If you attend a big school (read: NCAA Division 1), professional clubs will seek you out because of where you played. For the rest of us — NCAA 2 & 3, junior colleges, NAIA, no college basketball experience — creating a career in professional basketball ain’t easy.
A pro or overseas basketball exposure camp can help immensely. You can measure you game against other pros and would-be pros. You can get yourself seen and known by decision makers. And with the right performance at the right time, you may even get the contract you want!
Notice I said “creating” a career, not “getting.” You will have to take proactive steps, yourself, to make shit happen. I addressed this in detail here a while back; what you’re reading now addresses the “Show Your game” and “Network” directives – Pro Exposure Camps and Combines. I have been to at least 10 over the last 8 years — I’d estimate that 4 or 5 were worth it — and I hope some of you can learn from my experiences and save yourself a lot of time, money and headaches.
Three Things You Can Gain From A Basketball Exposure Camp.
Yes, attending a camp, especially in a place you otherwise wouldn’t have been, can be a great experience. You’ll meet other players and people, and take lots of pictures. Speaking strictly form a business standpoint — this is a business, you will find out — there are three clear objectives:
1) Signing a contract to play for a team; you know by the time you leave the camp that you’ll be playing for a certain club when the time comes, and it’s on paper.
2) Making contact with an agent or team manager or player, that can get you closer to #1.
3) Having video/ scouting report from the camp that can get you closer to #1 and/or #2. Otherwise, why go?
Do Your Research And Shop Around.
Basketball exposure camps cost money — most charge anywhere from US $150-500 for the camp fee alone, aside from your travel, lodging and food costs (some will include — maybe partially — such things).
Thusly, know exactly what you’re getting when you spend your money. You are making an investment in your potential career with money you worked hard for — accept no bullshit. These camps are not doing you a favor by having you attend. Let me repeat this very important point:
THESE CAMPS ARE NOT DOING YOU A FAVOR BY HAVING YOU ATTEND.
Pro basketball exposure camp are money-making enterprises for the organizers. Don’t let them fool you. Every player who signs up and shows up is profit for them. You’re an at least competent player when sharing the floor with pros? The basketball exposure camps want you there.
If you sense a camp isn’t all it seems, move on to the next one. If a camp couldn’t take the time to create a professional – looking website, why would they take time to worry about your situation, after they’ve got your money? They won’t. I’ve learned this the hard way so you don’t have to.
Nowadays there are hundreds of camps every summer — here’s one resource — you don’t have to fall over yourself to try getting into any one in particular. If a certain camp has a lot of guys that got signed before, those same guys may be there again, getting minutes, shots, and attention from the decision makers.
I know what your pride is telling you as a response to that sentence – you want to compete with those guys and prove you are just as good, right? Nothing wrong with that. Just know that the more you are being paid attention to, the better your chances. Choose wisely.
Reach Out To Last Year’s Participants.
On a basketball exposure camp’s website or Facebook page, there will usually be a list of players from the previous year who did well there or signed contracts. Reach out to those guys — everyone is on Facebook. There’s Twitter, email… hell, just Google people.
Ask them about the camp – how it was, did the camp deliver everything it claimed? Would you go again? Worst-case scenario, you get no response. Best-case, you get useful, unfiltered, from-the-source information from someone who lived it. Talk to a few and you’ll get a good idea of what you’re getting into.
Contact The People In Charge.
Like I said, a basketball exposure camp is a business for the people running them – businesses, to stay profitable, better show respect to their customers (you).
If a basketball exposure camp organizer won’t return your email or call in a timely fashion (or throws out an “I’m so busy” excuse), that’s a red flag. If an organizer gets annoyed with you for asking too many questions, is evasive with information/ details, or seems to just be telling you what you want to hear to get you to shut up and pay your non-refundable entry fee — red flags.
Organizers should be willing and able to answer every question, even offering to speak with you via telephone/ Skype, etc. if you’re trying to give them your money. Don’t buy any “busy” excuses — if a person puts a camp together, yes, they’re busy — figuring ways to maximize profit on their business venture.
I attended a camp of an agent that, at the time, had a stable of around 60 players, 85% of them signed and playing (this is the kind of camp that, in hindsight, I wouldn’t have attended — I wasn’t a client of his and his camp was designed to showcase his players. But that’s not my point here). I showed interest in his camp, and he took every measure to make sure I got there and was situated properly — even getting on the phone with me to discuss details, and meeting me at my hotel the night before the camp to introduce himself.
Another camp I attended, the organizer picked everyone up from the airport himself, in his car. You should expect the same.
All That Glitters Ain’t Gold.
A common ploy camps use in advertising is claiming that a certain number or percentage of previous attendants signed contracts. I won’t even go as far as advising you to avoid such camps — there wouldn’t be much left if you did — but if a camp makes such a claim, it should be displaying names, photos and ‘team signed with’ out there next to their claims.
Sometimes a player attends a camp and later signs with a pro team, but the signing had nothing to do with their attendance/ performance at said camp. The camp, however, will use that players’ signing as credibility for their camp. There is a simple way to at least try to get to the bottom if this — when you contact some of the players, ask them if the camp directly related to their signing.
Tilt The Odds In Your Favor.
The fewer players attending the camp you attend, the more attention your abilities will get.
The coaches and scouts that attend camps to find talent are human. They have two eyes, and can only take in so much action at one time. I wouldn’t remember much about each of 150 individual players from watching them over two days — I may just fixate on the 6′-10″ big man or the guard who made his first two shots when I walked into the gym.
Most camps these days will advertise that all games are on film for talent evaluators to review. But think about it: The purpose of going to a camp is to be seen, and possibly be approached by, a person who can change your future. If a team is looking to sign a player, a person with the power to do so will be present at your camp, looking. If a team is going to sign you off of a video they watched, you can do that from home and save your money.
A camp shouldn’t have more than 8 players per team for full court games. If you get placed on a team where you won’t be able to play your position, see what can be done to get you on a different team. Find camps which have scheduled sessions on-court aside from full court games — practices, drills, group/ position-specific workouts, etc. This is the best way for any player to get comfortable and display his strengths.
Get The Video.
By the time of this writing (updated Fall 2016), this should go without saying, but a lot of camps are still not getting this essential point right.
Any camp that doesn’t offer video to participants, to take with you on the spot (can be a DVD, media file emailed to you, video transferred to a USB cable of yours — have one available), is worthless. Get your video while you’re there.
If the camp doesn’t make it clear that you can get video before you leave — red flag. Ask around, and ask the camps about the video — almost every camp will make the claim, and many will not come through as promised.
Where Are The Decision Makers?
All camps will use the attendance of pro coaches/ managers/ scouts/ agents to lure you in, and they will try to have as many as possible there. So, that camp should have names, titles and photos of the decision makers coming, before you sign up.
This way they can’t lie later on (screen-capture what they post), and you can cross-reference what you see when you get there, with what the camp advertised. If a camp is evasive about specifics on who’s coming to the camp, there’s a 98.4% chance they are overselling themselves to get your money — probably the most oft-used selling tool for professional basketball combines. Red flag.
I’m an American basketball player, and any other American reading this that’s been to a few camps can attest: American players play very selfishly at exposure camps.
One or two guys make a couple shots early, and never stop shooting. I’ve been to all types if camps — league-run, agent-run, company-run — it’s the same wherever you go. Players from other countries don’t play with the same ‘get-yours’ mentality that we have.
With foreign-born players, you’ll see passing, screen-setting, and making the extra pass. This is normal stuff to them. Foreign coaches expect the same, and frown on selfish play.
You have a better chance of getting good, clean offensive opportunities (willing passers, plays being run, playing on a team with legit ‘big men’) in a European camp.
Many American combines cut corners (and costs) when it comes to coaching. They bring in some local guys, or people from their organizations, to coach a team (or a coach who is trying to get a job, just like you — they spend more time trying to prove themselves than making sure every player’s abilities are maximized). Most of them aren’t coaches by trade. Many of them — from my experience — run things more like fans than coaches.
The European camps I’ve been to bring in real-life professional basketball coaches, who actually coach the teams you want to sign and play for. This is the way it should be done. Imagine a coach in Country X watching your film from some American camp in which there are no plays being run, no defense, everyone is a guard, and everyone is trying to score 30 points — you’re scoring a bunch of points. What is it worth?
Be Wary Of Roll-The-Ball-Out Camps.
This refers to camps at which all you do is play games right off the bat — no drills, no practices.
I warn you to be wary because you never know what the situation will be. You may be a guard forced to play power forward, a point guard that never gets to handle the ball. At least with camps that have scheduled drill and practice sessions, you can get loose, display your strengths, and let the decision makers & coaches get familiar with you.
A 6’7″ point guard who attends a roll-the-ball-out camp may find himself playing center if there’s no practice/ workout session for him to establish his position and what he can do.
And that would suck.
Step Back And Take A Deep Breath.
Some players will have agents that cover the costs for them to attend camps, covering the player’s travel expenses as you try to get your career off the ground. Personally, I have never been in that situation — I’ve spent my own money to get where I went. Sometimes it was money I earned while thinking about how great it would be to earn money from basketball, instead of (fill in full-time/ 9-to-5 job I really didn’t want to be at).
If you’re looking for a camp to attend, that means you’re a serious player who is passionate about wanting to make a living from this game. So when you’re deciding on a basketball exposure camp, detach yourself from your emotions and make a rational, measured decision.
If you were watching another person whom you didn’t know, that’s about to do what you’re about to do, what would you think? Is this person being smart? Is she only thinking about the greatest possible outcome, ignoring all the possible pitfalls and obvious holes in her plan? Take a moment, an entire day if you can, to clear your head and think hard about what you’re investing in before pulling the trigger.
Emotions are bad decision-makers.
At Camp: Communicate With The Coaches.
Let your coaches know what position you play and/or if you’re willing to play a different position due to team personnel. Speak up if you aren’t playing enough — you paid for the chance to be seen!
From my experience, about half the coaches at camps are very clear and upfront about playing time and how things will be done, and they stick to it. The other half “coach to win,” and leave players on the bench. Know who you’re dealing with and get what you paid for.
Before you know it the camp will be over. Speak up for yourself.
On The Court: Stay In Your Lane.
If you don’t shoot threes, you don’t have to shoot a three just because the ball finds you behind the arc. It is very easy to see when a player is trying to do more than they’re capable of, and it makes that player look bad.
It only takes one dumb decision to kill your chances for that particular audience.
At one camp I attended, I violated this rule by forcing up a bad – and badly missed – shot. I knew, the very moment after that shot, I wouldn’t be getting a call from anyone in that gym.
For Your Career: Who You Know Will Get You In The Door. What You Can Do Will Keep You In The Building.
When you do sign a contract, congratulations! Now you have to earn it and keep it.
I know of too many players who played in one place, whose careers ended with that season. Sometimes those players’ careers ended before the season did.
Overseas contracts aren’t like the NBA; they’re more like the NFL. Meaning, a team can cut you at any moment, for any reason, and owes you nothing.
Bad game? Consecutive sluggish days of training (practice)? You could be gone just as soon as you got there.
I know players who got released from contracts after just one game with their new team. I know players who were released before even playing in a game — you are being evaluated in practice.
So be prepared for the long haul — we’re talking about a career here.
Ready to Sign Your First Playing Contract? Get my FREE book, The Overseas Basketball Blueprint Here
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