Meet Tim Martin, the trainer behind Victor Wembanyama and his virtual training, defense-focused drills

Meet Tim Martin, the trainer behind Victor Wembanyama and his virtual training, defense-focused drills

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, trainer and skills coach Tim Martin was out on a tennis court four days a week in Dallas, demonstrating different drills with no one else there. It was just him and his laptop as he worked out via Zoom.

His client was 5,000 miles away in Paris with a pair of AirPods in, listening intently to Martin’s instructions and then almost immediately putting them into practice. The then 16-year-old Victor Wembanyama looked like no Martin had ever trained before, and he knew early on that Wembanyama would be special.

“His ability to retain information and be able to dominate it on the court is just unreal,” Martin told Yahoo Sports. “When we were working out through Zoom, it was so different, but he found ways to get better every day.”

Martin would show him various drills and give him feedback if it corrected his ball placement, telling him to keep his chest down or add arc to his shot. These almost daily Zoom training sessions continued for six months until Wembanyama’s season opener with Nanterre 92 in September 2020.

“I would tell him to do something and it only takes one repetition to get it and understand it. It’s different with every player I work with, but with Victor it’s ‘OK, do this or that’ and it’ll just go in. and perfect what I showed him five minutes ago, he won’t forget it. Next practice I’m going to have him do something else, but it’s going to come from something we worked on two weeks ago and he’s going to do it,” Martin said while shaking his head. “He always evolves so easily and wants to get better every time. goes up to the field. That’s what makes him great and what separates him from everyone else.”

Once the gyms started opening, Martin continued his Zoom workouts with Wembanyama and also did in-person workouts with some of his NBA clients. Martin has trained countless NBA players over the years, helping the likes of Trae Young, Rudy Gobert, Nic Claxton, Josh Powell and PJ Washington work on their craft.

He would end up running drills with Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner and Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey, and then actually working out at Wembanyama. Both Maxey and Turner would get a chance to say hello, and it would be another year and a half before the three worked as a team in person.

“It’s been a really interesting phase, but it’s been a good starting point for our relationship to continue to build on the foundations and foundations to take him to the next part of his career,” Martin added.

Last summer, Wembanyama and his family traveled to Dallas to join the gym with Martin for three weeks. Maxey remembers seeing Wembanyama walk in for the first time and was immediately blown away by his size.

“He’s huge, he’s really tall,” Maxey told Yahoo Sports. “Seeing him in movies or stills is different than seeing him in person.”

The first time the pair worked together with Martin was at the end of one of Maxey’s one-on-one sessions. Wembanyama wanted to work on his lateral quickness and asked Maxey if he could just play defense the entire time in a one-on-one drill.

“Nobody’s ever said, ‘Come on man, let’s play one-on-one, but I’m going to be on defense the whole time,’ I’ve never heard that before in my life,” Maxey said. “Every time I scored, he’s so competitive he wanted to make every stop, he asked to go over and over again so he could get reps on the switch guard on the perimeter. Then it was like, ‘OK, this is different man.’

As good as Wembanyama is in attack, Martin says it’s their defense that impresses him the most. Offensively, Wembanyama is draining three-pointers with one foot like it’s no big deal, catching lobs in transition after taking off from the free throw line and showing off the foot elite in the paint. Defensively, it’s the subtle things that don’t show up on the stat line that stand out the most.

“He probably changes 40 percent of the shots taken when he’s on the field,” Martin said. “He blocks jump shots from a weak-side rotation, not many guys do that. He can cover so much ground, it’s crazy. If Victor was in the NBA today, he’d be the best defensive player in the league. On the ball, he can switch. , he can get low, shoot the gap, everything.”

Wembanyama warned the entire basketball world during two exhibition games in Las Vegas in early October. He averaged 36.5 points and 4.5 blocks in a pair of games against tough competition and former G League Ignite pros. While everyone watched in awe as Wembanyama hit seven 3-pointers in the first game and completely took over the second game, doing everything to help his team win, Martin sat in the Dollar Loan Center and focused on the finer points. Wembanyama did.

“I don’t really watch the game, I watch him,” Martin said. “I wait for the little mistake. Maybe it’s his footwork or his placement. I watch how he breathes on free throws. Maybe he’s not using his hips around the seam or holding his breath when he shoots. What’s it like to catch the ball, his back if he doesn’t drop low, if he’s too heavy. Those aspects that don’t really stand out are what I watch and look for when he plays.”

Wembanyama looks like no prospect NBA scouts have ever seen. He is the most anticipated player to win the championship since LeBron James in 2003. The top players in the NBA have all taken notice of Webanyama with James calling him a generational talent.

“Everybody’s been a unicorn the last few years, but he’s more like an alien,” the Los Angeles Lakers star said of Wembanyama after seeing him play for the first time. “Nobody’s ever seen anybody as tall as he is, but as fluid and graceful as he is out on the floor. His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers outside the post, catch and dunk. .. shooting threes, blocking shots.”

France's Victor Wembanyama looks on during the FIBA ​​Basketball World Cup 2023 qualifying match between France and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Pau, southwestern France, on November 14, 2022. (Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP) (Photo by GAIZKA IROZ/ AFP via Getty Images)

Victor Wembanyama used virtual workouts with Dallas-based coach Tim Martin during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to work on skills that made him the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft. (GAIZKA IROZ /AFP via Getty Images)

“The league is really in trouble when he comes in… Everyone is really excited about his arrival in the league.” Kevin Durant he said.

“Get ready my friend” Giannis Antetokounmpo told Serge Ibaka on his cooking show. “I’ve never seen that in my life. He’s taller than Rudy Gobert. He can block shots like Rudy, but he shoots like Kevin Durant. Bro, it’s crazy. And he’s got a good attitude. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be very good”.

Even players in Wembanyama’s draft class have been more than impressed with what they have seen early on from the French phenom.

“You never see 7-foot guys dribble the ball and shoot like KD, it’s crazy,” Arkansas freshman Nick Smith Jr., one of the projected top-five picks in the upcoming NBA draft, told Yahoo Sports. “He’s a great player and he does things on the pitch where you’re like, ‘What? How did he do that?” I’m excited to see what he does in the league.”

Wembanyama has drawn early NBA comparisons to Gobert, Durant and Kristaps Porzingis and is projected to be a mix of all three players. For Martin, there is no comp player for Wembanyama.

“He’s someone we’ve never seen before,” Martin said. “Victor is carving his own lane in this basketball world and there’s really no ceiling for Victor. He’ll go to space if he has to.”

“Honestly, it’s just Victor, there’s no competition for him,” Maxey added. “I’m not going to call him Kevin Durant, I’m not going to call him Rudy Gobert, he’s just Victor. I can’t call him anything else and I can’t wait to see him play at the NBA level.”

Martin will continue to work with Wembanyama leading up to the draft, either through check-in phone calls or traveling to France for games during his season with the Metropolitans 92. There is enormous pressure on a player not only projected to be the No. .1 pick in the draft, but also the best player to hit the scene in nearly 20 years.

“He doesn’t really pay attention to any noise,” Martin said. “Players at Victor’s level, they don’t really worry about all the noise. They let other people speculate and talk and all they focus on is continuing to find ways to get better and that’s what he’s doing. he could be the greatest of all time and that might sound crazy, but with Victor, no one is going to have more expectations of him and who he can be, than himself. He has a clear vision of what he wants to be and I know he’s bigger than basketball. He wants to be the best version of himself.”

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