Hard work nothing new for versatile Hawks forward Saddiq Bey

Forward Saddiq Bey has been a force for the Hawks in the paint this season. Here he drives past Day'Ron Sharpe (20) and Mikal Bridges of the Nets during the first half of the Hawks-Nets game Feb. 29, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Forward Saddiq Bey has been a force for the Hawks in the paint this season. Here he drives past Day'Ron Sharpe (20) and Mikal Bridges of the Nets during the first half of the Hawks-Nets game Feb. 29, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK -- Hawks forward Saddiq Bey has worked hard to transform himself physically and mentally and become a more versatile player on the court.

The 6-foot-7 forward, in his first full season with the Hawks, entered the NBA four years ago with the reputation of being a player who could knock down catch-and-shoot jumpers or using his dribble to create space. But he’s developed a level of physicality to his game that’s quite evident in the paint - where he’s averaging a career-high 6.4 rebounds per game and has had success scoring on tough drives to the basket and putbacks.

So what has been the secret behind Bey’s transformation? A hard work ethic that began long before his two collegiate seasons at Villanova and his 2020 NBA debut.

It actually after Bey grew nine inches between his freshman and junior years of high school. So Eric Singletary, his coach at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., wanted to help him gain some strength following his rapid growth spurt, so he introduced him to longtime associate Myron Flowers during a phone call in 2016.

Flowers has 25 years of experience in the fitness industry and works with athletes from all walks of life. A former football player, he has worked with a number of NFL players, including Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs and Cardinals running back James Conner. Once Bey and Flowers became acquainted, the high school junior got in the gym and his addiction to lifting weights began.

“It was just it was a crazy transition,” Bey told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Like, it’s if you saw me my freshman year of high school you would have been like, ‘He looks so small.’ But now it’s just between blessings from God and being able to workout with him, he kind of just helped me sculpt my body.”

Their workouts covered all the bases and included strength training, mobility work and exercises that would help Bey be more explosive. The workouts include isolating small muscle groups and he does not let Bey know what they will do until he arrives for their sessions to keep him guessing. It stops Bey from getting mentally comfortable with what their work will be that day, as well as the idea of embracing the uncomfortable.

But before they did any work in the weight room, Flowers got Bey onto the basketball court where they played pickup games with some of the trainer’s clients - including Diggs.

“I noticed he was, of course, skinny,” Flowers said. “He was skinny. But then he had basketball toughness to him. Because we trained a lot of football players, he would play basketball before we worked out. So he would come in and play. He was kind of first dimensionally looking for a nice level of resistance because he was playing guys that were bigger. Of course football players are gonna be more physical. They’re probably going to be fouling you.”

Flowers though eventually learned that Bey had a bit more edge to him than he initally thought. During one of their pre-workout basketball sessions, Flowers noticed that Bey seemed to take it easy on their opponents during a pickup game. Within the competitive flow of the game, Flowers picked at Bey and told him to pick up his intensity of defense.

“I got on him like, ‘Look man, you gotta play defense,’” Flowers said. “He looked at me and I’ll never forget the look he gave - like such anger. But from that day, I could tell he understood and he was appreciative of the fact that someone was pushing him to be more physical and then do so on both ends.”

Eight years later, Bey has continued to train with Flowers to keep finding ways to be a multi-dimensional player. Bey, who turns 25 next month, has played several roles for the Hawks this season, particularly when they bumped him into the starting lineup in November with Jalen Johnson sidelined for a month with a left distal radius fracture.

He has found ways to impact the game by driving into the paint, using his strength to fight through contact and get to the rim. This season, 245 of his field goal attempts have come within five feet of the rim, with 217 of them taking place within the restricted area.

In their work together, Flowers has helped Bey to cultivate and channel his edge into how he approaches not only his workouts and basketball but everything outside of it.

“It’s how to do things like go in the weight room people go lift or we get a lot of like people telling us like how to do it but just like the structure of it, the discipline of it, and how to like make sure all of it,” Bey said. “Like, you can lift but not take care of yourself nutritionally or you can take care of yourself nutritionally but not lift. So it’s the all encompassing, how to do it how to do it every day.”