker inside the gym.
Take one look at his Instagram page, though, and a different picture begins to emerge. There you will find pictures of Slone posing after putting a who’s-who of central Ohio basketball players through individual skill workouts. Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, Jon Diebler, Trey Burke, C.J. Jackson, Stevie Taylor and numerous others have begun seeking out the unassuming Grove City native to help try to improve their games.
It has been a slow build for the former teacher/coach, but one that is paying off as word of mouth continues to spread.
“(Last summer) was kind of a breakout summer for us, and then this summer with the connections we’ve had, it’s grown,” Slone said in between workouts at Ohio State’s men’s basketball practice gym. “Word of mouth. They really like what we’re doing. That’s how it started. Now it’s just making sure that you’re establishing the relationships, doing the things that are going to benefit them.”
Slone graduated from Ohio State and spent time coaching at a few Ohio Capital Conference schools before deciding to get into the field of skill training. He started working at the Elevate Basketball Academy in Dublin, where he built up a client base and eventually signed to work for Pure Sweat Basketball as their de facto Ohio representative.
Now he uses multiple facilities, including occasionally Ohio State’s — provided he is working with a player who already is allowed access. Current members of the team cannot be steered to him by the coaching staff, and their workouts must be paid for out of their own pockets and take place off-campus.
“Drew is very unassuming,” former Wake Forest player and Columbus native L.D. Williams said. “He’s not flashy. He’s about getting work done, and that’s it.”
A typical individual session can last up to 90 minutes and, for the high school players he also works with, costs around $50. On this particular Friday in early July, Slone has two workouts on tap. First is Williams, whose father-in-law is Ohio State alumnus Clark Kellogg. Next is former Ohio State and Toledo player J.D. Weatherspoon, whose workout is delayed when his barber runs late that morning.
Music by Lil Baby and Drake plays over the speakers as Weatherspoon, wearing shorts from the team he played for last season in Thailand, is put through the paces by Slone. His directions are as straightforward as his tone.
“Elbow up,” he tells Weatherspoon as he works on shooting three-pointers off the dribble. “Through the ball. Left eye, elbow to eyebrow, hold that follow-through.”
“He’s just a great individual,” a sweat-covered Weatherspoon says during a break at the midway point. “Never down. He’s always excited. Very calm, chill guy. He just knows the game and he wants to help. He’s a people person.”
Different players look for different things from skill trainers. Weatherspoon and Williams are trying to build on their skills and land better contracts this season. When he started working with Bates-Diop and Tate after Ohio State’s season concluded, the focus was on keeping them in form and ready for NBA tryouts.
Slone said he enjoys them all.
“It comes down to the relationships,” Slone said. “You’ve got older guys that maybe they’re set in their ways, but getting them a little bit better or even just keeping them right at the level they’re at. With the younger kids, you’ve got a lot of development that they can do. They’re still figuring out what they’re good at. I like seeing them all grow.”