Andrew Moran, Alex Prendes Expand Miami Hoop School for Heat Players and Youth

MIAMI -- South Florida’s basketball scene is getting a boost at both the professional and grassroots levels from Andrew Moran and Alex Prendes. The duo grew up playing ball in Miami with moderate success in high school, but the journey that led them to found the Miami Hoop School started close to 500 miles north in Tallahassee at Florida State.

Andrew and Alex both had plans to walk on to the men’s basketball team and were connected through Andrew's older brother, Nate, who had been a walk-on for the Seminoles years earlier. While Andrew and Alex didn’t achieve their dreams of donning garnet and gold, they formed a friendship through their love of the sport.

Now, Andrew and Alex's Miami Hoop School, along with its lead trainer Jorge Milo, is a growing platform for educating players at all levels across the city. In an interview with CloseUp360 at the University of Miami this offseason, the two friends shared their love for teaching the sport, why getting dunked on by Tim Hardaway Jr. was good for business, how Miami’s basketball culture has grown and their plans to make hoops a staple of the region.

(The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

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Andrew Moran demonstrates a dribble move to Celtics forward Marcus Morris at the University of Miami's basketball practice center. (Chuck Farris)

CloseUp360:  How did you both get into basketball?

Andrew Moran: I’ve been around basketball my entire life. My father played growing up. My brothers, my older sisters—we all played, we went to the park, so I've been playing since I can remember. I moved here to Miami when I was about 15, played high school basketball at Coral Gables, went to college. My brother was a walk-on at Florida State. I went up there to be a walk-on as well. Didn't make the greatest decisions at the time, so I didn't end up doing that, but I was always involved in helping out the women's program there and the scout team—just helping them out preparing the women's team for their games.

When I moved back down, I started coaching high school at Miami Senior High. As I was coaching, I just always gravitated towards that individual development, that skill development of the players. That just became what I realized I loved the most about it and was just real passionate about it, and decided that it was something that I wanted to do. I didn't know it would be what I have today, but I knew I wanted to put a lot of time and energy. 

So I researched the top trainers in the country. Where they ran their camps, what they were doing, and just bought plane tickets to the camps and worked for free. I took notes. Micah Lancaster was one of them, D.J. Sackmann and a couple of other guys I just kind of followed on YouTube and was just trying to get more knowledge of it. Also watched a lot of videos of Ganon Baker. Never actually met him, but just watched a lot of videos. I just went right into it. I've been training for about eight years now where I really went all in.

Then, Miami Hoop School just developed out of training and making my name here. It really started with the younger kids and the youth and we've been training ever since. I got a location down south in Kendall. I have one in Doral. I'm looking to open some other spots as well. I just love doing it. I train basketball for a living. I love to be on the court with the guys, especially with the last couple of years with all the NBA guys coming in asking me to train. I think basketball here just gets better and better.

Alex Prendes: I was born and raised here in Miami, Florida. Always loved basketball since I can remember. Played high school here, the "Blue Machine"—Christopher Columbus. We actually played against each other in high school.

AM: He's a legend at Columbus High School. He scored 13 points in one minute.

AP: It was 14 points, but who's counting [laughs]? Then I had a bunch of small school offers, but I thought I was big time, so I wanted to play big-time D1. I went up to Florida State also. I was there with his brother, we played a lot and same thing—it was hard making that Division 1 walk-on spot. I just continued with basketball throughout college. I never stopped.

After college, I got into playing professional poker. I've been doing that for the last 13, 14 years. The last couple years, I got with Andrew. I just wanted to do something that involved basketball. I've always wanted to do something with basketball, so it was a perfect time. He's been working so hard at it, so the last couple years I joined in with him and it's been great—working with little kids and training five- and six-year-olds.

At night, we're with NBA players. I've learned so much in basketball the last couple years, too. It's so much fun, too. Getting out on the court every day is a great feeling.

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CU360: With the Hoop School, where did the idea come from to create your own brand?

AM: Originally I had grouped up with Micah Lancaster. I'm still kind of affiliated with him. Then I just decided to create a separate brand here in Miami. My friend D.J. Sackmann up in Jersey, he had a little hoop school there. I bounced it off him and created Miami Hoop School. I thought Miami needed more basketball stuff.

Whether it was me or anybody else, I just felt like we needed some more basketball programs that were consistent and did an excellent job. So basically Miami Hoop School came out of creating my own brand and providing a platform for kids to come and work on their game multiple times per week.

I started off in high school gyms. It just gets difficult ‘cause they got priority of the gym, so you don't have full access. So I opened up the spot down south in Kendall. It's a small, 3,000-square-foot warehouse. It's got two baskets, great for training, small setting. James Johnson loves going out there. We turn the air off, he gets a sweat, he gets his work in.

AP: It's like Bikram basketball.

AM: When we first started, we didn't have air conditioning. We'd roll up the garage door, open the doors and we were sweating about as much as they were. That's just from my passion from the training. I think we need more stuff for basketball here. We have a lot of access for football. Obviously football is big down here and baseball. You can see baseball academies everywhere.

AP: Soccer, too.

AM: Just trying to build—not just basketball training programs, but we also need some solid AAU programs. I think we have a couple. But if you look at other cities, they've got programs that have been around for years. I'd like for us to really get to that level so that we can provide those platforms for those kids.

CU360: What was been missing the most in the Miami basketball market?

AM: We lack in facilities. If you go to the other cities, they've got facilities with like 12 courts. The biggest one we have is two courts in one facility. Just the lack of training. When I go up to New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York, you had guys doing skill training. Those guys, as you know, no matter the size, they handle the ball and they can go.

So I think that overall skill development was lacking down here. We've got the athletes. We've got kids with size. We just lacked in that skill development area. I think now we’re doing pretty good. We’ve got some local trainers here doing an excellent job.

AP: In Miami, we grew up a lot playing outdoors here because the weather is so nice all the time. Now this training, it's gone more into the gyms and just, like, “I need my trainer, I need to go get my work in.” That's a big difference in what I've seen throughout the years. Before, we'd just go to the park and shoot by ourselves. Now, all the kids are looking on YouTube and studying trainers and how to work.

CU360: Who was the first NBA player you worked with?

AM: First NBA player I worked out with was Mario Chalmers. I had the opportunity to go out to Kansas and help out with his foundation camp. I was out there with Micah Lancaster and D.J. Sackmann, and had the opportunity to work out with him. Now when he's here [in Miami], we're in the gym.

CU360: How did you guys continue to build the roster? Was it through word of mouth, social media?

AM: I think a little bit of both. Definitely in training, it's word of mouth with the kids. I think more so now word of mouth with the NBA guys. I think some players enjoy certain guys' style, some enjoy others. If they really like it, then when some of their friends are coming down, they say, “Hey, if you want some work, hit up this guy.” For sure, that helps. I think social media helps as well. When I started working out James Johnson and Tyler Johnson, I think Tim Hardaway [Jr.] noticed some of the work on Instagram and then he got in contact with me. With him, we've been going ever since. I've probably logged more workouts with him than anyone else.

CU360: Tim Hardaway Jr. is currently the best player from Miami in the NBA. What's it been like working with him?

AP: Timmy's great. He's always calling us to work out. Last summer at Palmetto [High School, his alma mater], we were working out and I have a broom. We were doing like a floater drill. So I have a broom and just try to be a 7-footer, and I block [shots] with a broom. So I blocked Timmy a couple times with a broom—then I see Andrew whisper to him. The next [thing] you know, he fucking dunks on me, right on my head with a broom.

AM: When we put that on social media and everyone comments, it was a bunch of his friends commenting. We have a good time. For Timmy—a kid who grew up here, played locally here and then went on to play at Michigan and played in the Final Four, and plays in the NBA. Last year with his contract, he started off good, then struggled a little bit and worked his way back in. I think that should encourage a lot of the kids down here to really work and put it in. If we could have more stories like that, it would just continue to grow.

CU360: What's the overall client base now?

AM: We got Chalmers, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Tim Hardaway [Jr.], Marcus Morris. Last summer, we had the opportunity to work out with Jaylen Brown. Richaun Holmes.

AP: Wayne Ellington a couple times.

AM: Gerald Green. Some guys are more consistent. Some guys are just coming through town and get a workout or a few workouts in.

CU360: What's the philosophy of the Hoop School?

AM: Well, with the NBA guys, I'm looking to focus on their weaknesses, also while building on their strengths. Every time I get an NBA guy, I definitely want to hear their input, what they think they need to work on. Today was the first day with Marcus [Morris], and he said, “I watch a ton of film.” So I want to hear what he thinks. We were talking about his straight line drives, really his second step, really the placement of it. So he's getting his angles as he drives to the basket.

As far as the kids, we are just focusing on raw skills. You don’t know how tall kids are going to be. You don’t know what position they are going to play eventually. I think at a young age, if you build on that raw skill, it will benefit them in the long run. Maybe they are tall and can play both positions being down low or coming out on the perimeter, obviously [with] the evolution of the NBA where you have guys like KD [Kevin Durant]. We start basic, but we challenge even the youngest kids pretty early on.

CU360: Anything different this offseason in Miami than previous ones?

AM: Well, the last two summers have been kind of nuts in terms of NBA guys coming down and training. The last two summers have been like no other summers that I can remember.

APs: You walk in here and it's like the who's who of NBA players. Every court has players.

AM: A lot of times, we're in here and every court is filled with NBA guys working out with their own individual trainer.

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Andrew demonstrates a move for Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris. (Chuck Farris)

CU360: Which players have come through?

AM: John Wall is in here. Jeff Green is here sometimes with [Stanley] Remy. Last summer, Terry Rozier was in here almost every day.

AP: Shane Larkin also.

AM: We work with Shane a lot. Jae Crowder is in here all the time. It just depends. Last summer, there were a bunch of Celtics guys working out. One of the assistants was here and had guys in rotation. It all depends. Dwyane Wade is in here sometimes.

CU360: What does it mean to have the University of Miami open its doors for all you guys?

AM: I think it's great. The most difficult thing is to find facilities to work out in. To be here, it's a big court, there's multiple courts to work out on. I also think it's great for them. People can see it on social media. Miami loves the Hurricanes anyway, so it just builds the community even more. And the community of basketball, especially since Jim Larranaga has been here, it's grown tremendously as well. 

CU360: It's interesting to see that in one gym, there are several different trainers working and not one has closed it down for his own clients.

AM: I think it's better for us to have a good relationship. Remy has been great with me. He actually sent me a few guys when he's been out of town. I think that's great. He's got the runs going. He asks some of the guys I work with come to the runs. I think if we all work together, it's better than working separate. 

CU360: Through the years, what stands out from being in the gym with the guys?

AM: I enjoy the time in the summer, then being able to watch what they carry into their actual games. You're watching a game, then you're, like, "He really worked on it and it's working for him; it's been effective and efficient for him." It's always fun. We keep the atmosphere light. Usually there's music playing. We're joking while we're working.

AP: I have a lot of fun with James Johnson. We get into the workouts and he starts hitting me hard and running me over, dunking on me and laughing. After a workout, he's, like, “Do you want some shoes?” He just gives me shoes.

AM: A lot of times, he works out at my gym down south and he'll be working out, and then kids come in and start to work out and he'll jump in there with them. I thought that was really cool. We don't ask him. He just went in there and got with the kids. I'm sure that was like heaven for them as basketball players to have an NBA guy jump in their workout. That's pretty cool that he'd just do that. He's a great person, man. He just enjoys people and likes to have a good time.

CU360: What do you take away from working with kids versus players?

AM: I have a love of the kids. That's where I started. That's where most of my business is anyway. The Miami Hoop School is an academy. We have over 100 kids that train. What's great to see with the kids is when you work with them, but then they also work out by themselves. Whenever you see the kids come back and you can tell that they've been working on their game, that's the best part.

With the NBA guys, they're just these human specimens. You get excited. You can do so much with them. I love to challenge them as well to where they get challenged mentally and physically. That's really what I enjoy. When they get challenged and you can see them once they get it, whether we're working on a specific move, or a different finish or just different footwork. When they figure it out and master it, that's always good to see.

AP: It's a great feeling watching a kid grow and fall in love with the game, and get so much better skills-wise. 

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Andrew prepares to pass the ball to Tim Hardaway Jr. (Chuck Farris)

CU360: Where do you think Miami ranks now in the overall summer basketball market?

AM: I'm going to put us at one or two. How about that? I've never been out to LA to see all what's going on. Seems like there's a lot going on out there. LA is definitely much bigger, so maybe they've got more space.

AP: What has helped a lot, too, is the Miami Pro League that we have down here. It's kind of the like the Drew League out in LA. A lot of pros have been coming to that the last couple years. It's been gaining a lot of popularity. Our friends—all home-grown people—they all run it. [Victor] Oladipo went off for like 50 [points] in a game the other day.  

AM: Yeah, Wall played in it. Hassan Whiteside, Tim Hardaway [Jr.]. Last year, James Harden played in it.

CU360: Do you think Miami will ever be a basketball city over football?

AP: Nah, I think football is number one here. That's the first sport I played when I grew up here.

AM: Football might be number one, but basketball is coming on strong. I think basketball would be a close second in the next three to five years. I'm hoping.

AP: There are more guys from Dade County in the NFL than any county in the U.S. So that's going to be hard to beat.

Check out our full feature package (video and written) on Miami's basketball boom.


Warren Shaw is a veteran NBA writer based in Miami. Follow him on Twitter.