Earlier this week I was able to attend part of a Grand Rapids Drive practice and shootaround at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, where senior scientist Lisa Heaton of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute conducted sweat testing on the Drive players. This was a first-hand look at how Gatorade is working with players to help improve their overall performance.
Via a Gatorade statement:
These sweat tests determine how much sweat is produced, electrolytes lost and how the athlete replaces fluids. The results will be used to create personalized nutrition and hydration plans for before, during and after practice and games. This type of testing is happening across the league both at practices and in-game as a part of the revamped partnership with Gatorade, which kicked off with rebranding as the NBA G League in 2017.
I was also provided the opportunity to interview senior scientist Lisa Heaton, Grand Rapids Drive head coach Ryan Krueger, and three Drive players. Some of my questions related to the sweat testing, while other questions related to the direction of the team and its players.
Lisa Heaton, senior scientist of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute
Here’s a succinct summary from Lisa on what was being done at the practice:
“Today we came out and did sweat testing. ... We looked at body weight changes, fluid or foods that the players consumed to determine what their sweat rate was, and then we also had them wear absorbent patches on their forearms to determine what their sweat-sodium concentration was. And from that, we can put it all together and come up with a customized hydration plan for each of the players. ... We like to do this testing during a moderate-to-high intensity practice so it’s similar to the game situation to get the most usable data for the players.”
Ryan Krueger, Grand Rapids Drive head coach
Question: Talk about Zach Lofton and Kennan Evans (the Pistons two-way contract players). What has stuck out to you about them so far this young season?
“Zach probably has the reputation as a scorer – I’ve been really pleased with his ability to share the ball as well and make good decisions. He really defends at a high level, especially on the ball.”
“Keenan has done a really nice job. He has shot the ball well for us and has done a nice job running our team.”
Q: Can you think of an NBA player that Lofton could be compared to?
A: “That’s a tough one. There’s nobody that really jumps out to me that I think just screams Zach Lofton. He’s kind of a unique guy, a unique player. He can really, really score the basketball. He shoots it very well but also handles it – normally guys are one or the other, you know, terrific shooters, but they kind of need someone else to get them open. He can do that on his own. He also can create for other guys. He’s probably trying to figure out his NBA niche as well. And I think maybe we are as well. We just know that he’s a really talented guard. Is he more scorer, is he more creator, is he more point guard, off guard? I just think there are a lot of things up in the air. We just know he’s a really good player.”
Q: What about for Keenan?
A: “Keenan is not a pure playmaking point guard. He does a lot of other things. He’s probably more scoring oriented. … Russell Westbrook is a MVP candidate, so I don’t want to say that. But he has the same attack mode mentality to go and make plays.
There are some similarities there – tough to be compared to a MVP candidate, he’s kind of a unique mold as well.”
Elijah Brown, Drive guard, 6’4
Elijah is the son of veteran Cavaliers and Lakers head coach Mike Brown. Elijah played AAU ball with the Nuggets’ Gary Harris in the third grade.
Q: What was Gatorade doing here with you guys today?
A: “We had the sweat test. I actually did it last year at the University of Oregon, too. So it was good to see differences from last year to this year. Important to know that type of stuff – how much you need to hydrate, all the fluids you lose, especially during the course of the season. Guys can lose a lot of weight.”
Q: Who’s an NBA player you could compare yourself to?
A: “I don’t know. That’s kind of hard for me. I’ve always tried to watch different players and try and take things from everybody. I like Patty Mills. He wasn’t supposed to be there. ... His motor is non-stop. He’s moving off of the screen, if he’s not then he’s screening, he’s cutting, he’s doing something. Someone like him, he’s found a way to be on the floor in crunch time in the playoffs, in the Finals. So a guy like Patty Mills, if he’s able to shoot the ball and perform at the level he is, then I feel like I can add that element to my game.”
Q: Who are a few NBA teams you like to follow?
A: “Warriors, Bucks, Nuggets. There are a lot of young, up-and-coming teams that are exciting to watch, that move the ball around — lots of player movement.”
Q: What advice would you give to high school and college players that have the potential to play professional basketball?
A: “Your body is your corporation. You only get one right elbow, one right knee. So ice, make sure you get sleep. Take care of your body – you’ll look up and you’re 27 and your knees start hurting differently than they did when you were 19, 18.
If your knees are hurting, the GM of the Suns doesn’t care – you know, because someone else’s knees are feeling just fine, so just prepare yourself as early as you can.”
Jon Horford, Drive forward, 6’10
University of Michigan hoops fans will definitely remember this guy. Horford played with Michigan from 2010-14 before playing with the Florida Gators for his last year of college.
Q: Anything of note that you do before games to hydrate and fuel yourself that would provide some guidance for younger players looking for extra help?
A: “I always get in a decent amount of water, which would be, minimum, probably 40 ounces. I always have fruit smoothies, actual fruit. My go-to is pineapple mango, coconut water — that’s typically like 32 ounces.”
Q: What are your goals for your professional basketball career if the NBA does not work out?
A: “My goal for basketball has always been to play in the NBA – that’s my only goal. I have no interest in playing overseas.
I like this league because it’s attached to the NBA.”
Kenneth “Speedy” Smith, Drive point guard, 6’3
Entering his second season with the Drive, Speedy is the leader of the team and a key role player.
Q: Where do you see yourself after you wrap up your basketball playing career?
A: “Coaching at a high level. I got a high basketball IQ.”
Q: At the college level, or professional level?
A: “Wherever, wherever God takes me. That’s what I see myself doing – coaching. Just involved with kids and helping people get better.”
Q: What are the team goals for this season?
A: “There’s only one goal and it’s a championship. Playoffs is a minor goal.”
Here’s a link to the Grand Rapids Drive page where you can find the roster, stats from the games, and much more.