Julius Von Hanzlik, NBA Trainer and Elite Youth Basketball Coach | Hoop Story #088

Julius Von Hanzlik, NBA Trainer and Elite Youth Basketball Coach | Hoop Story #088

By: Jaredan Levin

Always on the move, Julius V joins our call from his car in Los Angeles, on the way to one of his many practices and training sessions. But in Southern California, long commutes are one of the many calling cards of the local basketball scene. Julius is no stranger to this, especially given his introduction to coaching.

“I started off coaching at Santa Monica YMCA and the West LA YMCA,” Von Hanzlik said. “And I used to literally run from the Santa Monica Y to the Westside Y to make it to practice because I didn't have a car or nothing. We would have practice on the same day, twice a week. So I would run Santa Monica Blvd all the way down and then start running on Sawtelle.”

Now a prolific coach amongst the national basketball circuit, Julius chuckles as he reminisces on his early days. He used to ref youth games for $10 per game at local YMCAs but that soon led to him recruiting young players for private training sessions and later his own travel team.

“Isaiah Chappell (UC Davis) was on the team,” Von Hanzlik said. “[He] was seven at the time. And his dad who played at Duke and Michigan State was my assistant coach at the Santa Monica Y. And he would start giving me rides.”

Running and bumming rides to his own practices is a far cry from where he is now, more than a decade later. His camps, AAU program, and prep school attract top talent. But Julius’ first travel team was made up of 9U and 10U players that he recruited from the local YMCAs.

“We went to an AAU tournament. I didn't know which ones were good tournaments, or which weren't,” Von Hanzlik said. “We were just getting slaughtered.”

Shaking his head, he recollects an unforgettable game against the Oakland Soldiers 10U team, featuring current NBA rookie sensations Amen and Ausar Thompson.

“They were just pressing the whole game,” Von Hanzlik said. “At the Ys, I didn't create a press break. I didn't think guys were pressing at this age. So we lost 92-14. That’s a lot at that age.”


After that experience, Julius realized the full extent of his unfamiliarity with what the current space youth basketball had turned into. It motivated him to find a niche that was being undervalued and grow from within that, rather than playing David vs. Goliath every weekend. He noticed that while the middle school youth basketball space had plenty of tournaments, it was severely lacking in major camps.

In 2013, he held the inaugural King of Kings Camp, complete with the top 20 players on the west coast from each grade, third through eighth. Alumni include NBA players such as Onyeka Okongwu, Isaiah Mobley, Evan Mobley, MarJon Beauchamp, Paulo Banchero and Cassius Stanley.

Around the same time, Julius started to train his first high profile clients: the Hamilton brothers–the trio of Daniel (UConn/NBA), Isaac (UCLA/NBA G League), and Jordan (Texas/NBA). This connection began because Julius and Jordan played AAU together in their youth and developed a close friendship. He utilized these training sessions to create content and gain a following on Instagram, which led to a development of clientele for players interested in his style of drills. Isaac’s UCLA teammates also began to join the training sessions, including Thomas Welsh, who later played in the NBA. Simultaneously, his youth clientele was growing, as he now had leveraged notoriety from his camps as well as from the social media videos of his high-profile training sessions.


Eventually, he had a large enough cadre of elite youth players to return to the AAU space. His team included players such as Jalen Green (G League Ignite/NBA), Onyeka Okongwu (USC/NBA), Jaime Jaquez (UCLA/NBA), Nico Mannion (Arizona/NBA/Serie A), Josh Christopher (Arizona State/NBA/NBA G League), Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga/NBA), Jaden Springer (Tennessee/NBA) and DJ Davis (Butler).

Since most of his practices for his Cali Stars program and training sessions were occurring at local gyms in Santa Monica, Julius decided to nest further in the grassroots scene there. In 2015, he took a position coaching the JV team at Santa Monica High School (SAMOHI), looking to give back to the community that had given him so much as well as utilize his expertise to develop what was already a hotbed for homegrown basketball talent. During his tenure, SAMOHI had 10 players go on to play division 1, all from the Santa Monica/West LA area.

“That's never happened at a public school, especially a public school where you have to live in the area,” Von Hanzlik said.

Simultaneously, his Cali Stars AAU program was entering a golden era, unprecedented for a travel program without a shoe company sponsorship, as previously, most major AAU teams with future D1 talent played on the Nike EYBL, Adidas Gauntlet, or Under Armour Next circuits.


“With Cali Stars, we had a lot of success,” Von Hanzlik said. “Cody Riley (UCLA/Premier A Slovenian Basketball League) ended up leaving his EYBL team to play with us. He was once the number one player in the country. So, from there we just built this thing up. We had 75 guys go division one in eight years.”

After witnessing the success he had with the SAMOHI program and his own Cali Stars program, he decided that he could make an impact in the prep school scene.

“I saw I was able to just continue to build stuff really out the mud and from scratch and be able to [develop talent] without a shoe deal,” Von Hanzlik said. “So I'm like, man, if I can do this, I can definitely do the prep school thing.”

His prep school, Southern California Academy, opened doors in Northridge, CA in 2019. The school has seen widespread success playing in The Grind Session, a national prep circuit, and with sending its players to top college programs.

“The prep school sent 51 guys to division one in its first four years,” Von Hanzlik said. “That's more than any school in the country, I believe.”

His number one goal for his players each season is for them to become better players and to mature as people. But that does not stop him from having competitive energy.

“When you're in the heat of the moment, obviously you want to win win win,” Von Hanzlik said. “At the end of the day, when everyone's not emotional, I think that you have to look back and be like, ‘Man, our guys got better and they matured’. So it's trying to figure out how to win and have winning values while trying to mold guys and get young kids to understand tough love and understand [that] you might not have won right now, but long term, this is going to help you win.”


Meanwhile, Julius has continued his passion for skills training, often holding sessions at Memorial Park Gym in Santa Monica, which has become one of his home bases over the years, with talent ranging from middle school players all the way up to NBA talent.

“Terrence Mann (LA Clippers) has probably been the one that's made the biggest noise as far as the internet knowing that he's my guy,” Von Hanzlik said. “And he's been a guy [who’s] career shot up as well. So that's kind of been my niche, identity and reputation in the basketball world: getting it out of the mud and going from the bottom to the top. Just continuing to move up upward.”

Love for the game of basketball is what propels Julius to continue his work today.

“I felt like that was something I could actually make a difference in at the highest level,” Von Hanzlik said. “I didn't want to do something that I wasn't going to be elite in. And I felt like basketball was something that I could be elite in and also help people at the same time.”

But in recent years, as youth travel & AAU basketball have received criticism from numerous public figures, Julius finds that these critiques are often misguided toward coaches and programs, as opposed to wider-spread societal conditions that have affected the space.

“I'm one of the guys [that is] different as far as people [who] try to bash AAU and bash the coaches and do all that, I don't think that's right,” Von Hanzlik said. “I think people are wrong when it comes to that. I think there's plenty of good enough AAU coaches. I think that playing AAU does help you. I think where it hurts you when you start to play so many games that you don't value winning and losing. You don't value every possession. When you don't value every possession, you take bad shots. You don't play hard.”


He associates the problems in today’s youth basketball scene more with the modern family dynamics that he has observed rather than the way programs are structured.

“The problem with AAU is the culture in today's era,” Von Hanzlik said. “And this what I mean by that: let's say I don't like the way the coach is coaching me, I don't like the way they're playing me, I don't want to shoot more, I want to do this. In today's world, parents baby their kids, they're soft with their kids, they don't hold their kids accountable. They don't want them to face any type of adversity at all. So that’s what happens in the AAU space and transfer culture and all that. So again, it's not a basketball thing. It's the air of today. Kids don't even take the bus anymore. If I tell a guy we have a workout here and he doesn't have a ride, he's not coming.”

Acknowledging the stress of the schedule and situations is also a very important aspect to consider as well, according to Von Hanzlik. He talks about high-pressure situations in the summer weekends where there are a select number of gyms with college scouts present and it puts pressure on kids to perform and makes parents emotional. But he also admits that one of the main difficulties with AAU is maintaining a close relationship with coaches since there are often less opportunities for consistent time spent that a player might be able to have with a high school coach.

Difficulties aside, Julius prefers to focus on the positives that come from playing in that scene, especially helping teach players lessons and providing situations for them to overcome adversity.

“You're playing the best competition,” Von Hanzlik said. “You're playing with other high level dudes versus high level dudes. You gotta figure it out. You don't get a bunch of plays run for you. So now if you don't play with a motor, it's harder to play.”


Motor seems to be the most prominent word in Julius’ vocabulary. The most important message he has for young players is needing to have a constant motor not only to stand out from their peers, but also to impact a winning culture.

“Play as hard as you can, every time you play,” Von Hanzlik said. “Play to win. Guys who play to win, good things happen for them.”

Another tenet of Julius’ beliefs about the game of basketball stems from the importance of playing local basketball and how that impacts character, both in youth and later on once players reach later stages.

“Playing basketball at a local level especially as a young kid teaches good players how to be good teammates, even when the other players may not take basketball as seriously, and how to respect coaches, who often are just volunteer parents at that age,” Von Hanzlik said. “High character things will help in life and basketball careers. When you get older, you probably won’t play in organized local park, Y or rec leagues. But hooping 3v3, 4v4, 5v5, guys should be doing that. Just pulling up to the park and hooping. No ego involved. That helps a lot of guys. Training and then working on skills in the runs.”

Kobe Bryant was a major inspiration to Julius, because he played as hard he could and valued winning above all else. That’s why he attributes him as the greatest of all time.

“All the pressure he put on himself and the shots he would take is a reflection of his will and determination to win,” Von Hanzlik said. “And he would do whatever by any means necessary to win. He sacrificed his body because he wanted to win, not get an extra eight points.”

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