During the past four years, it has been hard for Belmont fans to miss Drew Hanlen’s presence. From sinking threes to leading shifts in momentum as a guard for the Bruins, one thing is always evident for the graduating senior – his passion for basketball.
That passion for the game is what inspired Hanlen to start Pure Sweat Basketball, a training company designed to help NBA players and college players get ready for the pros.
“I knew that my playing career would eventually come to an end,” Hanlen said. “I was looking for different ways where I could continue working in the basketball industry, so I could stay around the game. I really do love helping others succeed.”
For Hanlen, trying to strike a balance between being a student athlete and an entrepreneur was a challenge.
“I knew that being a student athlete was going to be hard,” Hanlen said. “But a lot of people just don’t maximize their free time. So instead of watching TV during free time, I just chose to direct my attention into basketball skills development.”
With support from his family and local media in his hometown of St. Louis, Hanlen began holding workouts with local athletes. Eventually, those workouts became a full-time job for him.
“I do high school camps and clinics all across the country just to kind of give them and expose them to some of the stuff that the NBA guys are doing,” Hanlen said. “But my sole focus is helping NBA guys getting better and college players getting ready for the NBA.”
When Hanlen first started working with elite professional and collegiate athletes, he felt like he was almost just a casual fan. Hanlen, however, has gotten over his starstruck phase and become very close with his clients.
Several of Hanlen’s collegiate clients have made a big splash in college basketball this year, including Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins and Florida’s Brad Beal.
College stars are not limit of Hanlen’s famous clientele.
One NBA client he works closely with is David Lee, a power forward for Golden State Warriors from Hanlen’s hometown of St. Louis. Another is former Kentucky Wildcats star and current Washington Wizard point guard John Wall.
Hanlen is looking forward to working with Wall this summer, and he laughs when something about Wall pops into culture.
“I just always laugh when the John Wall song comes on the radio, or if I see someone walking around with his shoes,” Hanlen said. “I just always laugh because I’m more than just an average guy to him.”
Hanlen has not worked alone in this endeavor. Nike provided major help for Pure Sweat, and Hanlen is willing to work with them in the future.
“I’ve definitely had a lot of guys at Nike that have helped me throughout the way and have been there as mentors for me, so that’s a company I will probably sign with moving forward,” Hanlen said.
As a student-athlete, one of the biggest obstacles Hanlen had to overcome during the process was compliance with NCAA rules regarding player eligibility. By working closely with Belmont’s compliance director Heather Copeland, Hanlen was able to ensure he stayed within regulations.
“We made sure that if I had a camp or clinic or if I even had anything I was going to put on the website, it had to be approved by her,” Hanlen said. “Owning a company and not even to be able to put your name or anything on your website, it was definitely a hard thing.”
When consulting with his clients, a typical training session can differ based on what the clients need help developing. Hanlen keeps his sessions tight-knit, only working with one or two players at a time.
“If a guy needs work on ball handling, we’ll focus primarily on ball handling,” he said. “If he needs work on shooting then we’ll correct his mechanics and work on shooting. A lot of it is detailed and custom to the client itself.”
The business of basketball is not the only aspect of Pure Sweat.
Hanlen has incorporated a philanthropic side to Pure Sweat by partnering with two charitable foundations – Helping the Children and Hands Together. Helping the Children assists in providing medical fare for children and their families worldwide, and Hands Together works to provide help for families in disaster-ravaged Haiti.
Working to help Haiti is a family thing for Hanlen. His 5-and-half-year-old sister was adopted from Haiti, and Hanlen’s grandmother has been involved with helping Haiti for 30 years, following in the footsteps of her own mother.
“ I’ve been trying to push more and more towards the foundation side and trying to help kids in Haiti and my grandma out because I see how passionate she is,” he said.
With graduation just around the corner for the senior, Hanlen’s biggest goal is to continue with Pure Sweat’s current success and move forward with the company and clients old and new.
“I want to continue to be able to help some younger clients,” he said. “That’s what I started doing, and I want to make sure I never want to get too big for those guys.”
But he also wants to build clientele with established players — but not to build it too much.
“Personally, I want to … really help the guys that I do have. I want to keep my clientele exclusive and try to help them have the best careers. If they’re successful, I will consider myself successful.”