Investing; in skillset, education, physical development, networks, teams, and... DREAMS
Intro By Janx...
4 years ago a kid in U16s reached out to me with a common kind of question;
"I just read your article on the individual workouts with Joel and Isaac and how athletes can properly incorporate drills to their needs. I know you said that you only tend to work with people that you know and coach but I was hoping you would be able to give me some advice or drills I could work on?"
- Luca Barei, September 2019
The kid reaching out was a kid who I had seen playing and just had that clear love for the game. He was a skilled, lengthy kid with the type of profile you think has a real chance from a young age. Always in the gym, always getting to games early to watch others, and developing strong relationships with older mentors in U18s and U20s that were highly driven too, to help him get better. You would often see them working out.
I sent him a documented workout from another athlete and then also got him into some of our workouts with high-level Division 1 College players and prospects. The workouts were on the other side of town from where he lived and often late in the evening when we could the gym. He went hard and you could see when talking to him he had a big focus and a dream and was using these workouts to challenge himself but also in the lighthearted moments he was keen to build relationships with the older, established guys and asking them lots of questions too. You could see the older guys knew what he was about and were willing to invest their time in helping him as much as they could.
Here was a young man Investing; in skillset, education, physical development, networks, teams and... DREAMs
VIDEO: Luca's highlights from U18 National Championships. The 6foot6 PG was the best 3 pt shooter in the tournament and the Vice Captain ran his team on the court, helping guide them to a National Championship Final.
"At 19 years of age Luca has now emerged as one of the brightest prospects in the country, with a range of Division 1 schools wanting to evaluate him in the coming evaluation period. With current levels of interest, Luca is likely to receive quite a few offers. This is all off the back of an outstanding U20 National Championships where the starting Point Guard helped his team get to the Championship game narrowly losing to a very strong Queensland team. "
- Andrew Jantke, Head of High Performance Hoops Network, who has directly Talent ID'd and assisted in excess of 20 Division 1 NCAA commits in the past 6 years.
At NBL1 level Luca has further endorsed his position as one of the brightest prospects in the country;
“Luca has shown real glimpses of his potential at NBL1 level.
This weekend, as an example, he showcased all of his skills- catch and shoot 3’s from the perimeter, getting on the rim from close outs and also pick and roll play (scoring 15 pts last night and 19 pts today against the top of the league team). He also showed his rebounding ability. Division 1 college coaches will be impressed with what they see when he attends workouts. When he returns from college, we hope to have him as a cornerstone at Norwood for many years to come, whilst also being a legitimate NBL prospect in the longer term.”
- Will Smith, Norwood NBL1 General Manager, U20 South Australia Assistant Coach
Over to Luca....
PICTURED: 5 years ago with Norwood Flames U16 boys. That was then.......
PICTURED: And, this is now..... Luca Barei from the Norwood Flames NBL1 men. A Norwood junior, who has been loyal to the club from when he started.
Position: Combo Guard Height: 6'6'' Wing: 6'8'' Vertical leap: 34 inch with runup Class: Reclass to 2023/24 GPA: 4.3 weighted SAT: 1460
My name is Luca Barei and I am on a lifelong journey chasing continual improvement. Each day is a new challenge to marginally improve both as an athlete, and person, to eventually become what I hope will be a content and accomplished human being.
Since I started taking my basketball career seriously at age 11, I have had the same goal at the back of my mind. I am a firm believer in the term “Trust the Process” as I believe my life thus far has been an embodiment of this quote. Since a young age, I have stuck to my plan and pushed through adversity, remaining patient through disappointing results. I am still far from where I want to be, but I am locked into my personal process knowing each day I am getting closer to achieving my end goal.
I’d like to thank Coach Jantke for giving me this platform to express myself and my ideas, I am very grateful for such an opportunity. I hope this piece can help provide some insight into how I perceive my journey as a young man with big dreams. Let's explore some questions from Coach Jantke......
What kind of work have you put in, in the gym?
VIDEO: Footage of Luca working out with OG Performance Training ( https://www.instagram.com/og.athletic.performance/ ) .
Looking back on my basketball journey as a whole, I can feel a sense of gratitude towards the fact that I was born with an inherent “grit” towards my training, and the pursuit to maximise any situation in which I was put. Since starting basketball as a middle-schooler, I never wanted to cruise through it, I quickly decided if I was going to play, I was going to do it properly.
"Luca is a fantastic young combo guard with a great work ethic. He is an absolute sniper from the 3 point line. He can create his own shot of the dribble, or P&R or of a catch and shoot.
Luca length gives him the ability guard tall and short guards. He is also great rebounding guard which makes a threat all over the floor."
- Helder Borges, Luca's U16 Div 1 Boys Coach and U20 SA Assistant Coach
PICTURED: Luca's 34 inch max vert would put him well in the mix of leapers at an NBA draft camp.
This meant as a twelve-year old I would train before and after school for two hours each time, traveling 5 km on my bike, uphill, in whatever weather I was given. This was followed by a bodyweight strength session each night. Mind you, the training style was absolutely absurd, as I handpicked random drills off YouTube and constructed a twelve-year-old’s best attempt at a training program. This would include ten reps of an Iverson crossover into a pullup jump shot, quickly followed by ten pull-up threes, followed by ten full-court layups, just as an example. My strength programs were no different, consisting of 100 pushups, 100 sit-ups, 100 BW squats, and maybe some planks, from memory. It was absolute mayhem. But it was planned and scheduled. If nothing came from it physically, I was definitely learning, building a base from which I could grow.
PICTURED: Luca's custom developed personal workout plan. Great for upcoming young players to checkout and learn from too.
"The great talents in our world have “intangibles” - something that cannot be taught…
Luca has one blatantly clear intangible that separates him from his peers which will ensure he achieves his goals, and that’s his obsession for self-improvement in all facets of his life.
Luca hunts out challenges and will work tirelessly and strategically to achieve them. This has been part of his DNA since age 13 when we first started training together. Paired with a relentless work ethic, Luca is a quick learner who picks up nuances of skills that many don’t notice - creating a foundation for accelerated improvement on a level like no other player that I have trained."
- James Adcock, Luca's workout partner and mentor.
It was roughly a year later when I met my at the time neighbor and now one of my closest friends and mentors, James Adcock, that I began training more intelligently. James, being three years older than me, showed me basic partner shooting drills, as until this point I had never had a rebounder or rebounded for anyone else. We would workout each morning for the next two years, as I was gradually introduced to the quality and style of training of elite U18 and U20 players whilst still an U14 player barely on the radar of state team selectors.
PICTURED: hard work and taking care of body started from a young age. Working from his Mum's gym Vital Core Physiotherapy. An excellent support network around him.
From years 9 - 12 at PAC, I can confidently say I was on court 80% of the mornings before school at least - committing to very gradual improvement rates over the course of several years. This meant recording every score of every shooting drill I did. Even to this day as each workout concludes I'll calculate my shooting percentage and track it over time. I find that this not only helps to keep me accountable but also shows clear results (or lack thereof) of consistent dedication.
Since graduating high school six months ago, I have tried to focus on precisely planning my weekly schedule based around my training. The freedom of being out of school has meant my training can always take priority. As an example, I have invested much more time and focus into my body, experimenting with CWI (Cold Water Immersion) therapy and different mobility routines to try and manage my athletic recovery. I have also sought out help from multiple athletic trainers to help develop a gym program focussed on improving my athleticism. On top of this, my on-court sessions have become much more specified, with a skills session 2-3x per week focussing on specific moves, reads, and weaknesses in my game. On top of this, I will have several sessions a week practicing three point and mid range jumpshots where I aim to make between 1250 - 1500 threes per week during these additional sessions.
"Luca Barei is a unique athlete and person. Upon analysis of Luca’s physical and cognitive ability, one thing that stands out is his ability to be coachable. From the attention to detail when demonstrating movements, to his overall ability to acquire skills and knowledge is top tier.
As an athlete Luca moves well on the court. The potential of his physiological capabilities have not even been close to fulfilled. This young man is the real deal, and when he adds some strength and power he will truly incredible."
- Josh O'Gorman. Working recently with Luca as his S&C coach and other top athletes in Adelaide. Link.
VIDEO: Luca in a workout in 2021 with current Division 1 NCAA player with UIW, Ben Griscti, NAIA player with Conerstone University, Toby Woolcock, and NBL1 player with North Adelaide Rockets Riley Real.
Tell me about your High School basketball journey with Prince Alfred College?
PICTURED: In front of 1000s of loud supporters Luca has helped his team to many InterCol knockout wins vs St Peters College. This rivalry goes back generations. In the Video he is playing in his final intercol where he captained his side.
I began at PAC in 2018 and after a difficult adjustment period to the academic, athletic, and punctual requirements of a high-performing private school, I came to really enjoy the environment. As a tenth grade student, I made the Open A (varsity) team where I wasn’t much more than a streaky shooter off the bench (being just 6”0 and 60kg). By eleventh grade, I was starting at the two-guard and was eventually awarded team captain in my senior year of schooling. Despite an incredibly interrupted season due to contracting Mononucleosis (Glandular Fever), I was able to see a decent amount of team and individual success.
Our team won the SAAS GF over a very talented Trinity College team, giving PAC their first title since the competition's introduction. Later in the year, we went down to Henley High in the state championship, ending what was still an incredible year for our school’s basketball program.
I was extremely fortunate to be granted the opportunity to play and study at PAC. The school gave me great exposure to a hard-working environment, where staff and peers would push you to succeed, which I am very grateful to have experienced.
VIDEO: Footage of the massive intercol game in 2021 vs St Peters. Luca was captain, MVP of the game leading his team to 49-41 win. He poured in 27 pts and 10 rebounds in the game. Including the 1st quarter in the video where he had 18 pts in the quarter.
How have you motivated yourself even when D1 college seemed so far away?
I have lived my whole life with the concept of always setting extremely high goals for myself - I call them “reach goals”. Basically, it suggests that if you aim for a maximal result, even if you fall short, you still achieve far more than you may have initially, both through the result and process. This has meant throughout my junior career despite not making a state team until I was 18, my goal and vision for my career remained solid and consistent. I always trust that the compounded hours of work, both on and off the court, would show results in due time. Through the year that I was an U14 top ager, I would have genuinely put in over 1000 hours of work and I don’t think I averaged over 5 points per game.
In the more recent years, the possibility of getting to play and study with like minded people at amazing programs, thousands of kilometres from home frankly gives me chills to think about. Whenever I would have lapses in motivation (often late nights completing procrastinated school work), I would watch college basketball highlights or look into my target schools' academic programs, which always threw me straight back on track.
However, I made a promise to myself as a young kid that I would do everything I can to play at the level I wish to. At a certain point, motivation steps aside and discipline comes in. There were countless times when I wanted to skip a workout or hand up a subpar assignment, but I had put in too much effort to not give my all until it is all said and done.
What is it like to have some of the most famous educational institutions on the planet showing interest in you?
Despite being very conscious to not get too far ahead of myself, I do find it really exciting. For a little over two years, I have had my heart set on attending a college with elite programs both academically and athletically. If I were fortunate enough to attend one of these schools I would not take the opportunity lightly, as I know I could thrive in such an environment.
VIDEO: Windmill dunk. Long, athletic, skilled, high, iq, versatile, gymrat are all the things we think of when we think of Luca.
How do you think you can come in and contribute at the Division 1 level?
I have spent the past twelve months developing my skills as a point guard, after watching the success of taller PGs such as LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey coming through the NBL. This, paired with a high and quick release, allows my three-point shot to be transferrable to whatever level. I have also gradually learned to shoot from 1-2 metres out from the arc without much of a percentage decrease which always helps space the floor.
I also love creating out of pick and rolls, finding rolling bigs and kick out shooters to try and generate efficient offence. I have only been playing minutes at PG for about a year and have shown the ability to produce with a low TO rate against the best players in the country - I am looking to continue to rapidly develop this skill. Defensively, I see myself being able to guard multiple positions allowing for versatility from a team defence perspective, particularly in screen coverages.
The lifestyle I have craved and replicated for years is that of a hard working college athlete. Early morning workouts, late night studying, I feel most true to myself when I am working as hard as I know I can. This is one of the factors that has drawn me most to D1 college, as in my young and athletic years, I want to work as hard as I can to maximise the potential I’ve been given.
Who from SA have you tried to emulate and follow in your journey?
A huge one for me is Stanford alum and current Illawarra Hawks player Isaac White. I find it humbling sitting here now writing this piece as I remember when I first read Isaac’s blog as an U14 player desperately struggling with the mental side of basketball. I found his words moving, as he voiced his internal drive and response to adversity with which I felt a strong relation. I also took away the idea that you just have to stick with the process and grind out any frustrations and imperfections that comes with trying to be the best basketballer you can be.
Janx Note: Isaac's articles for HPHN - inspired 1000s of athletes all over the world, still a great read for young athletes:
PICTURED: Current NBL and former Pac 12 player, Isaac White is on of our state's best male players and has had an impact on many elite younger players coming through like Luca. Always available for information for athletes within our network, working out with Luca a number of times in his journey. Many of the schools recruiting Luca know about SA Basketball and HPHN because of Isaac's journey.
Additionally, many of the top players in age groups above mine have chased the dream of playing college basketball. Despite me not knowing many of them well, I admire that “push” of taking a risk to achieve your athletic dreams, something I am very much trying to replicate.
PICTURED: Luca at the recent U20 National CHampionships where he demonstrated to the nation that he is one of the best prospects in the nation.
What impact has your family had on your journey so far?
My Mum has been instrumental in my development as an athlete and character. She actually has quite the athletic resume herself, being an Olympic Rower and World Junior Champion. Despite this, her knowledge was very minimal on Basketball. I became quickly invested in the sport after starting relatively late at 10 years old, I was trying to perfect the game, and as a wildly competitive and overthinking child, this put me in really challenging situations. It is only now that I am a young adult that I can truly appreciate how well my Mum nurtured my love for the sport. She knew when to let me vent, think, and reflect. She knew when she should give advice and when to let me work through it myself. I can’t thank her enough for the impact she has had on me not only as an athlete but as a human being too.
PICTURED: Luca and his Mum. A former Olympian herself, and currently a physiotherapist, has had a big impact on his achievements so far.
In what areas would an elite player need to invest in to get to where you are today and how?
I understand and value the mental aspect of the game and how almost any challenge can be overcome with the mind. However, I equally value the importance of skills and reps sessions to see the best results. I can share my perspective on both.
I have always and will always emphasise the importance of being a great shooter. I’m no sports analyst but it is very clear that each year, in every league and age bracket, more players are shooting threes and at a higher clip. This means getting your form correct ASAP no matter how young, small, or big you are, and then just getting through bulk reps. I’ve been an above average shooter for my age group my whole life, purely because I was always shooting more than others were. As I said earlier, from ages 12 - 14 I was on court for four hours a day, completing preconstructed workout routines. I’m not saying that is a prerequisite for being a good shooter, but at a time when I didn’t have a lot of basketball knowledge or physical assets, I used the only thing I knew I had over other kids, my work ethic.
As for the mental component, you can only learn as much as you’re exposed to. I think developing that curious and inquisitive nature towards basketball is such a valuable characteristic at a young age. As Janx said in his intro, I have always looked to seek advice from older, more accomplished players, as I envisioned myself in their position from this young age. An activity I would accredit most to my mentality towards basketball and life as a whole is reading. I started reading much more after high school and I can say one of my biggest regrets is not starting whilst I was younger. I find it to be a sort of cheat code that you can read an autobiography by a very successful athlete, entrepreneur, philanthropist, etc, and learn about all their habits and techniques essentially for free.
An important summary would be to treat yourself as an investment if you do want to play at a high level. This means finding time to stretch, learn, reflect, eat properly, and sleep well, around a busy schedule of school, training, and family life. You can never fall into a victim's mindset, be your own harshest critic. At the end of the day, any shortcut you take will only negatively affect you. When I reflect on each day, I aim to confidently and genuinely tell myself that I improved that day, both as an athlete and person.
I want to clarify that my thoughts and advice are all based on reflection on my junior career, meaning I didn’t necessarily do everything I’m recommending as a 12 - 15 year old. If you want to know exactly what I did, it was work really hard even through minimal expected results. It was asking for feedback and picking people's brains whenever I could, and most importantly, I always backed myself and my abilities even when very few others did.
What has it been like through Covid and how has this impacted you?
I was about a quarter of the way through 11th grade when the first lockdowns took place. This was very interrupting for my college recruiting as it limited any national competitions for almost the remainder of my high schooling. Specifically, this meant missing out on National Junior Classics in my final year of junior basketball and school nationals in 11th and 12th grade with some very talented and competitive PAC teams. It also meant a very staggered preparation for U20 nationals both in 2021 and 2022. This being said, I am very grateful that South Australia was able to get through those two years with relatively minimal lifestyle changes as opposed to other states and countries.
Looking more optimistically, there have been many positives to come out of the situation. During the first lockdowns is when I first became truly interested in my school work. I enjoyed the self-oriented approach to learning from home and during that time period, I became fascinated with multiple STEM subjects which I now hope to study at the college level.
What does the future hold for you at college and beyond?
PICTURED: Dunking. This young man ticks all the boxes, the sky is the limit for his potential right now.
I would aim to be a four year player at a high performing academic and athletic college. After university, I would love to live in the U.S but I am also aware that I will likely have a completely different vision for my life when that time comes. My goal would be to play professional basketball in the U.S but if that weren’t to happen, I would love to work at a space exploration firm as an astrophysicist or mechanical engineer.
I am very much a work in progress, looking for continual growth and development as an athlete, student, and person. All I know is that I will continue to stick to my process and whichever results I am given, I will be content and grateful.
Finally, what advice would you give to Luca at 13 years of age if you could travel back in time and talk to him as 19 year old Luca?
I would tell him to trust the plan that is unfolding in front of him. Although the results may not come for years, continue to fall in love with the process and take the little wins as they come. I’d tell him to stop worrying about what he can’t control, and commit his mental energy towards perfecting his craft.
Part of the struggle my younger self faced was a lack of perspective or direction. I knew what my end goal was, but had no idea how to achieve it. This really worried me, but looking back I never understood how much time I really had. I would always “do the work” but mentally I was confused, anxious, and stressed, thinking I was doing something wrong, or should have been further along in my journey. This all stems around the idea of “think less, do more”. Instead of spending time worrying about if I was in contention for state teams or if I’ve been playing well enough at the district level, I should have just cleared my mind and gone to the gym.
PICTURED: Luca working on his handles. The skilled PG will continue to represent the Norwood Flames, South Australian basketball at higher levels in a way that exemplifies the worth ethic and values of so many before him.