You’ve been getting shots up.
Sharpening your handle.
Lifting weights a few times per week.
You can get your shot off against anybody.
I know. You and everyone else who either is or thinks they can play pro ball are all saying the same things.
I believe you.
But, there are other skills you’ll need to pack in your duffle bag if and when you get your shot to play basketball professionally.
There are skills like those mentioned above that you know about. But, there are some other skills and attributes hiding in plain sight that many players pay little attention to, and thus are not prepared to use them when they’re needed.
Not having these skills often results in lost opportunity.
Pay attention, and don’t leave home without these at the ready.
Being in Pro GAME Shape
Going-to-the-gym-everyday shape is not the same as professional-basketball-game shape.
If you’re aiming to play pro ball, you’ve probably played on a team before, in high school or in college. Think of the conditioning workouts your coaches put your team through on those clubs. The suicides, running lines, full court wind sprints, 17s, and all the other stuff that coaches come up with that test your lungs and don’t involve the ball — you need to be doing that stuff on your own, consistently.
And not just a handful of them, up to your point of discomfort: push yourself way past that discomfort, just like a coach would make you do.
Do not show up in the gym of a professional basketball club out of shape. Players get sent back home within 72 hours for committing this very avoidable mistake. Re-read the above paragraphs for clarity of what “shape” means in this context.
Giving A Full, 100% Effort On Defense
A lot of skilled American players that I’ve known play basketball with what I call a playground mentality.
Consider if any of the following apply to you or any players you know.
- 90% (or more) of their focus is on offense
- Only play hard when they’re the center of offensive attention (i.e., they have the ball most of the time)
- Their only version of “defense” is to jump passing lanes gambling for steals, or swiping for steals in one-on-one defense
- No boxing out or calling out screens for teammates
- Defense is merely a rest period in between offensive opportunities
I know some players — really good players — who would check “Yes” to many of the points above. Some of them even played some at the pro level.
Thing is, these bad habits catch up to you — quickly — at the pro level.
Most of the spectators, teammates and opponents you deal with at your local rec league or summer pro-am game couldn’t explain what fundamental defense is — thus, unlike your pro coaches overseas, they could never call you out for lazy defense.
Pro coaches? They notice.
Your first defensive no-focus infraction gets you a verbal warning.
The second gets you pulled from the game.
A third may cost you your contract.
Every player playing overseas can score in some form. And the players you watch on TV who play lazy D — the ones that fool you into thinking that you can do the same things that they do — well, they’re more talented than the rest of us. That’s why they’re playing on TV.
You can’t get away with that when playing overseas. Coach Crudeli spelled this point out pretty clearly on my podcast.
Defense is half of the game of basketball; it always has been. Us Americans though, we’re raised to believe that if we score enough, we can “offense” our way out of our defense even mattering.
And in America, often, you’re right about that.
Europe is different. You’ll be on the bench, and at worst, out of a job.
If you know an overseas player, ask them — they’ll confirm it.
Being Effective On Offense Without The Ball In Your Hands
Going hand-in-hand with my prior point — a lot of American players think they can play overseas because of their “playground ball” resume:
- How many points you can score
- How high you can jump
- Your shooting accuracy
- The pro players you’ve faced and scored against in some tournament
- People telling you that you’re good enough to play overseas
These matter (sometimes). But overseas basketball ain’t the NBA. All the isolation/one-on-one stuff that the NBA is known for doesn’t happen overseas.
Don’t be fooled by the 60-second highlight clips you see from overseas players. Watch a full game in its entirety; what do you see?
Cutting off the ball.
Ball and man movement.
Screens. Lots of screens.
Very little one on one or isolation.
The “Top Performer” in a game might score 17 points in many league games— and the coaches are ecstatic.
Translation: if you’re a player who —
- Only plays hard when you’re getting the ball a lot
- Can’t play without the ball
- Stands around on offense until the ball comes to you
- Are ineffective/invisible when you’re not the primary ball handler
- Won’t play hard on D if you’re not getting the ball on O
— you won’t last long (read: have a career that spans multiple years) in professional basketball.
Again: the playground mentality shit will fly in the summer pro-ams. The fans at your neighborhood rec league (mostly) don’t know the game beyond who-scored-on-who and couldn’t explain team basketball if you offered them money to do so. Your overseas coaches see it all, though, and they’re not even considering signing you if you display these habits in your game film.
Can you play off the ball?
Can you be happy and positive when scoring 10 points per game?
Are you OK with not starting and/or being told to never go one on one?
Does your very presence — through your attitude every day in practice and physical trainings — make your teammates better?
Do you play to win, or play for stats? Every player claims to play to win; the “stats”/playground players reveal themselves rather quickly. They can’t help it.
Save for the part about being (and staying) in game shape, the points in this article are not about your skills. They about your habits and your character as a player.
While your fans on Instagram and your friends from the neighborhood only see your crossovers, dunks and stats, the above stuff is what the most important people — the coaches who decide whether you’ll have a job or not — are noticing.