Meet ‘Hell’s Trainer,’ The Man Challenging All of Amateur Basketball

    • Famed pro sports trainer launches 12-month program for high school basketball players to skip college.
    • Two players will feature in ChamelonBX’s 2020 class, with five and seven expected in 2021 and 2022.

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Frank Matrisciano has trained everyone from special operations forces to law enforcement officers and professional athletes. Blake Griffin, Von Miller, and Cordarrelle Patterson are among those who have worked with the intense, secretive man known in pro sports as “Hell’s Trainer.”

Matrisciano is extremely protective of his identity, to the point of not appearing in photographs, but he’s not as secretive when speaking about college basketball’s growing number of injustices aimed at its players.

“I believe [former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson] said it best: this is not a democracy, it’s a dictatorship,” Matrisciano said. “When student-athletes come to school, coaches are not there – because they’re out recruiting their replacement. When a player gets there, they can play you out of position and they’re teaching you concepts that are going to help them win [without] ever developing that player.” 

Drawing on his past training history and inspired to upend college basketball, Matrisciano launched ChameleonBX, a San Francisco-based company that offers a 12-month personalized program to help elite high school basketball players prepare for the NBA draft.

Launching on June 1, ChameleonBX will provide customized focus and attention for each of its players for no upfront cost, offering everything from educational and nutritional guidance to marketing and sponsorship support. The program has signed two high school basketball players – class of 2020’s MarJon Beauchamp and class of 2022’s JD Tsasa.

ChameleonBX doesn’t cut corners: it estimates the costs per player to be roughly $300,000, which is funded by ChameleonBX’s two primary partners, Matrisciano and Bruce Burke. They are also trying to raise capital – which wouldn’t be needed until the class of 2021 – through an equity round of financing, strategic partnerships, or a debt round of capital.

The program is also growing. In 2021 and 2022, Burke anticipates class sizes of five and seven, respectively. He estimates that costs per player for those classes will drop to about $200,000, and will go towards resources like transportation, housing, meals, insurance, and continued education.

“All of that is on ChameleonBX as an expense, not the clients,” Burke said. “That’s part of what attracts the clients to come to ChameleonBX is that those costs are eaten up by us.”

Former NBA coaches such as Bob Hill, Dave Joerger, and Mike Woodson are just a handful of the staff who will be preparing ChameleonBX talent for the draft.

“Understanding what it’s going to take to play in the NBA, there’s no comparison to [ChameleonBX],” Hill, former head coach for the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, and the-then Seattle Supersonics, said. “[JD and MarJon] are going to come out of Frank’s program bigger, stronger, faster. Their skill levels are going to be higher and they’re going to have a better understanding of what they’re getting into with regards to professional basketball.”

Beauchamp is ranked 41 on 2020 ESPN 100 and has amassed more than 12 offers from Division I programs like Arizona, Georgetown, UCLA, USC, and others. Although he knows that he is one of few players to bypass college, leaning on one friend has him feeling optimistic about his future.

“I still have feelings if I should have went [to college] or not, but I think I’m pretty confident now,” Beauchamp said. “I saw one of my buddies, [Oklahoma City Thunder rookie] Darius Bazley go to the league, and I can do it too.”

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Ahead of his decision to join ChameleonBX, Tsasa was not on any major basketball rankings. After graduating two years early from high school, he and his mother, Gratia Saamdi, elected to have him train until he is 18 for the 2022 NBA Draft.

It was Saamdi who contacted Matrisciano regarding ChameleonBX. Having already received interest from schools like New Mexico and St. Mary’s, along with European offers, both Tsasa and his mother saw an opportunity to hone in on his basketball skills without distractions.

“I also wouldn’t have wanted to go the NCAA route because of the course load work,” Tsasa said. “I probably would have been taking some engineering classes and physics classes that would have taken way too much time out of my schedule. I just want to train and focus on my basketball game.”

One of Matrisciano’s former pupils is former Kansas City Chiefs running back Cyrus Gray. When Gray first discovered Matrisciano, he had just been released by the Chiefs after suffering numerous injuries and was in the process of rehabbing from ACL surgery and a broken hand.

After seeing the work Matrisciano had done nursing Griffin back to peak performance following his own knee ailments, Gray boarded a flight to visit Matrisciano in San Francisco.

Before their encounter, Matrisciano had texted Gray to meet him at an unknown address. The destination? A secluded wooded area featuring a kids playground, where they were the only people in sight.

“We started doing different variations of pull-ups – the hardest thing I had ever done in my life at that point,” Gray said. “Probably two days later, my arms had locked up. My body was locking up just off pull-ups. I had never done that many pull ups in my life combined at one time.”

“We went to the sand dunes and we did different stairs regimens – by far still the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Gray added. “In about a week I started seeing results. Probably a month being there, I was limping before I got there. I started to lose my limp, I started to lean out, my muscle mass was bulking up. I changed my diet and it was probably the best thing for me at that time.”

Another player under Matrisciano’s tutelage was former Stanford basketball player Anthony Goods. Goods met him through Dan Grunfeld, his former teammate and son of former Knicks guard and ex-Washington Wizards executive Ernie Grunfeld. 

Going into Goods’ sophomore year, Matrisciano invited him out to San Francisco to workout. Ahead of their first session, Goods was told to wake up at 5:00 a.m. and start off by eating chicken and rice. When it finally came around, he wound up waking up at 8:00 a.m. and made himself french toast and bacon.

“I’ve never thrown up from a workout even to this day, but that day was probably the closest I came to throwing up from a workout – and that was just the upper body,” Goods said. “I was shocked that the work was so hard, and from there I was hooked.”

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While not as familiar with Tsasa’s potential, Paul Biancardi, ESPN’s national recruiting director for boys high school basketball, sees plenty to like about Beauchamp’s game. He likes his length, size, and overall skills, but notes his inconsistency. Some nights will see him score 30 points and others will be less than 10 – but that’s no different than most prospects at that level, Biancardi said.

Biancardi does wonder if ChameleonBX can find Beauchamp quality competition. The 24/7 training will help him develop a work ethic, but Biancardi thinks that overcommitting to that can diminish something far more important.

“Sometimes I think too many guys are training and not playing enough,” Biancardi said. “I see a lot of players today with not a lot of instincts for the game. They don’t really understand how to read the game. They don’t play enough in a structured environment, whether it be high school or even AAU basketball. People think kids play all the time. They play a lot, but they don’t play enough.”

“I’m not sure if there’s enough actual playing – not just playing against people, but playing with people and learning how to be a teammate,” Biancardi added. “That’s a really important part of the game is being coachable and being a great teammate.”

Former NBA player Len Elmore sees both sides of a program like ChameleonBX. For aspiring NBAers, training with someone like Matrisciano will be helpful from a conditioning standpoint.

Elmore is concerned though about the impact that frequent training could have on players like Beauchamp and Tsasa. Not only could it make them injury prone, but it isolates them from the real essence of basketball.

“People forget that basketball’s a team game,” Elmore said. “One of the reasons that it’s evolved into a one-on-one spectacle at times is because that’s what unfortunately these trainers do. They train individuals instead of training individuals to play with the team, and that’s where I have a bit of an issue.”

As ChameleonBX gets closer to June, it is investing more into its presences across both Instagram and its website, Burke said. 

ChameleonBX is also working on producing a docu-series called “The Climb,” which will document the journeys of Beachamp and Tsasa as they advance through the program’s first year.

It will be produced by Jim Jordan, the executive producer of the Amazon Prime film, “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines,” which over the course of eight weeks filmed the football team. Michigan was the first university to be featured in Amazon’s “All or Nothing” series, with the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams being previously featured.

Already, Burke and Matrisciano have seen several candidates express interest in being apart of ChameleonBX’s 2021 program. While Burke expects to maintain a quota of five players per class, he has no reservations about meeting – or even surpassing – that mark.

For Matrisciano, the first indicator to ChameleonBX’s future rests on the shoulders of Beauchamp. No one knows where he will be picked in next year’s draft, but Matrisciano anticipates that he’ll be selected higher than Bazley, who was drafted 23rd overall before landing with the Oklahoma City Thunder. If that happens, Matrisciano believes that will sway future players to take the unconventional route with ChameleonBX.

“The first two years of this I feel are really gonna break out and make everybody aware of it,” Matrisciano said. “The more players we get in here, the more other players will come. I truly believe in my heart that a player coming here who has one-on-one attention from me, the marketing [staff], and the unique coaches will by far have an advantage over a kid that goes to college.”