Idan Ravin is a busy man who wears many hats. He's a former lawyer, an author, a Dove Men+Care fitness and grooming expert, and more importantly, a world famous basketball trainer.
Ravin has worked with some of the biggest names in the NBA, including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Steph Curry and several up-and-coming players, such as the Sixers first-round pick, Jahlil Okafor. He has known Okafor since the age of 14, and has watched him grow into a tremendous talent, although not literally.
"He’s probably the same size as he was when I first met him," Ravin admitted. "He’s a very special kid. While his skill level developed and his strength has developed, what’s always stayed the same is his humanity, his kindness. He comes from an amazing family, that’s one thing that’s always been a constant for him."
The two spent time working out in Durham, North Carolina in preparation for the 2015 NBA Draft, and re-connected in Philadelphia after he was selected with the third overall pick.
Ravin categorized their training sessions as, "preparing him for what [Jahlil] would expect during the season, and creating a work ethic specific to him." They've worked on all aspects of his game, from the low post to his face up game, and even the mental side of basketball.
Ravin's workout routines could certainly be deemed as rigorous, but Okafor has been extremely willing to work with one of the game's biggest names to help himself improve.
"I think within five minutes if you weren’t tenacious it would be very clear that you wouldn’t be a good fit for me and I wouldn’t be a good fit for you, because it’s very challenging," he said. "Ever since I’ve known Jahlil, he’s always given me his best."
One of the biggest knocks on Okafor's game that led to Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns surpassing him in this year's draft was his athleticism. Ravin feels that the Chicago native certainly is athletic, but not in the sense people are used to using that word.
"While he might not jump forty-five feet up in the air...he moves very well, he’s much faster than people realize, he’s light on his feet, and at 6’ 11", 275 lbs., with very low percentage body fat, he’s a pretty impressive athlete," he said. "I don’t think athletic is always how high you jump. There’s a lot of components that make up ‘athletic’."
There were also serious concerns about Okafor's weight, which seemed to fluctuate throughout his freshman year. He looks skinnier than ever now, but Ravin says he was never overweight to begin with. While Jahlil is a "muscular, very dense kid", under his t-shirt and number 15 Duke jersey was apparently a ripped physique.
"If you take his shirt off, he has a six-pack," Ravin insisted. "So for some reason the media or the public has thought of him as this overweight guy, I challenge them eight million times over to a six-pack contest, and he will win. Physically he’s in good shape, absolutely."
The physical concerns are seemingly overblown, but his fit in Philadelphia could be problematic, as the team already has two low post threats in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. The Sixers will likely do some experimenting in the front court, and Jahlil will be ready to play the four, if called upon.
"If that’s what he’s asked to do, in time I think he’ll be able to do it very well," Ravin said. "With every one healthy, I think it’s an interesting front line that they have. Do I think [Jahlil] can do a lot? Yeah, absolutely. I mean he is way more versatile than people think."
Leading up to the Utah Summer League mini-camp, Okafor and Ravin were arriving at PCOM at 6 a.m. every day, much to the delight of head coach Brett Brown. During some down time last week they opted to explore the city, which included Okafor's first Phillies game. Jahlil has also identified the chicken cheesesteak from Ishkabibble's on South Street to be his favorite steak sandwich in town.
"He loves Philadelphia. He loves what it stands for," Ravin said about Okafor's new home. "The fans have been awesome, to his family, to him. It’s an amazing experience."
As Jahlil gears up to face the best the NBA has to offer, Ravin constantly reminds him of the step up in talent from the NCAA.
"I explained to him, 'Wait until you play against all my guys.' Either [Stephen Curry], or [Carmelo Anthony], or Harden, or Chris Paul, those guys are really special," Ravin said. "And that’s something you’re never really ready for until you do it."
Eventually, the plan is to give Okafor the chance to work out with those superstars during the offseason.
But for now, the task at hand is two weeks of summer league action in Utah and Las Vegas. All indications are he'll be ready to dominate, thanks to a little help behind the scenes from Ravin.