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One-on-one with Tremaine Dalton, trainer for newest Suns wing Adonis Arms

Reflecting on the winding road Arms took to get (back) to Phoenix with the trainer that helped him get there

Wednesday morning, I had the wonderful chance to speak with Tremaine Dalton, founder/CEO of The Process Basketball, a program that trains newest Phoenix Suns player Adonis Arms, and many others. I really enjoyed getting more insight on the Desert Vista High and Mesa Community College alum as he competes for the Suns 15th and final roster spot.

Arms is a 24 year old, 6’5” rookie guard who went undrafted in the 2022 NBA Draft. He signed an Exhibit 10 deal with Denver on July 9 and was waived earlier this week. The Suns signed him the day before their final preseason game.

There are some important points to touch on before we get into the interview though. Just in the hours following the interview, some clarity is arriving on that 15th roster spot.

  • Saben Lee, who was signed at the same time as Arms, was let go just one day after playing decently in the final preseason game against the Sacramento Kings; 9 points (2-4 FG), 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 0 turnovers in 14 minutes
  • Some intel came in from connected sources that Arms may be a two-way contract candidate if the Suns were to upgrade Ish Wainright or Duane Washington Jr. (31 points, 4 assists, and 11 turnovers vs Kings) from their two-way slot to the 15th spot

So with our new knowledge regarding the situation, Arms and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are the only remaining guys on the squad without a spot beyond Mon., Oct. 17 at the current juncture. An open roster spot remains.

With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at who Arms is and what he’s done to stake a claim for #15:

First off, some general information, when did you guys start working together, how far back does your relationship go, and what does it entail?

Dalton: “Well, long story short, me and Adonis have been working with each other for about four and a half years. This goes back all the way to when he was leaving junior college (Mesa Community College) on his way to his division-2 school (Northwest Nazarene University), and long story short, my company, The Process Basketball, we’re one of the top programs in the world.

“How our relationship came about in the first place… I have a long history in Phoenix; the city, certain people with the team, players, and stuff like that. I was training with my program a lot of my guys in Phoenix, and his mom just came to my session and asked could her son play, could he run with us? At the time they didn’t have the strongest financial situation, and she was just like “could you give my son a chance?”

“It was a few NBA guys in there, a few NBA reps, stuff like that, overseas guys, and then Adonis killed it. Like I said, that was four and a half years ago and ever since then, we’ve just continued on in our relationship. I always knew that he had NBA potential, but it’s just a matter of the right people seeing him, the right opportunities, the right time. I believe starting way back there, I kinda gave him the fuel and the spirit that him making it to the NBA could be a reality.”

You mentioned the NBA people involved, were the Suns part of that with it being in their backyard?

“They weren’t to be honest, because I’m more of an outsourced program. Let’s say for example if an NBA player or a top Euro player, they want me to train them, they come our way, and the NBA, they kinda watch exactly what they do, the NBA kinda learns from me rather than actually having their players come to get better...

“At the time I didn’t have a relationship with the Phoenix Suns, but Phoenix was my backyard, so why not do it there, plus the weather’s always good, as long as it’s not too hot it’s always good.”

When you and Adonis first connected, what were some of the traits that he already had that caught your eye?

“Most importantly, his killer instinct. Back in the day, I used to be one of the best one-on-one players in the world, right? I won that Phoenix King of the Rock one-on-one tournament. My whole training style revolves around that...

“Just to fast forward, Adonis has that same energy that a lot of these top level players have, it’s just about more or less guiding it the right way. Coming from smaller levels or not necessarily getting the right opportunity, you can have all the fury and talent you want, but if you don’t have the right person guiding it the right way, it can only go so far. But the hardest part of it is mentality, and Adonis from the start had the right mentality.

“After we trained in Phoenix, the next year I took him to Paris, I had him around some of these top European guys and NBA guys, actually Tidjan Keita who used to play for the Suns, he was one of my clients as well. I had them two training together in Paris, and Adonis elevated over him, even at 16 [years old].

Frenchman Tidjan Keita played briefly for the Suns G-League affiliate in 2017, the NAZ Suns. He was 6’10” with a 7’3” wingspan, but just 20 years old and not quite ready for primetime. Keita has since been playing in overseas leagues.

“I understood Adonis’s killer instinct, and I understood his perseverance as well. As you know, he went from not playing in high school to junior college to division-2 to Winthrop to Texas Tech and now the NBA, I understood that his commitment, his perseverance, and his killer instinct was going to get him to the next level.”

As Arms got up there in age (nearly 24 years old on draft night), were there any doubts that the NBA wouldn’t be an option?

“Absolutely not, because one thing about Adonis, he has a great character. Away from the basketball, we do a lot of philanthropy work, and Adonis has been in the field with me doing a lot of the philanthropy around the world, even if he didn’t even realize it.

“For example, when we went to Paris, we did a follow-up basketball camp behind LeBron James’s More Than An Athlete campaign, every summer we do water drives in Phoenix, one of my clients, Shaylee Gonzales, we have a big project where we’re going against gender inequality, we’re trying to put it together, equalize women’s and men’s basketball, stuff like that.”

Shaylee Gonzales is one of many stars in NCAA women’s basketball right now, entering her fifth season of college ball. She averaged 15-plus points in each of her three seasons, averaged 4-plus assists in two of the seasons, and redshirted another during COVID at BYU before transferring to Texas for the upcoming season. Gonzales, like Arms, is also a Valley product, starring at Mesquite High in Gilbert before college.

“And Adonis, he came with me to train Shaylee before she transferred to Texas, so Adonis has been part of everything we’re doing on and off the court. So his character, along with his ability, I believe is the thing that will get him over the hump. That’s what separates him from a lot of different players. A lot of people don’t know how involved he is in the community.

“Not to mention he’s got a great smile, you see him when he was in Denver and when he came to Phoenix, even though he didn’t get the playing time that he felt like he deserved, he still felt like he was part of the team, and I believe that can take him a long way.”

What were your thoughts on how Adonis set himself up for the draft with his play at Texas Tech?

“First of all that game when they lost against Duke, for me, at the end of the day he was going against the number one draft pick (Paolo Banchero). So that’s monumental in itself. And Adonis was checking him throughout that time; he did a great job.

“I think it was a valuable lesson in that they could’ve won that game if he was a little bit more aggressive, but within that same situation, Adonis in that game was playing like an NBA player because he was penetrating and kicking. He was taking good shots and he wasn’t turning the ball over. In that moment, he was ahead of his time, but in that moment he was supposed to capitalize on what was going on then.

“And me and him had a discussion about that, and now in the NBA, I believe he’s taken advantage of those opportunities and that’s why different NBA clubs are interested in him... they’re keen to see what the potential of an actual player is regardless of age.”

What was the draft process like and what were the things you did with him to prepare for that?

“For me, it was polishing up his skills. Another client of mine is James Young from Kentucky, who got drafted by Boston [17th overall in 2014]. We more or less had the same situation that I’m going through with Adonis right now and for both of them when it came NBA time, it was more or less just polishing their skills. When I helped James, he was playing in Israel at the time, and I went out to Israel and trained him for a month and then he ended up signing with the [G League affiliate Westchester] Knicks.

“I took that same path with Adonis in just giving him that encouragement and giving him specific skillsets to show that he’s an NBA player rather than a college player and take advantage of moments, opportunities, efficiency. And then we’re just polishing up his skills. And then once it came NBA time, he and his agent, they handled that stuff.”

You mentioned the difference between the college game and the NBA game, what were the adjustments Adonis had to make as he was preparing for that translation?

“Efficiency and really taking advantage of moments. It’s just going for it. If you’re in the NBA, you have to bet on yourself, you only have one chance... whereas in college, you can get more opportunities to feel yourself out and figure out what’s going on. When me and Adonis do have our conversations, I say, ‘Hey just go for it. Like just believe in yourself and go for it because you’re here.’

“Him being in Phoenix altogether – especially for me and his whole journey – is one of the greatest achievements that anybody could ask for from not playing in high school all the way to being on the Phoenix Suns floor. That’s a testament to his own perseverance. I talked to his mother earlier today, and we had a long conversation about it. I was like “Look… it’s the fact that Adonis is in the room that these people in the NBA appreciate him; these scouts, these agents, whatever the case.” And being a part of my program as well, especially with the class that I have with these French national team guys and stuff like that.

“Adonis, he just has a bright future as long as he just continues and he doesn’t get down on himself. I think he’s a perfect fit for Phoenix. Especially, in the NBA you gotta pay your dues, but let’s say for example the star players like Chris Paul, [Adonis]’s somebody that can check him full-court [in practices], and give Chris Paul those reps... Same thing with Devin Booker... At the same time, it will give Adonis that experience for him around the league.”

Adonis was the only one of the three training camp deal players to not see the floor in the final preseason game vs Sacramento. What was your reaction to the DNP and how do you think it affects his chances to make the roster with one spot remaining?

“For me, I don’t feel like it affects his chances at all just due to the fact that he was able to suit up, that’s enough. Playing isn’t always a good thing. [Suns] lost at the end of the day, and that can open the door for someone who didn’t play. Because we’ll never know how Adonis would’ve played, but with the players that did play, we know how they did. And the club can make a decision based on that.

“When he was in Denver, he didn’t even suit up for the preseason games. So now, he’s a step ahead. I understand how the NBA can be, and it’s up to the staff to really make a decision, but I think he has great chances. I think that this is a possibility. And I feel like once people get to learn more about Adonis and what he does off the court... But he can play. That’s what’s more important than anything, he can play. He’s just as good as the next man, he just needs that NBA experience.”

Can Adonis succeed overseas or in any other leagues if the NBA options dry up?

“I believe Europe would be easy for him. Like PJ Tucker in the past, he played in Israel, won a championship in Holon, he ended up going to the NBA. I believe that can be a path for Adonis. I believe he’ll go overseas and dominate and then get another chance at the NBA, and people will take him even more seriously... Even if it doesn’t work due to the fact that he made it in this late in training camp, it’s huge.”

Anything I didn’t ask about that you want out there about Adonis?

“He’s a great kid, and I believe he deserves that last spot. I believe, most importantly, that his character, his hard work, and especially being apart of a program like The Process Basketball, it’s a combination of so many great things... And I hope the Phoenix Suns invest in him. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

“For me, seeing him last night just suited up, I don’t know if you noticed in the warm-ups, he threw it under his legs off the glass and dunked. That was the highlight of the night!”

And as a trainer, you have to take a little bit of the credit for that type of thing, right?

“That’s what I’m saying! You gotta have a certain courage about you in warm-ups for an NBA game to do that. And I hope people saw that. Because the NBA is about moments and who can capitalize on the moments. It’s a combination of moments and efficiency, and I believe Adonis has that.

“Every time he transferred to a new school, he capitalized. Whether it was Winthrop, he got them to the Sweet 16. Whether it’s Texas Tech, he made it to the Sweet 16. Division-2, he was an All-American. Even in junior college, once he got his opportunity, he took advantage of it. And I understand the NBA is a little different. I understand it’s a gradual process. But I think within that process, Adonis is going to capitalize. He’s been capitalizing, he’s been doing it his whole career.”

Anything you’d like to plug with what you’re doing at The Process Basketball?

“My program is doing really well, I’m in Panama, Central America right now, we just finished up our facility, so next summer, all my guys are going to be out here, whether it’s my French guys, Swedish guys, Adonis, everybody like that.

“Like I said, we’re one of the top programs in the world because we do philanthropy all over the world. We have a project coming up with Oprah, one of Oprah’s organizations, Prince Henry, we’re going to help Syrian refugees out in Greece. We do a lot of projects with the United States government.

“Like I said, Adonis, along with world class training, he’s been apart of a program like this for years. We [fight] gun violence, we do all types of stuff. And it’s a combination of the philanthropy with the world class training. So what more can you get, ya know?”

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