For young basketball players across the country, the ultimate dream is to play in the NBA, or at the very least, play professionally overseas.
But Belmont basketball alumnus Drew Hanlen dreamed of training other basketball players.
The founder of Pure Sweat started training players and writing books when he was a junior in high school.
It all started when Hanlen took an $18 an hour job coaching a team of sixth graders and realized he had an interest in developing young athletes.
Along with training the young basketball players, Hanlen took advantage of their practice facility and worked on his own game, taking 1,000 shots a day.
One day while Hanlen was vigorously training, a parent walked up to him and asked if he could pay him $20 to train his son. This was his first step into the world of basketball training.
“I think the thing that strikes me about Drew is that he’s kind of lucky in a lot of ways as he’s always kind of knew what he wanted to do,” said Belmont head coach Rick Byrd at a convocation with Hanlen on Friday.
At 17, Hanlen wrote and published his first of seven basketball skills books. He sold the books for $25 per copy, making a $20 profit on each one. During the first month, Hanlen had sold over 750 books and pulled in $15,000.
When it came time to choose a college to play at, Hanlen picked Belmont because of coach Byrd’s stress on student athletes living a normal college life, he said.
“He wanted us to be able go out and explore different things and try different things,” said Hanlen. “Instead of having a good four years, he wanted us to have a good 40 years after.”
Belmont wanted Hanlen not only for his basketball skills but also for his work ethic and the atmosphere he would bring to the locker room, said Hanlen.
While at Belmont, Hanlen spent his time playing basketball, working his way through business school and continuing to train other athletes.
During his time with the Bruins, Hanlen averaged 6.5 points per game and shot 40.6 percent from the 3-point line. The team made it to the NCAA Tournament during his junior and senior years.
As a full-time student athlete, Hanlen’s biggest struggles were balancing his time and also trying to gain the credibility he needed to expand his company.
“I wanted to work with players at the highest level. I didn’t play in the NBA. So with me being a shorter guy that played at a mid-major college, it was hard,” said Hanlen.
NBA athletes spend countless hours training and working to grow as basketball players, so Hanlen needed to be able to put in that same amount of work while he was still a lesser known college basketball player.
He began training fellow St. Louis native Bradley Beal while Beal was a high school athlete at Chaminade College Preparatory School.
It was through Beal that NBA star David Lee first heard of Hanlen, and eventually Lee and Hanlen started training together.
Hanlen recalled a time when Lee defended his training while out to dinner with Stephen Curry in the early stages of his practice in 2010.
“David said something I’ll never forget,” Hanlen said. “He said, ‘Hey, Phil Jackson can’t beat Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant in one on one, but they still listen and learn from him, and Drew really helps me improve my game.’”
That same year, Lee was selected to the NBA All-Star team. That’s when things began to change for Hanlen.
Pure Sweat officially launched in 2012, and Hanlen started receiving recognition for his success with Lee and Beal.
Hanlen now trains some of the NBA’s biggest stars, including Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum, along with rising college superstars Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett.
In 2019, Pure Sweat is nationally recognized and has over 60 skills coaches around the country.
But Hanlen’s training is about so much more than improving players’ skills on the court. He wants to guide them through life as well.
“The biggest reason I train is it allows me to combine two things I love, basketball and helping people,” said Hanlen.
Going forward, Hanlen wants to continue to contribute to the basketball community, but he also wants to find ways to take his work beyond basketball, he said.
“The next step for me is really helping other people find success in their businesses. And then the third step would be helping people find happiness in their lives.”
Photo courtesy of Belmont Athletics.