He’s a small town kid with a big dream, his work ethic is second to none, and he’s one of the NBA’s best kept secrets.
What once started out as a part-time job in high school has now exploded into a full-time business for Drew Hanlen and Pure Sweat Basketball.
“It’s funny, most people look at my social media and think all I do is hang out with NBA players all day. The truth is I break down film for probably six to eight hours per day,” Hanlen said. “Whether my clients are in them or not, that way I understand all of the defensive rotations and offensive rotations so I can better prepare my clients for their games.”
Hanlen’s basketball obsession is similar to many of his NBA clients. He started playing in his driveway and at the local gym before taking his talents to Webster Groves High School in St. Louis.
It was during the summer before his junior year at Webster when Hanlen picked up his first client. While training in the off-season, a parent approached Hanlen to workout his son.
“I was over their dripping in sweat, had my hands on my knees, and breathing heavily. A parent came over and said, ‘If my kid worked half as hard as you, he would be something.’ He asked if he could pay me to work out his kid,” Hanlen explained.
So, for $20 an hour, Hanlen trained Matt Baker that summer for what he said was ‘good money for a high school kid.’ It wasn’t until the business-savvy Hanlen decided to write a training book for basketball players that training became his top priority.
That’s when the idea of Pure Sweat Basketball, his current company, was borne.
“I would just self-publish it at Kinko’s, getting 100 copies at a time. I would sell them at every tournament and every event, and I would go all around the country doing it,” Hanlen said.
Along with his salesman skills, Hanlen still made an impact on the court, helping Webster Groves to a state title in 2008. The following year, he attended Belmont University, where he earned a degree in entrepreneurship.
That’s when the NBA talent started taking notice.
“My first big-time guy that a lot of St. Louis people are very familiar with is Bradley Beal. David Lee was actually my first ever NBA client,” said Hanlen. “Some of the other high profile guys are Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Zach Lavine, Jordan Clarkson, so I have a big core group of guys that I work with.”
According to Hanlen, there’s a reason so many high-profile players come out of St. Louis.
“You look at guys like Jayson Tatum, Brad Beal is his big brother. Most guys don’t have the opportunity to grow up and be mentored by NBA players,” Hanlen said.
Tatum was in 7th grade when he started getting advised by Beal, a senior at Chaminade Prep at the time.
“Even before that he took me under his wing and just kind of showed me the way. He’s a great role model to look up to. Everything he’s doing, you know I envision myself doing one day,” Tatum said.
Pure Sweat Basketball now has 17 NBA clients and more than 25 skills coaches across the country, but they’re not stopping there.
“We’re expanding to China, we just expanded to Puerto Rico and we’re expanding to 11 different places in Europe. Basically we’re trying to provide quality, affordable training for players all over the globe that will hopefully help them reach their potential,” Hanlen said.
On top of that, Access Hollywood is putting together three television shows featuring Hanlen and his training program.
“I’m doing a Chinese reality show, similar to MTV’s ‘Made,’ where I take five of China’s top entertainment stars and try and turn them into a team that can compete against American streetballers. Another show is following me with my pre-draft NBA guys and what goes into their training leading up to the draft. Finally, the last one is following me and what goes on day-to-day in my life…A lot of people can connect with me and my story more so than some of these NBA superstars,” Hanlen said.
Amidst all the glitz and glam, Hanlen is still making it a priority to recognize the important things in life.
“I am a skills coach and it’s my number one job to help them on the court, but I also want to be there for them off the court so that they’re still the happy and healthy person when they retire that they were when they grew up,” Hanlen said.
So while he might not be dunking in the NBA, Hanlen and Pure Sweat Basketball have made their presence known to the entire league, teaching some of the best players in the country.