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It’s Dame Time: Damian Lillard Hosts Inaugural Formula Zero

NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock outlines his experience traveling to Portland, Oregon, for NBA superstar Damian Lillard's Formula Zero.

I grew up in and around the NBA, and my roller coaster journey through the basketball world has given me many unique vantage points into the game and the business behind the game. I started as an "NBA kid" as I had multiple family members work at the highest levels of NBA front offices, then I was a player, coach, and agent. I now serve as an NBA Draft Analyst and scout in the media.

Due to my background and experience, I often get asked, "what does it take to play in the NBA?"

Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer.

One thing is clear though if you don't have talent, it's not happening. The NBA is only for the best of the best, the cream of the crop, period. Talent is a prerequisite.

If one is lucky enough to possess the God-given talent to become an NBA prospect, that's great, but getting to the NBA and sticking are two completely different things. Regardless, the odds are stacked against everyone.

So, what else is needed to succeed if one possesses NBA talent?

I'll tell you (at least a little), it's called "The Formula."

This past week, I was invited to be a part of Formula Zero, where NBA superstar Damian Lillard, better known as "Dame," and his longtime coach and mentor, Phil Beckner, welcomed a group of 20 high school and 20 college prospects, to Portland, Oregon.

Upon arriving, they held an introductory meeting and dinner for the Formula Zero staff. I quickly learned that this was entirely different from any other camp. Actually, I realized it's not a camp at all. It's much bigger than that.

The staff, which is filled with experienced NBA coaches like, Kaleb Canales, Chris Farr, Dale Osbourne, Dave Severns, David Vanterpool, and others, were all handpicked by Dame, as they had all crossed paths with him at one point or another and made an impact in his life and career. In addition, Dame's nearly unparalleled NBA career led to him recently being named one of the top 75 NBA players of all time.

How has Dame found so much success? He credits it to "The Formula."

It was explained during our meeting that everyone was invited for a reason as they possessed the qualities that Dame and Phil felt necessary to be included in this newfound "community."

It suddenly dawned on me how lucky I was to be there. Although NBA scouts were given access to the on-court sessions, I was the only media member given any access at all. In addition, I was welcomed as a member of this exclusive new basketball community.

To say that I am honored and proud would be an understatement.

The next day, the players and staff were introduced to one another. As I glanced at the rosters and around the room, I saw many familiar names and faces of players that I had watched and evaluated many times but also some players I had not seen at all yet:

College Counselors:

Jaden Akins - Michigan State

Trey Alexander - Creighton

Souley Boum - Xavier

Keyonte George - Baylor

Graham Ike - Wyoming

Dillon Jones - Weber State

Caleb Love - North Carolina

Dayvion McKnight - Western Kentucky

Mike Miles - TCU

Isiaih Mosely - Missouri

Kris Murray - Iowa

Tylor Perry - North Texas

Zyon Pullin - UC Riverside

Will Richard - Florida

Hunter Sallis - Gonzaga

Marcus Sasser - Houston

Jalen Slawson - Furman

Terrence Shannon Jr. - Illinois

Azuolas Tubelis - Arizona

Bryson Warren - Overtime Elite

Jalen Wilson - Kansas

High School:

Blake Buchanan - Lake City

David Castillo - Bartlesville

Jackson Cooper - Cleveland

Kaden Cooper - The Skill Factory

Eric Dailey Jr. - IMG

Zoom Diallo - Curtis Sr.

Scotty Middleton - Sunrise Christian

Jamari Phillips - Modesto Christian

Jace Posey - Strake Jesuit

Aaron Powell - Campbell Hall

Brandon Rechsteiner - Etowah

Jackson Shelstad - West Linn

Dedan Thomas Jr. - Liberty

Ja'Kobe Walter - Link

Isaiah Watts - South Kent

Simeon Wilcher - Roselle Catholic

Money Williams - Oakland

Some current and former pros were also in attendance, including Ochai Agbaji, Mikal Bridges, Tim Frazier, Chris Kaman, CJ McCollum, Anfernee Simons, and Matisse Thybulle, among others.

Phil and Dame talked to our entire group (players and staff) to set the tone that first morning. Subsequently, expectations were set. If you aren't serious and willing to challenge yourself and strive for excellence, you don't belong at Formula Zero.

The following days consisted of full schedules with a healthy balance of inspiring lessons on and off the court.

On the court, the players competed hard with Phil, Dame, and the coaching staff, "pouring" knowledge into the players while instilling intense discipline. There was no nonsense at Formula Zero. A few examples are that phones weren't allowed to be used on the bus, there was absolutely no goofing around in the gym, and if you didn't give 110% at all times, you would hear about it, sternly.

Off the court, former NFL player, renowned speaker, and author Trent Shelton was just one of the inspirational speakers who "poured" knowledge and wisdom into our group.

Fittingly, we finished the inaugural Formula Zero by watching clips of the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, which outlines a man's story of overcoming significant challenges to accomplish his lofty goals. A film that Dame regularly watched as a source of motivation while in college to assist in his own pursuit of happiness along his journey to now having become a likely hall-of-fame basketball player.

So, what is Formula Zero, exactly? Here is how I would sum it up:

A community (not a camp) of talented, not always the most talented, but most importantly, like-minded basketball people using "The Formula" to maximize their potential and strive for excellence.

And what is The Formula? To put it simply:

Character. Hard Work. Accountability.


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