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.
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.