First, I’ll share a bit about my school life: Between 5th grade and college graduation, I put forth a just-enough-to-get-by level of effort 95% of the time in school. I knew what was required of me and I achieved it, with the least amount of wok I could muster to get away with. And dammit, it worked. But level-of-effort is relative, just as basketball training is: some payers need to shoot 500 shots a day to hit 40% on three pointers for the season, while another player may get up 50 shots a day and shoot 48% from three. You have to adjust to what produces results for you, not what someone else did.
But you already knew that I’m gonna give it to you as real as I possibly can.
I ran into a group of kids at a park several months ago who recognized me from YouTube. I stopped and chatted with them for about 30 minutes while they peppered me with questions about the game. One of the kids — and many other I have met — expressed an interested in playing pro ball overseas, but was dealing with issues at school. Namely, as I have seen and heard often, the issue is doing well enough in class to be eligible then, and subsequently getting into/qualifying to play in college. The kid wondered how he could just get himself into overseas leagues while bypassing the rest of high school and all of college basketball.
I’ll explain to you all exactly how I explained to him, in two major points:
1. Being able to score 20-25 points in a high school or rec league game in your town/city does not mean that you can are ready to go and play professional basketball overseas.
- If you don’t like basketball practice, running plays all the way through before a shot, coming off the bench for someone clearly not better than you are, or practicing ten times for every one game played (in which you may, inexplicably, not play much!), you are not built to play ball overseas.
- If you cannot commit yourself to get into a gym/on a court every day and practice/train on your own accord (ie, no one with you or exhorting you to do it), then you are not a professional. Forget about professional basketball.
- Many teams overseas are not impressed by how many points you can score — in fact, that me-first rec league/playground attitude that gets you props in America is severely frowned upon in European leagues. I know this first-hand.
2. In America, if you want to maximize your basketball exposure and development, the best way, as our current system stands, is to play high school ball, then college ball, then move on to the pros (if you are skilled/disciplined enough to do so). Skipping any of the aforementioned steps has killed or wounded many a career (maybe yours).
- I tell anyone who asks me about balancing school and sports: there are 24 hours in a day for all of us. Priorities — what are yours? Do the most important things first (school work, team practice, any other major responsibilities of your life) and everything else (watching TV, hanging at the mall, parties, chasing those of the opposite — or same — sex) must fall in line.
- Yeah, I know that Brandon Jennings skipped college and went overseas and that Aquille Carr may do the same. Do you have their talent? I didn’t. And there is a 99.8% chance that you don’t either. If you are in high school, and no professional team has reached out to you, unsolicited, as of this very moment, then you don’t have those guys’ talent.
- If you do not have the self-discipline to go to college, do the necessary school work to be eligible, and maintain a spot on the basketball team roster, there is no way you will survive playing overseas. “Professional Athlete” is a job. It is more work than it appears, and 90% of it is not glamorous or worth posting to Facebook.
- If you’re going to play in college, you need to have satisfied certain requirements — the NCAA makes these requirements public. Guess who’s responsible for knowing what they are and making sure they are met?
That’s just about it. The American amateur sports system (for basketball at least) is tied to academics and schooling. I think there should be other options, and one day there will be. But do you have ten years to wait for that other option to mature or are you looking to play now? Well, then.
The basketball system, as you rise in levels, is a huge funnel: wide entrance (streetball/rec leagues), small exit (professional ball). Every level weeds out 90% of those who played at the previous level.
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.