Student Of The Game, Ivan Rabb Shines On And Off The Court
June 2, 2013 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
Standing at 6’10”, 16-year-old Ivan Rabb has always been taller than people his age.
Growing up in Oakland, Calif., Rabb vividly remembers walking to grocery stores and through his neighborhood and being stopped by strangers that constantly asked him how tall he was.
“I used to get irritated,” Rabb said. “But now, I like it. I like some of the attention. I just don’t let it go to my head. I just handle my business on and off the court and try to stay humble.”
Regarded as one of the nation’s top basketball prospects in the class of 2015, Rabb is currently in Colorado Springs, Colo., battling for a spot on the USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team. Off the court, he just completed his sophomore year at Bishop O’Dowd H.S. (Calif.) where he carries a 3.15 GPA.
Until this past year, however, Rabb wasn’t known as a good student in the classroom. His first year at Bishop O’Dowd turned out to be a transitional period as he earned a 2.5 GPA.
Something had to change and Rabb began attending study halls twice a day, once in the morning, and once after school.
“I used to miss workouts in the morning because I had to go study,” he said, “and I had to miss some of my practice time because I had to study.”
The extra energy toward his studies paid dividends and Rabb’s mentality these days is simple: if your schoolwork gets done in a timely manner, “Everything is positive.”
On the hardwood, there are several qualities that make Rabb an intriguing talent. Yet not many people know how much time he puts into studying the game and NBA players.
“I study everything no matter what position,” Rabb said, “(even) if a player comes off the bench. I study everything they do because I want to be playing on their level.”
Even after each USA U16 training camp session, he mentally evaluates his performances.
“The things I didn’t do well, I’ll try to fix,” Rabb said, “and the things I did well, I’ll try to continue to improve on those. Also, I try to add little things to my game, making sure I’m the most vocal person in the camp.”
One thing that Rabb clearly added to his game during yesterday morning’s training session was dishing out assists.
“I haven’t been able to show that lately,” he said, “so I keep telling my teammates to cut, and if you cut, I’m going to get you the ball on target where you’re going to be able to make a layup or get to the free throw line. They started cutting, and I started passing them the ball.”
Malik Newman (Callaway H.S./Jackson, Miss.), one of Rabb’s two roommates during the U16 training camp, seconds Rabb’s contention that he can be an excellent passer. “Actually he showed me something about his game that I didn’t know. I really didn’t know that he could pass like he can. He really showed me that and then as he was passing, he kept on telling me I can pass I just haven’t been showing y’all that.”
One reason Rabb displays so much confidence on the basketball court is because of what he gained from participating in the USA Developmental National Team mini-camp last October. The biggest thing he learned then was how important it is to remain composed.
“The game is mental,” Rabb said. “If you miss a shot or make a turnover, just get back on defense and come back and just play harder and keep playing hard the whole game. That’s the most important thing, to play hard.”
Shortly after the camp concluded in October, Rabb’s sophomore season at Bishop O’Dowd was underway. The Dragons finished with an impressive 24-7 record in 2012-13 and Rabb ended the year with averages of 25.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks a game. Each of those averages proved to be significantly higher than his freshman season averages.
“I was more mature,” Rabb said of his sophomore season success. “I knew what I needed to do. Freshman year, I used to play hard, and I used to train. But my motor wasn’t the same as it is now. Now, I realize I need to play hard all the time. I realize what I need to do.”
At the USA training camp, Rabb immediately earned the respect from his competitors. While he’s currently rooming at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with fellow Class of 2015 members Newman and 6’10” Diamond Stone (Dominican H.S./Milwaukee, Wis.), Stone recently said that Rabb was the best player he’s ever faced. When Rabb heard Stone’s comment, he took it as a compliment.
“It means a lot because he’s honestly a great player,” Rabb commented. “He’s a great scorer in the post. He told me he doesn’t like it when I front him, so that’s what I do. I front him, and I just try to have a good time on the floor. We’re real close friends, so we talk a lot of trash. We just make it fun.”
Stone recalled that when he first met Rabb at the 2012 LeBron James Skills Academy, Rabb instantly impressed him.
“I didn’t really know him, but he knew me,” Stone said of the duo’s initial meeting. “We just bonded. If you ask him right now who the toughest person to guard is, he would say me, and if you asked me, I would say him.”
“It’s crazy being in the room with those two other guys (Rabb and Stone),” said Newman. “They’re very talented, but I think something that people probably don’t know is that off the court they’re even better. They just like to have fun, and they’re always joking. But when it’s time to get on the court, they get serious.”
In most Class of 2015 national recruiting player rankings, Rabb and Stone are listed as the No. 1 and No. 2 players. And since both are great friends away the court, the rankings don’t faze them.
“I’m glad I’m No. 2, and I’m glad he’s No. 1,” Stone said. “I’m happy for him. We’re not really worried about it. We’re just friends that met playing basketball.”
“It’s going to be a friendly rivalry,” Rabb said. “We’re thinking about going to the same college in the future, but I’m not sure yet.”
Newman agreed that the rivalry between the two will be friendly down the road, but added, “Once they’re on the court, I think they want to kill each other. It’s friendly, but at the same time, it’s competitive. They know what they have to do.”
After Saturday night’s training session that was the last one before finalists for the USA U16 Team are announced later this morning, Rabb wasn’t nervous about his fate.
“If I was chosen, it would really mean a lot because that means they really see potential in me,” he said. “Even if I wasn’t chosen, they see potential in me because I’m here. I just want to be one of the best players to ever come through this camp. If I don’t make it this year, I want to make it next year. I want to keep getting better. Even if I never make this, just keep getting better and go to college and do well in school.”
That mature mentality and personality has guided Rabb to where he is today and should continue leading him for many years to come.
“I want to be the most positive person,” Rabb said. “I want to be the person everybody wants to play with. That’s my goal, and so far it’s happening like that.”