Early bond with Altizer keeps Jerome coming back to Charlottesville
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Most NBA players spend their offseasons in Los Angeles or Miami, but Thunder guard Ty Jerome summers in Charlottesville spending countless hours in the gym with Damin Altizer.
"Every jump I made every year through college skill-wise was in large part due to him," Jerome said, "He's great on the court, he understands the game, he doesn't have an ego, he's all about getting the guys he works with better."
A former Virginia walk-on, Altizer started Dr1ven Training a decade ago with plenty of NBA players with UVA ties like Jerome migrating back to town for the summer.
"It's incredible and it's humbling because in the summer he could be anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, obviously Charlottesville isn't really a mecca compared to L.A. or Atlanta," Altizer said, "But just seeing the highs and the lows and the ups and the downs. Even at the NBA level you got to go through it every day and you got to show up and you got to work and then good things happen to those who work hard."
The connection between Jerome and Altizer started before the former UVA star ever put on a uniform with a DM on Twitter.
"I reached out to him when I was in high school because I saw some of the guys on the UVA team back then working out with him," Jerome recalls, "The first week I was down here we worked out and ever since then, six years ago."
After suffering an injury towards the end of his high school career, Jerome had seen other players working with Altizer and thought this would be the perfect way to get ready before his first season with the Cavaliers.
"He's just a gym rat, I feel like that's an overused phrase, but he was just beating down my door, 'I want to get in the gym, I want to get in the gym'," Altizer said, "I didn't know him, he didn't know me, he just knew he wanted to get extra work in."
Jerome's season with the Thunder ended early due to a groin injury. In three seasons in the NBA, Jerome has played a combined 112 games averaging 7.1 points per game on nearly 40 percent shooting from the field.
Back on the court again, the NCAA Champion focuses on taking the next step in his NBA career with the help of Altizer.
"It's kind of translated from when he was at UVA to obviously now in the NBA kind of as your role changes, what you need to excel at," Altizer said, "Now trying to become one of, literally wants to be one of the best shooters in the world because if he's going to be in the NBA for a long time which he will, the better he can shoot it, that's going to open up those doors."
Six years ago Jerome followed other former Wahoos to Altizer and the trend continues with current players like Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman keeping the UVA hoops family local.
"When I was coming in my first year here, it was Malcolm [Brogdon]'s first year in the league and he came back sometimes, Justin Anderson would come back," Jerome said, "Now that I'm in the NBA and [De'Andre Hunter] and Devon Hall, we can come back and workout with them, hopefully it's a cycle. We keep producing guys that go to the NBA and we get closer and closer."
Altizer's wife Kelly reminds him from time to time to think back when he was a 20-year-old at UVA if he could have ever imagined training national champions and NBA players returning in the summer to train with him. Altizer remains grateful for the role he plays with players like Jerome and excited to see the line of UVA players follow his lead now with Clark and Beekman.
"Ty's the epitome, he won a national championship, Kihei was on that team, but then Reece the keys are going to be his, generation after generation are working out and they're learning from Ty and he's giving them feedback," Altizer said, "It's an awesome culture that Coach [Tony] Bennett has developed that guys are now coming back and helping the future generations."