You know something they don’t.
You will exceed their expectations of you.
You have the talent. You have the will.
You have something they have yet to see.
MAKE THEM BELIEVE
– From the Underrated Tour official site
The vision of three-time NBA champion Stephen Curry and his skills trainer, Brandon Payne, came to life as the Underrated Tour kicked off on January 19 at Frederick K.C. Price III Christian School in South Los Angeles, California. In an exclusive partnership with Rakuten, Curry and Payne have worked to create a first-of-its-kind training experience for unsigned high school players who have yet to be discovered.
Players not only from southern California, but as far as France were on hand for the first of seven stops on the tour. Payne and a select collection of coaches welcomed the players to the gym, setting expectations for them on the court, along with a stated intention of providing a baseline of guidance to take their basketball journey to another level.
“Obviously skill level is important, but we want to see basketball IQ: Who’s going to make the right play,” Payne stressed as he addressed the assembly of players before starting off the day. “We want to see what happens when there’s a little bit of adversity and how you respond. We want to see what your body language looks like. Your body says more than your mouth ever can.”
Laying the foundation
Payne emphasized the importance of preparing your body as the first step of the process to serious skill work. Players were led by Payne through a series of dynamic movement activations. Next, they were guided through complex ball handling drills straight out of the Stephen Curry book. Payne stressed the necessity of balance, always keeping the body in a position to shoot, exactly how Curry operates.
“It was different because it was my first time doing it, and it was something I wasn’t used to,” said junior at King/Drew High School, Eric, after working through Payne’s drills. “I look forward to going home and working on them.”
Setting the bar with disruptive innovation
While the players were working, the coaches were evaluating. Following the drill session, teams were decided as players were evenly distributed based on skill set and ability. Then the competition took off as full court, five-on-five games rounded out the rest of Saturday’s program.
Payne and the other coaches selected 24 players for the Sunday session, looking to intensify the workouts and game play. Drills and instruction were focused on floor spacing, ball movement and defensive concepts. Players were pushed to both react to pressure and make strategically correct plays.
After the players advanced through the live ball drills, Payne gathered them at center court for a moment of instruction. As he concluded his remarks, Curry emerged through the gym doors to join in the activity.
“This is the thought I had a little over two years ago,” Curry told the group as they huddled around him on the court. “A lot of people came together and brought their ideas and creativity to making this tour possible. You are all here kicking it off in the right way. I appreciate you being here and I appreciate you being passionate about the game.”
Tutelage from the MVP
With Curry on hand, the energy increased and the intensity was amplified. Following a series of full court transition drills, Payne and the coaches put the players back into team scrimmages. As they competed against each other, they were given instruction on the sidelines by Curry himself.
“He was telling me I’m a pure jump shooter and I use my legs. So when I get fatigued, I need to stop using my arms so much and keep using my legs. When I just use my arms, my shot goes flat,” recalled Price High School junior Josiah from his conversation with Curry. “I see his accomplishments — three-time champion, five-time NBA All-Star player — so I need to do what he does to get to that level.”
Led by Payne and guided by Curry, the group completed the day’s competition with a focus on the message to keep working on their skills, continuing to push and strive for their goals.
“I worked my butt off every single day just looking for that opportunity to get in front of the right people to believe in me and what I could do on this level and higher levels. There are talented people all throughout this country, but you know you have something to offer,” shared Curry, reinforcing the pillars and purpose of the Underrated Tour.
“That’s why you’re rocking this Underrated logo — understand that you’re embodying the journey that I went through. Whether you’re a late bloomer, whether you’re just overlooked or overshadowed, that opportunity is there. But you have to control what you can control — that’s your attitude, your work ethic, your coachability, the way you listen, and the way you process information. Those little things mean so much and make the difference between your success or not.”