With pre-season NBA basketball in full swing, players are shaking the rust off their game and prepping their bodies for the rigors of a long season. But for players who want to truly up their game, there is no off-season. Adding to their skill set – mentally and physically – never stops. Just ask Blake Griffin. To prepare for the upcoming basketball season, Griffin trained with handball, track & field and MMA stars and documented his efforts with a three part Web series called The Crossover. First up was handball legend Timothy – Timbo – Gonzalez at the West 4th Street Handball Courts in New York City. Griffin tapped Gonzalez to put him through a 1-on-1 regimen focusing on trying new drills to enhance his hand-eye coordination and agility, skills that are needed in both handball and basketball.
Why handball? Why Timbo?
In seeking out alternative training methods Griffin stated, “I want a long and healthy career. I want to be quicker, stronger, and I want to be a leader. I know that if I am going to take myself to where I want to go as an athlete and a person, I have to look at all my training options. The usual practice just isn’t enough – I want more of an edge over my opponents. Cross training is so important because I can improve myself and have a lower impact on my body.”
“Timbo is famous for his eye-hand coordination and speed,” Griffin added. “The biggest takeaway for me was the constant reading and reacting – watching the ball off the wall, moving your feet, trying to get in front of the ball, chasing the ball. In basketball, everything we do is reading and reacting to the play, man and ball.” More importantly, Timbo is one of the best at what he does. Gonzalez, a 23-year old Bronx native, picked up handball at the age of eight, and officially made waves when he won back-to-back titles at King of the Courts, the crown jewel of handball tournaments. He also won the World Games for the Olympic Committee and Simple Green (the US Open of handball tournaments).
“He’s really good, I never had anyone able to hit the ball back to me as many times as he did,” said Gonzalez. “He got the basics down and learned to place the ball at angles. He’s a big guy so it was pretty hard to see the ball around him.”