As NBA draft approaches, Sylven Landesberg tries to upgrade his profile

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 28, 2010

Throughout his two seasons with the Virginia men's basketball team, Sylven Landesberg only once played on ESPN's flagship station, with Cavaliers games often relegated to less-viewed channels. He endured two losing seasons and played in few games of national interest, so his talent was always more of a rumor to those outside the region.

In fact, Landesberg's Virginia career was known mostly for two things: the ACC rookie of the year award he won in 2009, and his season-ending suspension because of poor classroom attendance in March.

So as Landesberg prepares for the NBA draft, he's not simply selling his résumé. He's selling himself.

"We didn't get too much TV time, so it was tough for teams to see me," Landesberg said. "A lot of [NBA] teams are calling because they're interested. They hear a lot about me, but they want to see what the real deal is. So, [agent Jeff Schwartz] is sending me to a bunch of workouts so teams can see me in person and see how talented I am. Hopefully, that will give them a head's up."

Traditionally, draft prospects looking to boost their profile work out individually for NBA teams and attend the NBA's pre-draft combine. Landesberg has done both, and he also has tried to increase his profile by filming video workout diaries that were posted on the Internet.

Despite all that, Landesberg still needs to convince evaluators that he can play in the NBA. Ryan Blake, director of the NBA scouting, said Landesberg's best hope is to be drafted in the second round. Blake said Landesberg showed consistency as a go-to scorer, but still must prove he can make the players around him better. Blake said even though Virginia struggled, talent evaluators have no trouble finding players.

A Western Conference scout categorized Landesberg as a player more likely to play internationally or in the NBA Development League, adding Landesberg is a "guy that . . . had a good freshman year, but he hasn't dominated his peers yet. He still has a lot of holes in his game. It's going to be tough for him to make it at our level right now. Not real athletic. The thing he needed to improve was his outside stroke. He was able to get to the basket and sometimes manufacture shots in the ACC, but he needed to improve his outside stroke. I just wish he would have stayed in school. It's going to be tough for him."

Landesberg knows of outside criticism -- particularly about his shot -- and has spent almost every day since March working to fill those holes. He has trained with Jay Hernandez, founder of New York-based training company Pro Hoops Inc.

Hernandez worked with Landesberg last summer, helping Landesberg improve his three-point shooting percentage from 31.4 percent as a freshman to 38.3 percent as a sophomore. Specifically, Hernandez worked to make Landesberg's outside shot become a natural extension of his mid-range jumper. The emphasis has been minimizing hip movements the farther Landesberg extends from the basket and maintaining a consistent follow-through.

Hernandez also added a strength and conditioning coach, a flexibility expert and a nutritionist to the team preparing Landesberg, who measured at 6 feet 6 1/4 inches and 210 pounds at last weekend's pre-draft combine.

Landesberg's training regimen is precisely scheduled down to the hour. It focuses on different areas -- from basketball skills to strength training -- and goes Monday to Saturday.

Hernandez said he's "100 percent sure" Landesberg will get drafted and thinks Landesberg could enter discussion for the first round once more teams notice his size and talent. Hernandez and Landesberg both say that NBA teams simply must watch the former Virginia star up close because of his lack of exposure during his college career.

"There's a lot of people that know me, and there's a lot of people that don't," Landesberg said. "I want to get my name out there as much as possible. I want people to turn away from my workouts and say, 'Yeah, that Sylven Landesberg is the real deal.' "

Staff writer Steve Yanda contributed to this report.

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