Wednesday, September 29, 2010

American rookies in Europe. The rules to be successful. The experiences of Terrel McIntyre and J.R. Holden!

The following is a guest blog from Basketball Telegraph columnist Dr FingerRoll. We have asked him to draft an article about american rookies and how they can be successful in Europe. The article is very interesting.

"Adapting to the new environment, getting comfortable in the new place, learning the rules, having a goal and working hard, these are the keys for a successful rookie that wants to make it in Europe" - Terrel McIntyre

Is it about talent? Yes, it is.
Is it only about talent? No, it is not.
We are talking about successful rookies who come from the United States to Europe to start their pro careers. Some of them, a small percentage, go back to the United States after a year or so ready to shine, or at least to have a career as role players, in the NBA (Brandon Jennings, James Singleton, Maurice Evans to name just a few), others will become "Europeans" and enjoy a 10 year stint in the Old Continent beginning in unknown countries to climb the stairs of success and make it to the highest competition of the best leagues (Spanish, Italian, Russian, Greek, Turkish, French and German) and ultimately to the Euroleague.
There is also a big percentage of american rookies who do not learn much from the european experience and go back to the States to try and (re)build their hoops future in the minor leagues or dreaming a call-up from the NBA playing in the D-League.

We said it is not only about talent. Gifted players like Brandon Jennings for instance have more chances to make it, but players like Terrel McIntyre or "Russian" superstar J.R. Holden did not receive any attention after graduating from college and they had to walk the steep and tough road of success.
Take Holden, for exemple. He graduated from Bucknell in 1998 and, a few days before starting looking for a "real job" (his words) he received a call from Riga, Latvia, where a local team was offering a contract (USD 3.000 a month) to play the 1 spot. He accepted. Flash forward to 2010: at age 34, J.R. Holden won championships in each country he played (Latvia, Belgium, Greece and Russia), he became a Russian citizen and led the National Team to the gold medal at the 2007 FIBA European Championship where he scored the winning basket in the finals against Spain. And, mind you, he was nobody at college or at least not a high caliber and didn't have the athletic skills nor the size of many other players that didn't make it.

The key, when you are out of your element, is adapting to the new environment, to make yourself at home in a foreign country and to have a goal and be humble.
In an interview Holden said that at first the language barrier gave him the impression that people were cold. "My teammates told me just to give it time" he said "and they were right. I began to realize how friendly people actually are in Russia". And it is so much easier to perform at your best when you are enjoying your time off the court or at least when you don't see the trip overseas as "just work".

Another key to success is, and that is no news, hard work and adapting to the new rules on and off the court. Many times we saw players coming to Europe thinking they would teach coaches and other players "out to do it". Wrong move.
It might be a different game and there might be rules that seem crazy (not to mention the refereeing) but that's the game in Europe and the sooner you learn the tricks of the trade the sooner you will be on the right track to be successful.
And, again, having a goal always helps. "To play well is always difficult - McIntyre says - you have to work hard in order to be good. At the early stage of my career in Italy I watched the Euroleague and I knew that was the level I wanted to be at and I knew that if I worked hard it could happen". And it did happen to T-Mac. Three times MVP of the Italian Lega A with the green jersey of powerhouse Siena, McIntyre after flirting with the Lakers and the greek outfit Panathinaikos, signed in Spain and will run Unicaja Malaga in the next ACB (Spanish) league.

There are also some aspects that you can't totally control, such as the organization you end up playing for and  some adjustments you need to make in your life like different food, not having the dryer in the apartment or driving a car with stick - these are the most difficult stuff to deal with for an American baller when in Europe - and, for rookies, it should be a big luck to play with experienced players to get advices how to play in Europe and how to manage pressure as an import player.
"When I got here I talked to guys who made it" says McIntyre "guys like Trajan Langdon or J.R. Holden and I was lucky enough to have Bootsy Thornton in my team who already made it to the Euroleague Final Four and who was able to talk to me about being successful in Europe and the work you got to put in".
Adapting to the new environment, getting comfortable in the new place, learning the rules, having a goal and working hard, these are the keys for a successful rookie that wants to make it in Europe.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Coach Linzy Davis: winning a World Tournament with a High School junior by the name of Carmelo Anthony!

Linzy Grant Davis is an international basketball coach. He coaches the USA Elite National Team and has earned 5 world titles, and he is co-director with Al Outlaw over Team Georgia Elite Basketball Club, located in Atlanta, Georgia. He has coached a long impressive list of NBA players including Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Davis coached the USA Elite National Team that won the U20 Nike Douai World Championship, Douai, France in 2001 (Carmelo Anthony, MVP), 2005 (Tywon Lawson, MVP), and 2006 (Chase Budinger, MVP).

Davis ahead of time in helping USA Basketball back to #1

Coach Linzy Davis began coaching USA teams in FIBA World Basketball Tournaments in 1997. In 2001, a young high school junior from Baltimore, Maryland, by the name of Carmelo Anthony, joined the USA Elite Select team that was to compete in the 15th Annual Douai World Championship, Douai, France. A USA Team had never won gold at this prestigious tournament which has produced NBA stars like Tony Parker, France National Team.

Carmelo Anthony exceeded expectations of his coach and led the USA to their first World Championship victory in Douai, France.
"Carmelo was a 17 year-old junior competing in a U19 tournament" said Linzy Davis, Head Coach of the USA team.
"I expected McDonald's All American, and North Carolina signee, Jawad Williams, Cleveland, Ohio, to lead the team. (Jawad is currently in the NBA) He was a senior and a year older than Carmelo. But Carmelo was more aggressive and took a leadership scoring role. His eight and skills created defensive challenges for opponents. Shelden Williams, was a high school junior, who signed with Duke University, and currently plays in the NBA, was our main inside muscle. Billy Edelin, Washington D.C., was the point-guard who ran our team. He was a high school senior and signed with Syracuse University, along with our 7'0" high school senior center, Craig Forth, who was from Syracuse, NY. The trio of Carmelo, Edelin and Forth went on to lead Syracuse University to an NCAA National Championship.
It is a great challenge for a young USA team to compete in Europe. There is a six hour time difference. The culture and environment is different. The language is different. Also, there is a great challenge in putting together a USA team. The best players in the USA have a lot of people around them, and many of them act as street agents. The best players are focused on the basketball in the NBA. They are not interested in the importance of playing FIBA basketball in Europe. But FIBA basketball in Europe provides a center world stage and a networking tool that can open doors for a young promising prospect.
A coach must understand how to assemble a team that has perfect chemistry. In order to assemble a perfect team, you must know how your competition thinks. I make it a point to get to know everything about the competition. I want to know how each player thinks on the opposing team. I want to know how the coaches think. I want to know their language and their culture. I want to know the officials. I want to know the tournament officials. I want to know the volunteers that help with the event. And I want to know the fans. I want to know everything about my environment.
When a person has all this information, you can effectively manage your team through all situations. You can create an extraordinary experience for the players. I develop a simple list of rules that each player must follow. I share a wealth of information that gains their respect and attention. The two greatest enemies of every player are sleep deprivation and proper nutrition.
A coach must understand that each player has his own agenda. But the team goal has to be bigger than that agenda. Each person must put their ego aside and bring their collective strength to the table.
The USA Team that was assembled in 2001, was challenged to win gold, and establish dominance on the world stage. Billy Edelin got things started for the USA as he scored a game high 26 points to lead the USA to a 95-85 exhibition win over Argentina. Carmelo Anthony scored 13 points, Marcus Hayden had 11 points, and Jawad Williams and Corey Gibbs both added 10 points. "We established our philosophy, kept it simple, and rehearsed the fundamentals they need to focus on, in order to be successful in the international game. The guys did a great job of following the game plan, and they earned the victory".

Edelin was a high school senior and Carmelo was a high school junior. "You could tell back then that Carmelo would become a dominate player. His body needed time to mature. And he had to get stronger".
The amazing thing about this team is everyone was committed  to win as a team. In our first game against France, Carmelo Anthony scored 18 points to lead the USA Team to a 80-72 win over France. Jawad Williams added 13 points, Billy Edelin and DeAngelo Alexander had 12 points, and David Paris added 9 points.
In game quater-finals, Carmelo showed he was very comfortable with center stage. He led the USA Team with 20 points on 7 for 11 shooting including 1 for 1 behind the 3-point line, as the USA defeated Croatia 71-50. Billy Edelin finished with 15 points on 7 of 10 shooting and Shelden Williams added 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting. "We played outstanding position defense and it helped our transition game. Our guys were on fire tonight. This is a group that is confident and focused on winning a gold medal".

In the semi-finals, Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points to lead the USA to a 94-86 win over Argentina. Shelden Williams added 22 points, DeAngelo Alexander scored 19 points and Billy Edelin finished with 18 points and 5 assists. The USA had to play without David Paris who suffered a knee injury, and Marcus Hayden had to play with a bad knee and Mike Crain had to play with stitches over his right eye.
In the Championship game verse Canada, the USA had to overcome the hot shooting of UConn signee Devon Brown, who scored a game-high 42 points, however, tournament MVP, Carmelo Anthony led the USA with 28 points, Billy Edelin (All Tournament) finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Shelden Williams scored 25 points and added 12 rebounds as the USA defeated Canada 102-99 in an emotionally charged game.

I felt like this Tournament was a turning point to Carmelo Anthony. His success from the Tournament drove him into the spotlight and to the top. He attended Oak Hill Academy, and continued his winning ways. He won a national championship at Syracuse University his freshman year. And he was a clear leader when he joined the USA Senior National Team. I believe Douai, France, gave him a glimpse of the future if he continued to work hard. The proof is in the pudding. He is still proving he is among the best in the world.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Coach Alan Stein: 3 Keys to Success! The trainer of Kevin Durant writes for Basketball Telegraph!!

The following is a guest article from coach Alan Stein.
Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the Head Strength and Conditioning coach for the nationally renowned, Nike Elite DeMatha Catholic High School boys basketball program. He spent 7 years serving a similar position with the Montrose Christian basketball program. Alan brings a wealth of valuable experience to his training arsenal after years of extensive work with elite high school, college and NBA players.

"Coach Stein helped me gain nearly 20 pounds my senior year at Montrose and continues to work with me to this day. The added size, strength and explosiveness he has helped me gain has made me a better player on the court. He really helped me make the transition from high school to college and from college to the NBA" - Kevin Durant

You need talent, luck and persistance. Pick any two if you want to be successful.

Wheter you are a basketball coach or a player, you can reach your (realistic) goals and achieve a high level of success with just two of those three.
Don't believe me? Let's take a look..


To some degree, what most people refer to as talent, is nothing more than passion. If you love to do something... you will do it every chance you can. And the more you do it, the better you get. Now obviously there are several uncontrollable factors that determine someone's ultimate talent and success on the basketball court (height, athleticism..) but in many instances, talent comes from non-stop, obsessive practise. I have never met a lethal shooter who didn't practise all of the time... who didn't shoot thousands and thousands of shots every single week. Being a talented shooter is 100% controllable.

There is no debate that Kevin Durant was born with numerous physical gifts. But so are a lot of people. So how come KD is an NBA All-Star and the league's youngest leading scorer of all time and other 6'9" guys don't play past high school or college?
Because KD has an unparalleled passion for basketball and he works on his craft every single day.

Same goes for coaching. Who are some of the most talented coaches in college basketball? Coach K? Tom Izzo? Jay Wright? Do you have any idea how much time and effort those guys have put into their coaching skill sets? They love the game of basketball and work relentlessly at becoming the best they can be.

And talent doesn't have to be all encompassing. You don't have to be good at everything. You just need to have a specialty... a specific talent that makes you stand out. It might be defense (Bruce Bowen), it might be rebounding (David Lee) or it might be shooting (Ray Allen). Working on your weaknesses is important, but so is making your strenghts even stronger!

Talent is the ability to make the most of what you have with where you are.


Honestly, I don't believe in luck. I think unsuccessful people use luck as an excuse. I believe luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I love the quote, "the harder you work, the luckier you get". There is so much truth to that statement. So that means, in order to be lucky, you need to be well prepared when opportunity knocks.

Do you even know how to prepare? Players, what do your daily workouts consist of? Do you just jack up 300 shots or do you take game shots, from game spots, at game speeds? Do you practise ball handling drills looking down at the ball or do you force yourself to look up (even though you may lose the ball initially)? Do you visualize a defender in front of you when making moves to the basket or do you just do the drill? Do you have a solid strength and conditioning foundation or do you just play pick-up? Equally important, are you a great teammate? Are you the type of player other players like to play with and coaches like to coach? Trust me... you'll be a lot luckier if you are!

Coaches, do you just study the X's and O's or do you work on communication and leadership? Do you put all your focus on your out-of-bounds plays or do you spend time learning how to most effectively communicate with every member of your program? Do you reinforce great work habits with your players 365 days a year? Do you read, watch film, and network with other coaches?

I realize many resources cost money... camps, clinics, DVDs, and trainers, which can be a limiting factor for some. However there are numerous resources that don't.

If you want to be lucky, you need "to be in the right place at the right time". Instead of waiting for that to happen, you need to make an effort to create real value in every place you go and every person you come in contact with.

When opportunity knocks, will you be prepared to answer?


This one is pretty obvious. Dont' give up on anything you can't go a day without thinking about it. Never quit. Keep practising. Keep working. Most people think they are persistent but in reality, they give up after a couple of "no's" or a few minor failures. Be too stubborn to quit. Dont' be so pig-headed you won't try new approaches or make adjustments along the way... just don't quit. Ever.

My twin sons, Luke and Jack, are 6 months old. They have an unyielding persistence. They don't stop until they get what they want! They are relentless and they don't take no for answer. While that has certainly caused me a handful of sleepless nights, I hope it is a quality they never out grow. If they apply the same persistence to the game of basketball as they do to wanting to be fed... they will indeed be McDonalds All-Americans in 2028!!

Bottom line is this. If you want to be successful, on the court, or in anything in life:

Make your own talent. Make your own luck. Never quit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Exclusive interview with coach Rado Trifunovic: the names of future international slovenian stars!

Slovenia is a small country but one of the best crop for basketball talents in Europe. The generation born across 70's and 80's gave almost a dozen of players (Nesterovic, Brezec, Dragic, Vujacic..) to the NBA while international talents (Smodiz, Lakovic..) made the difference at Euroleague level in the last decade. new columnist Dr FingerRoll asked some questions to coach Rado Trifunovic of slovenian powerhouse Helios Domzale, team who won the National title in 2006/2007 and plays Adriatic League.

Coach, we all know the NBA slovenian players and the stars playing international basketball. But let's talk about the future. What can you tell us about the basketball movement in Slovenia nowadays?

I do think that our movement is growing. Maybe it's growing slowly but it's certainly growing and we do have lots of young talent, most of them really young so we need some time and to be patient to wait for the new stars. I'm very optimistic though.

During the recent World Championship in Turkey, Slovenia although playing good basketball seemed to lack talent, I mean at least young and fresh talent.

Well, I'd say that the National team has some veteran players who still play very good basketball but they don't have many miles left in their engines. I guess that soon the youngsters, who are pushing to get there, will take their place.

Rado, what's the situation compared to 10 years ago.

Ten years ago there was a crop of extremely talented players like Matias Smodis, Bostjan Nachbar and Jaka Lakovic just to mention a few: undoubtedly it was a great generation. But now we can be confident: another group is coming, and I'm talking about kids who are 18-20 years old that will definitely do very well. And I can tell you one thing, these kids have mentality, and work ethic that some of their predecessors didn't have. Too many times Slovenia failed in great competitions despite big-time talents but I'm pretty sure that this will no longer happen in the next future.

Okay coach, sounds interesting. Can you tell us who are supposed to become the next superstars?

Well, Marko Vranjkovic and Klemen Prepelic are two intriguing talents playing with Domzale. Vranjkovic plays in the U20 National team and in first division as well, Prepelic just turned 17 but he has great personality and energy and already can play at this level. Another one is Alen Omic of Lasko, a 7 footer born in 1991. Luka Rupnik of Slovan is a very talented pointguard born in 1993 and I like Marko Pajic and I can predict a bright future for him either. I can't forget to mention Matej Rojc from Koper, who is an interesting combo guard right now.

Do you see NBA material among these kids? Can Slovenia dream that the next Dragic or Vujacic are coming?

Oh, all of them have the potential to make the NBA and, as I said, they have strong personalities, good attitude and work ethic to aspire to play at any level. Now it's up to them and their teams to give them the right choice and exposure to show off their skills.

And the teams and coaches have to let them play, right?

Absolutely. Only with playing-time you can grow up and show what you are able to do. This is the key to success. But it's in our own culture to give these kids the chances to play and make mistakes. It's kinda our mission to push these kids. We are building the future.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Australian Basketball: exclusive Q&A with coach Bradley Burdon

Bradley Burdon is the Coordinator of Bulldogs Basketball at Cairns State High School in Australia. He is also the assistant coach of the "Skytrans" Taipans in the NBL (National Basketball League). In this interview the 34-year old coach Burdon has given readers a tremendous insight into the australian basketball at any level.

Brad, we know a bit of the Boomers (the National team squad) and their best talents but for those who want to know more about Australian basketball what can you tell us?

Well I think most Australian basketball people would agree that we were disappointed with the Boomers exit at the recent World Champs but are exited about the young core of talent coming through. Soon we will look forward to watching the Opals; our Women's team defend their 2006 World Championship.
In Australia, basketball is not one of the major sporting code, falling well below winter sports such as our football codes and summer sports such as cricket. As such we do lose many of our athletes to other higher profiled sports, specifically Australian Rules Football. Despite this we do have an excellent junior development pathway that produces many talented athletes who not only excel at a junior international level but also attain scholarships to high level US colleges. Australia is currently ranked 3rd in the combined FIBA world rankings.

Might you explain our readers about the Australian system adopted in the youth programs? Did you find your own way or it's more Americanized with schools or kind of European where clubs run their own ones? What's exactly your job right now over there?

Essentially we have both in Australia, although school basketball is not as highly regarded as our club structure. Junior National teams that compete at FIBA events are selected from the club pathway. I imagine it is very similar to many countries where a young athlete represents their city or region and is then selected to represent their state; I live in and have coached our state of Queensland. It is these state teams that compete at our Junior National Championship held every year. While there is talent identification throughout the levels, it is at the National Champs that our next crop of potential Boomers or Opals are identified. These Championships are also visited by numerous US colleges every year. Currently I run the school of basketball excellence at Cairns High, the largest high school in our city. This program has had a number of state and national reps come from it. I also coach the Cairns Marlins Under 18 men's team as part of our development structure and will be starting my 2nd year as an Assistant Coach with the Cairns "Skytrans" Taipans in NBL.

Tell us about the NBL (National Basketball League). Is the League getting stronger? Do you have import players also? Are people crazy for basketball and arenas packed?

As mentioned and despite our current world ranking Basketball is not one of the major professional sporting codes in Australia. The strenght of basketball is very much dependant upon the strenght of talent and participation in our junior ranks. Basketball commonly sits as one of the top 2 junior participation in the country, though like football (soccer), the sport has struggled to transfer this junior participation into success/popularity as a senior professional league. The last decade saw the league gradually decline until a major restructure in 2009, as a result of these changes the NBL seems to be gradually rebuilding itself to a more stable/viable position. Financially, while now stable we cannot compete with the larger markets around the world and lose many of our best Australian players to Europe. The following of the league is starting to increase although I feel more money needs to be placed into the marketing of the league as a whole. It would be rare for a basketball area in Australia to "sell out" although some cities are very well supported and certain rivalries always attract big crowds. We are lucky in the Cairns is a very supportive city and we attract large crowds of 4000+ (large in terms of NBL) who are very loud and parochial. The team is actually community owned with members of the Cairns community owning small shares within the team, a similar model to that of the Green Bay Packers in the NFL.

You have travelled to the United States and you know top European leagues. That means you are open to new professional experiences?

As a coach I always be learning and trying to find new experiences, as a young coach I feel this process is paramount for my development. Travelling to Las Vegas for the Summer Camps was a great experience that I learnt a great deal. With most of my background being focussed with junior development it was a real eye opened to deal with professional American players and see the business side of the sport. While I have never been to Europe I enjoy watching European basketball and as more Australian's have been signed by clubs have certainly increased my awareness of those leagues. We actually have two Cairns players now playing good quality European basketball with Aron Baynes who played in Lithuania last year and now in Germany and Nathan Jawai signing with Partizan Belgrade. While I enjoy all styles of basketball I do enjoy European basketball for a number of reasons primarily the versatility of skill sets amongst most players regardless of position and I believe that the offensive execution of good European teams is the best in the world.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Coach Forrest McKinnis: Motivating a team with superior talent

Coach Forrest McKinnis has 10 years of head varsity coaching experience with multiple levels of success. In 2004, the former graduated of Eastern Oregon University coach McKinnis led his team to the school's first ever #1 ranking in the state polls. He is the founder of Coach Mac's Basketball Resources  (, was a Conference Coach of the Year in '02, '04, and '05, was selected to coach the Gatorade All-Star Series in 2004, and was voted Educator of the Year in 2006. Coach McKinnis is also the author of more than 20 playbooks.

In 2004, it didn't take me long to discover I had one of those special teams; a team for a decade in our small quite community and a team of a lifetime for any coach. It seemed as though this team took care of everything without proposition - from the classroom to the court they were "winners". They were driven, played with a high level of passion and ironically they were blind to their potential. The team chemistry was seamed together with a bond of kinship not sold in any "how-to" book.

The point-guard, my team captain, was cut from the perfect leaders mold. The forwards were dynamic, and the post was soon to be the biggest surprise in the state. In short, they were good, they were really good and they knew it. It wasn't long before I realized we were afflicted with a single-but potentially fatal flaw: we lacked motivation. As a coach, it was my job to saddle this group of superior athletes with a sense of motivation. So, how do you motivate the top athletes who are not driven by competition alone?
The answer: Zoom Focus.

Zoom Focus is a mental state of mind which can only be achieved through proper psychological advancements. Zoom Focus - or mental clarity - is the center piece of success. How as coaches do we introduce and vale, zoom focus?

The answer is found in four steps:

Superior athletes search for internal motivation from external accomplish.
First, superior athletes must set goals based on self-determination and extrinsic motives. Second, as a coach use extrinsic rewards. "Player of the game" awards work well in this sense if the award is presented in front of the team. Third, motivate with music. Music can be used to create the perception  of inspiration. Finally, introduce the athletes to positive self-talk.

Positive self-talk is a technique that can be used to enhance motivation across a wide range of achievement domains. It makes use of the athlete's powerful inner voice to reinforce their self-esteem or important aspects of their performance.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Q&A with agent Michael Gaston

Michael Gaston is a new name in the representation business. He is a former graduate of the University of Arizona with a major degree in communications and a minor in business administration. Gaston is a NBA certified agent and he also got the FIBA lisence to better represent his clients worldwide. Michael has a great ability in recruiting perspective talents and its own shop based in San Francisco, California is becoming full of good calibers.

Hello Michael, tell our readers how did you decide to start the representation business?

I have always had a true passion for sports since a young age. I played basketball, baseball and soccer while growing up. I am a very competitive individual and have always been interested in pursuing a career in sports management. The decision of becoming a sports agent was easy for me. I get the opportunity to wake up every morning and do something I truly love to do which is help athletes achieve their professional and personal goals.

Do you have a certification in the US to work as a sports agent?

Yes, I am certified by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).

What is your normal work day like?

What I love the most about being a sports agent is that every day is different. In this business you never know what to expect one day to the next. Being that I live in the United States and have clients who play in Europe, Asia and South America my days start early and end late. My work day usually starts with me answering emails, calling my clients and contacting coaches, agents and general managers. It also includes managing the day to day operations of the business while looking for new opportunities globally for my clients and 1GSports.

You are an emerging name in the business, how do you plan your work for the years to come.

I have always believed that preparation is the key to success. Benjamin Franklin said "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". My agency 1GSports and my career as a sports agent is a product of preparation, hard work and having a realistic plan for success. In this business, it is hard to plan for the unexpected but as the agency continues to grow, we will still focus on providing world-class service, building strong personalized relationships with our clients and keeping to our core values.

Can you tell us your biggest satisfaction so far?

My greatest satisfaction has been seeing the success of my clients and seeing them develop as men on and off the basketball court. A majority of my clients have just graduated from college and I enjoy being able to share my knowledge and experiences with them. I always tell my clients that I want them to walk away from the game in a better situation than when they began their professional career. When I first meet with a client I ask them where they want to be in five to ten years. From there we sit down together and devolop a blueprint that provides them with a path to success. "The secret of life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes" - Benjamin Disraeli.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

NBA next stop: Europe!

The Commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, has spent the last 10 years promoting the NBA expansion.

Something could be happening after the Olympics 2012 in London. There are many NBA-style arenas ready in Europe and lots of businessmen interested in running this plan. Insiders say that there are talks and something is sizzling out. London and Berlin have amazing arenas, Rome, Milan but even Madrid, Barcelona, Athens or Tel Aviv might soon follow suit.

The David Stern concerns are not about money or finding businessmen interested to join with a european franchise the NBA. The commissioner who leads the League that is a model for professional sports in public service, league operations, global marketing and technology knows exactly that the fascinating project must  be prepared perfectly. He knows that the NBA may still be the best basketball league on the planet, but it is not anymore the only league willing to pay big salaries and players and their agents know it. And for the expansion of the League, its brand the commissioner has his own very solid strategy to be successful: to strike root in new countries, cities and enlarge the sphere of the business to new fans in what it will become the "Global Basketaball Association".

In this troubled economy where the euro sometimes dwarfs the dollar you have to necessarily think new stategy. The Euroleague has been a big success so far, and David Stern knows that very well. Even the dynamics of players market has changed a lot: big-time players has signed in Europe and even more have considered the option. An interchange is in act, but David Stern can't plan a merger with the Euroleague, and he needs to expand the NBA and maybe take over or add top european clubs eager to be in the next worldwide NBA. Maybe the only big issues are related the different financially wise rules: in Europe the salary cup doesn't apply for instance, and the tv rights are dramatically lower than in America so far.
But there is no doubt that they are working to plan how to harmonize the rules preparing the next big impact on the global basketball: some european franchises in the NBA. And who knows, maybe soon even in Asia (more Japan than China right now) for the years to come.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The truth about the NBA vs European basketball

The following is a guest article from a very intelligent player, Evan Harris. His capacity to understand and analyze the game is incomparable. Evan is a Los Angeles native professional player and former graduate of Harvard (2009). He is about to start his second  season in Europe playing for Illiabum, in Portugal. Last year he started playing in Romania for Craiova then he moved to Germany where he played for Wolfenbuttel.
I really thank Evan for his contribution given to with his analisys on the main differences between the NBA vs European basketball.

I was asked to do this blog as sort of a re-issue of an older blog I had written on the subject. At the time, I was a rookie playing in Germany and had gotten into a pretty heavy conversation with one of my teammates about the differences between the NBA and the European game.  Right after this conversation, I came home and watched the highlights of a couple of Lebron's dunks, and some things stood out to me..

Okay, so let me first start off by saying I mean no offense to anyone (European or American) by this post.
These are just my observations after almost a full year of European basketball and 4 years of NCAA basketball and nearly 20 years of studying the NBA game.
With that being said, everything is a trade off. What I mean by this is, what Europeans may lack in one area, they make up for in another and viceversa.
Anyways, the first MAJOR difference I have seen is the speed/athleticism of the individual players. In America, the game seems sped up, and the game itself is more geared towards scoring and helping out individual scorers. During the conversation with my teammate, Brandon Jennings was brought up as a perfect example. He played at both a high level in Europe, and in America - so he serves as the perfect comparison. Statistically, his one season in the Euroleague produced 7.6 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game (over 16 Euroleague games). Conversely, last season he has averaged 15.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists (over the 82 NBA games).

The (in my mind) incorrect conclusion to the dramatic difference in numbers would be to assume that the Euroleague competition is somewhat tougher than the NBA competition. While this is undoubtedly a debatable point, I believe the reality is that the NBA game is just geared more to showcase individual talent while the European game is much more team oriented. You need to look no further than the averages of the scoring champion of each league for that point to be illustrated. The Euroleague scoring champion (former Denver Nugget Linas Kleiza) led the league in scoring at 17.3 points a game. In comparison, Kevin Durant who ended up winning last year's NBA scoring title averaged 30.1 points a game. Nearly double Kleiza's output.
Now the question is...WHY? Yes, Kevin Durant is a much better scorer than Kleiza is, but it also doesn't help that the rules of the NBA facilitate one on one scoring much more than the European game does.
Which brings me to Lebron's dunk. You will see that the help defense is not existent. A couple years ago the league introduced the "Defensive Three Second" rule. The rule itself states that, "Any defensive player, who is positioned in the 16-foot lane or the area extending 4 feet past the lane endline, must be actively guarding an opponent within three seconds. Actively guarding means being within arms length of an offensive player and in a guarding position".
For you non basketball enthusiasts, this means that you can't be in the key for more than three seconds without reaching out and touching an offensive player. This pretty much eliminates the idea of a "help side", which from middle school on you are taught that if the ball is on the opposite side of the court to at least have one foot in the key, and often to be standing on the "basket line" or directly under the rim. This help side effectively shrinks the floor, and makes it much harder for the offensive player to score (it turns a one on one situation to a one on 3-4).

Anyways, to the video... Watch specifically that before Varejao's post up, the other 4 defensive players are standing outside the key, essentially letting Lebron go one on one with James Johnson while the other 8 players watch..
Because of the Defensive Three Second Rule, there is no way the help can get there in time if Lebron (or any NBA level athlete) takes one dribble from the free throw line and takes off. Unfortunately for James Johnson, he isn't playing in Europe where that play would have undoubtedly ended in a charging call on Lebron (they also didn't have the protected semi-circle under the basket, but it is making its way to Europe for next season).
There isn't much of a point to this, just to point out one of the biggest things I have learned/had to adjust to since arriving here.

Another big difference that often gets overlooked, is the strategy/focus of each team. Obviously, both teams in the NBA and in Europe are geared towards and built to winning. However, with the star and marketing power of the NBA, it is inevitably also geared for the stars to shine. Not to say that there aren't stars in Europe, but the whole team concept is stressed much more. For example, if you look at a typical European offensive set, it is often a lot of continuity, breaking down to a pick and roll late in the shot clock. In stark contrast, many typical NBA offenses are simply a pick and roll with a little bit of movement off the ball. Looking forward, it will be interesting to see what kind of difference the recent change in FIBA rules does for the European game. Most interesting for me will be the inclusion of the restricted area under the basket and the removal of the trapezoidal key in favor of the NBA's rectangle..

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment with any insight you may have!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Interview with the agent: Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner is the rising star of the sports business. The former graduate of the University of Florida ('07 Bachelors Degree in Political Science) with a Juris Doctorate degree as well ('10 University of Florida Levin College of Law) at only 25 runs Dynasty Athlete Representation, a dynamic boutique based at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Hey Darren, tell us a little bit about you and when did you decide to become a sports agent.

I decided I wanted to be a sports agent upon completing an internship at Career Sports & Entertainment, a full-service sports and entertainment company out of Atlanta, GA. I interned with CS&E in the summer between my Sophomore and Junior year of undergrad. From the first day at the job, I was given tremendous responsibility and used my 3 month of internship to learn as much as possible about the sports representation industry. I have always been an avid sports fan, interested in law, and was a nationally ranked high school debater. I figured that the sports agent profession was right up to my alley. In an effort to stay abreast of sports-agent related news and get my name out of the industry, I started on December 31, 2005. Eventually, the site really picked up steam. One of our original contributors and I decided that there was no reason to wait on pursuing our dreams of becoming successful sports agents, and in April 2007, we formed Dynasty Athlete Representation, an LLC in the State of Florida. Since then, I have bought that partner out, and I served as the CEO of the company.

Do you need any certification or license to work in this business in the US?

There are different systems of licensing. Large sport organizations like the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL all require agents to become certified before representing professional players within their confines. Some of the leagues make an agent pay a fee, take a test, and even go to annual meetings to become and remaine certified. A majority of states require agents to become separately licensed in order to recruit student-athletes from within those states' borders.

Which are the musts a professional needs to possess to work as an agent?

A short memory and perseverance. It never hurts to actually know what you are doing and even be an expert negotiator.

How do you plan to break out with your Dynasty Athlete Representation into the business?

The plan is to stay true to who we are as a company. We stress the family atmosphere and our knowledge of new technologies. We believe that we truly do stand out from the rest. Once we have a client make major headlines, it will be tough for other athletes to see what we are capable of and not be the least bit interested in our services.

You are very young Darren. How do you see the representation business in the next years?

Definitely changing. There will be more rules/laws in the United States, but international organizations like FIBA may also increase enforcement of its regulations. I think athletes will demand agents to justify their fees, and you might find more attorney agents who are charging by the hour.

What's the most stressful side of the job and your biggest success so far?

You never want to see your client get injured and you always fear that a rival agent will make a promise to your client that might persuade the client to change agents. My biggest success is still being in business 3 1/2 years after starting my company with no clients and not much experience.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ricky Hickman exclusive interview

Ricky Hickman is the emerging name in the PG crop in Europe. The Winston Salem, NC native, former graduate of UNC Greensboro (2007) is about to be the starting pointguard of Junior Fastweb Casale Monferrato, team participating the LegaDue championship in Italy in 2010/2011 season. Ricky is 25 years old and is a solid, athletic and talented PG with big size (6-3 1/2 ft, 185 lbs) who built his career playing in Romania, Germany and being voted the MVP of Finland last year.

Ricky, tell our readers something about your career so far.

Really my career has been an interesting one so far, I think my high school and collegiate years were very good and I enjoyed a lot of awards and recognition. But since becoming a pro I look at myself as having my own business and I have had to build my business from the grown up.. what I mean by that is playing in leagues such as Romania, Finland to Germany and now Italy..but I have enjoyed all the experiences I have had so far and I believe everything happens for a reason and I like the direction my career is going as long as I keep working hard and keep God first..

Who were your favourite players growing up and a little kid.

Well growing up as a kid I always looked up to Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson... later years and now is Kobe Bryant and I love to watch Steve Nash as well... I honestly try to just watch a lot of the top players and take some their strenghts and put them into my game.

You have played in many different countries in Europe: Romania, Germany, Finland and Italy. What do you bring with you of these experiences?

Playing in all the countries has given me quite a bit of experience and has let me develop as a player. I feel like now I know what it takes to succeed and I realize the only way to get to where you really want to be is thru hardwork every single day.. and always feeling like you have something to prove.

You are about to be the floor leader of Fastweb Casale Monferrato in the Italy LegaDue. Do you feel ready for the season?

Yes I feel ready for this season I prepare every off-season as if I am to be the best player on the court and this summer was no different I'm excited about the opportunity and to be playing under such a coach that helps me improve..I got a good situation this year.

What's your challenge as a player?

My biggest challenge I think this year is just staying consistent mentally to my approach to every game and every practise situation.. I think if I can do that I will be fine and it will make our team that much better.

Thank you Ricky and Good luck!