The first exposure camp I went to, in Orlando, had about 200 players in attendance. A couple hours into the first day, camp organizers read off the names of players and put us all onto teams, set to play together for four games over the course of two days.
I was on the orange team.
Right after the team announcements, players gathered in groups with their teams to meet their coaches for a quick meet-and-greet, plus a few words from our coaches. One guy who would be on my team, a thin 6’6” dude whom I didn’t know, came over to the orange team gathering with a loud, joyful assertion.
“YO!! If everybody play unselfish, we ALL gon’ get deals, yo!!”
No one responded. And, by what happened on the court over the next 48 hours, nobody had listened.
That camp was the first — and the last — time I heard anyone espouse unselfishness and team play at a professional basketball exposure camp.
This “anyone” includes players, coaches and event organizers.
Everyone knew what the deal was. It went like this:
Show off, get yours, and fuck everybody else. You’ll never see most of these guys again anyway. Shoot as much as you can, make yourself look good, and get yourself a deal. Every man for himself, in a five-on-five, team sport.
After the first day of games at another camp several years later, this one in Vegas, my assigned roommate expressed disgust at his teammates’ blatantly selfish play (we were on different teams).
“Watch — I ain’t passing SHIT tomorrow!”
I watched him score twenty points in his team’s game the next morning. I saw him being chatted up by a couple of visiting pro coaches after that game.
My first exhibition game in Mexico was as part of an entire team of American players, all hungry and eager to impress a contract-offering team. A veteran friend of mine, a guy who’d played in the country for several years by then, sent a text to warn me before the game about what to expect.
“Shoot everything, Dre. Don’t pass shit to nobody.”
I thought that, just maybe, my friend was being a bit cynical.
Then I sat and watched as two teammates, the only two players on our team who knew each other, only pass the ball to each other for an entire game. It was blatant enough to be comical if i hadn’t been on the same team as them.
In the overseas game that I saw, there was no warm-up or getting-acclimated period for unproven and unknown players. Playing the right way; i.e. passing, screen-setting and stuff like that, may or may not be on the menu.
I know, know of, and have seen players who flew out to join teams in all corners of the globe, who got sent back home after one unimpressive practice. I was on teams where we watched it happen to players: practice with us one day, and we never see the guy again.
As a player, I’m a guy who normally liked to work my way into the flow of a game. I’d start off passing, moving without the ball, getting my teammates shots, then turning up my energy and aggressiveness as I got loose.
At camps, though, that style wouldn’t work: if you didn’t hunt shots aggressively from your first touch, you might not experience the feel of the ball again.
Overseas, I couldn’t be a first-quarter facilitator. I had witnessed the rapid exporting of slow-starting players.
I passed the ball one too many times early on in a practice once, and an assistant coach stopped practice to say to me (in translated English) that I was being too passive and needed to start scoring — that’s why I was on the team, after all.
Off the court, the same rules applied.
On the court, you never had more than 9 opponents (including teammates).
Off the court? You don’t have enough fingers and toes to count.
A lot of players tell me they want to get into the overseas basketball world, but they’re too passive in going after it.
I need help.
I’m serious about this.
Could you help me get started?
What steps do I have to take?
I just need the information.
None of these is gonna get you anywhere in anything, let alone a world where the information isn’t quite clear (except that which I’ve shared) and the process is not formally laid out (except in my course on Overseas Ball). Especially when you’re saying them to a person who isn’t an agent or coach or scout.
One quick and ruthless life lesson learned playing basketball: you will never get the ball by merely waiting for it.
How did these lessons help mold the aggressiveness I used to get in and stay in the pro game for nine years — then use that same aggression to build my business? I answer that and more in my new book Work On Your Game: Using The Pro Athlete Mindset To Dominate In Sports, Business and Life. Release date is February 22, and you can preorder it now to get all these preorder bonuses.