Portsmouth Preview: Interview with an NBA Scout

Portsmouth Preview: Interview with an NBA Scout
Apr 07, 2005, 04:02 am
Continuing our Portsmouth preview, another interview, this time with an NBA scout who was kind enough to give us his insights on what he personally looks for in a tournament like Portsmouth, some general thoughts on the art of scouting, and how NBA teams approach scouting a camp like the PIT.

Jonathan Givony: Hi there Mr. anonymous scout. Thanks for giving us your time. How do you think this year's Portsmouth roster compares to last year's?

NBA Scout: I don't have last year's roster in front of me here, how many kidsthere was an abnormal number of kids that got drafted last year from Portsmouth, right?

JG: Well there's a couple that got drafted, and another bunch that made the league undrafted through free agency as well. Talking about Erik Daniels, Tony Bobbitand then a couple did get drafted like Antonio Burks, Royal Ivey, Jackson Vroman, Luis Flores. Maybe ten came outta there?

NBA Scout: Right right. More than usual. So to reproduce that will be hard to do. Because of the success of all the kids last year, that to me was not a typical recent history of PIT.

JG: I guess another thing to keep in mind is that the roster looked pretty damn good when it was posted on Friday, but from what we've been hearing there are already a whole bunch that pulled out. So maybe its not fair to compare until the final roster comes out, I betcha last year's preliminary roster looked pretty damn good, but I wasn't following as closely so I'm not sure.

NBA Scout: Yeah, we'll have to wait and see what happens.

JG: As an NBA scout, how excited are you every year to go to Portsmouth?

NBA Scout: Personally I'm excited because it gives you an opportunity to see kids that you may not have gotten to see and you get to see them in an environment outside of their own where they are not in a system that is suited for them to be successful. They have to into a more raw environment. Where the stakes are pretty high.

JG: So you think that pressure filled atmosphere is a good way to evaluate a player's skills?

Scout: I think its an additional way to learn about them. If you watch tape of them, or you've seen them throughout the year, now you have another bit of information to combine with what you have from their history as a college player, and in some instances, as a high school player.

JG: What do you look for in a player in a situation like that? Anything specific that maybe you can't see in a regular college game?

Scout: You just try to see if the things that they do in their regular environment, if they translate that into our level. We try to do that in the college setting as well, but that doesn't always work because the coaches will have them do things that will be best for the team to win. Where as here [Portsmouth], the players are often more competitive and they might have to play in a position that they are not always comfortable in, but you get to see if they can do it. Whether its playing on the perimeter, defensively, sometimes teams like to play a lot of zone, you won't really see that at the PIT. They'll have to play man to man so you get to see whether guys can guard on the perimeter. A lot of different variables and situations you get to see that you won't see in a regular college season.

JG: Are they going to run sets that are more similar to what we see in the NBA? Because it seems that college plays and NBA plays are often two different things altogether. Is that what they try to replicate more?

Scout: I don't know that they are running offenses that are as sophisticated as what some of the NBA teams run, but I will say that more so for me at least, it's a function of being not as watered down. Its one of the ways, of course Chicago is another example of it, but you get more underclassmen involved. Now you get to cut away the other fringe players. Hopefully this group is one the better groups, or one of the better last groups you'll see before its time to start making decisions. I don't know if that makes sense?

JG: Oh I think it does. You don't have a lot of the fringe guys, a lot of the guys who play hard but maybe don't have a whole lot of talent or the physical attributes of others on the court, they make up for it in other ways, but its hard to guess whether someone's game translates against players like that. Supposedly this is the most talented group of seniors they could put together, so it should be a very competitive environment, with excellent defenders all around that can really challenge some of these guys and bring out things that we didn't see in them if they were maybe playing in a weaker conference. And of course these guys will be playing their hearts out to prove that they have a spot in the NBA.

Scout: Exactly. And that's the other thing that you just said that is most valuable about a camp like this, you get to see guysjust to see how hard they play. Because if they aren't going to play hard in this environment, giving the maximum of what they have and just trying their best to show what they can do, your probably not going to get them to do it anywhere else either. For a lot of these kids it's their last chance, and they won't have many opportunities like this where you get a guaranteed all 30 teams consolidated in one gym for 3-4 days. Those chances are rare.

JG: How does the fact that the Nike Hoop Summit is going on at the same time affect your team's scouting?

Scout: That makes the scouting department, actually all 30 teams, it makes us have to be quite creative. If you've got more than one person on your staff, you can be pretty creative with scouting the two events.

JG: Are most teams going to cut the staff in half and send half here and half there, or are they going to be sending people back and forth constantly, making tapes? I'm trying to think how they can do it, it seems like a logistical nightmare going back and forth from Memphis to Portsmouth everyday.

Scout: That's a great question, I couldn't begin to tell you, other than I would be shocked if every team didn't have people at both places and at different times, simultaneously at both places, something like that. My guess, because this is all I'm doing at this point, standing in the dark, would be that the teams will be sure to cover themselves for both events.

JG: Ryan Blake was telling me that they are going to make DVD's for the games and hand them out to the teams as well as send them in the mail. Seems like a great idea.

Scout: Yeah, they are an unbelievable resource and do a great service for the teams, helping them make sure that we can do our jobs to the best of our abilities.

JG: This is going to be my first time at the camp, and to be honest, I am kind of nervous. At every single game, and there will be a ton of them I imagine, there will be 8 players on each team that are all basically NBA prospects. That means 16 players that need to be scouted for each game. To me its hard watching a game where there are 4 or 5 draft prospects on the floor because I like to focus in on one guy, and just follow him and him only--on the ball, off the ball--everything he does basically on both ends of the court, and also take a look at him on the bench, in timeouts, just to see how he carries himself. That's not easy to do over 40 minutes I've found just from a standpoint of maintaining your focus. How do you personally go about scouting an event with such a large number of prospects in a small time?

Scout: What you say is absolutely right, it's a little difficult because if you focus in on one or two people you might miss out on what someone else can do. So hopefully you can eliminate the players that you aren't excited about sooner or later, but you run the risk because if you don't see a guy in the first couple of days you may not be around later or you see him eliminated and he's actually pretty good, so at some level, it can be hit or miss based on the number of games that the person wins. But that's where you have a staff that's more than one person, because the more eyes you have watching, the more opportunity you have to make sure you don't miss something.

JG: So at the end of each day do you guys have a meeting and talk over what you just saw? Just trying to get a feel for how the actual NBA teams go about scouting this.

Scout: I think from team to team it varies. It depends on the structure of their leadership and where they are as an organization. There isn't really one way or system that all teams go in and do the event by. The most important thing is to make sure that you see all the guys competing on the floor against one another.

JG: Without giving away your sleepers, are there any players you are particularly excited about seeing in person, maybe someone you haven't seen this year or haven't gotten a chance to see enough?

Scout: That's a great question and without giving away any sleepers Jonathan, because it's a great question, I'm often personally looking to see what a lot of the guys that have been in some of the big time programs, what they are like in this environment and how they respond to being outside of a big time program. Because these are guys that you hear a lot about, you get to see more than is on TV. And then of course some of the players from the smaller schools that you've either been out to see, or you've read about, gotten information about, its nice to see them compete against guys that are lets say more highly touted coming into this event.

JG: I don't know if you can answer this, but I'll try anyway, who do you think is going to be this year's Willie Green or Flip Murray, someone that is just going to jump on to the radar that people just weren't sure about before?

Scout: No one in particular. I think there are numerous guys that can come in and be a Jackson Vroman or a Willie Green like you said, but here's a good answer for that, each year you go in wondering who that guy is going to be the Willie Green this year? You have to come with an open mind, because the minute you start eliminating guys or focus in one way there is someone else that you might be missing. I think that something that is tough, I don't know if you'll be going this way with your question, but you look at a guy like Jackie Manuel who just came off winning a national title, and I'm not sure if he's even going to stay on the list, let's assume he is, guys like that its tough, because you come off such an emotional high and then all of a sudden within a week you are in Portsmouth playing for the extension of your career.

JG: Within a day really, cause tomorrow (Wednesday) he is going to get on a flight for Virginia. It's gotta be tough.

Scout: That's always interesting for me, to see a guy coming off a national championship, to see how they respond. Last year Taliek Brown did it.

JG: So if a player came up to you before one of the games and asked: what are some of the things that I need to show in order to prove that I'm a legit NBA player? How would you answer that?

Scout: If someone came up I would be most interested in things that translate to the NBA. For PG's it would be things that a PG can do, and so forth and so on. If a guy is a 6-8 post guy, then he's have to show that he can do things beyond just scoring around the basket because chances are if you are successful in college at that, you may not be as successful in the pros. It depends on the position and where he plays. If he's in lets say a less competitive conference, he needs to show that he can compete with or be a step better than some of the higher level players. For each player it changes depending on who he is and what he brought to the table to get himself this far.

I still think it's an honor to even be selected, I would tell him that too. When you think of the numbers, that I don't have, we're talking about 320 schools, and who knows how many seniors on each team. Do the math, even its 2-3 seniors on each team, and we're not even talking about the D-2 and the D-3 you are talking about a lot of kids, and only 64 of them are invited here. So you are still in an elite group and you still have some work to do.

JG: I definitely agree with that. I'm not sure it should be viewed as such a negative, I mean its easy for me to say, but I kind of wish that they would just be able to convince all the best players to come out at once, because that's essentially what the players and agents are afraid of. They don't want them competing in this event and for that to be viewed as a negative, as if they are putting themselves in a lesser group of players in terms where they are ranked so to speak. I can understand the NBA's frustration. Ryan Blake was telling me that the NBA wants to see players that WANT to play, that want to compete. So how do you see that? If a player that you want to see decides to pull out, how much of a negative is that for you?

Scout: It varies. It depends on the player. I don't think you can judge because each situation is different. I think a good example are the players like Erik Daniels and the others you mentioned a moment agoit's a process these kids go through, and it may or may not happen through the draft, your big day may not be at the PIT or Chicago, but you if you stick with it, and you're good enough, the NBA at some point will find you.

JG: Right. So a guy pulling out, you don't take that as a negative thing. You understand where he is coming from?

Scout: I would say it depends on the situation. Each player is different. I don't think you can have one answer and say, yes, if a guy pulls out, we take that as a negative, if he doesn't pull out, that's a positive. It's not that simple. It depends on the player and the situation. I try to take the roster for what it is, because there is no telling who may or may not show up. It's not good to come in thinking this guy should be here, this guy shouldn't. I just personally take it for what it is, whoever shows up, shows up. Regardless of what happens I'll be there to observe the event. Just take it for what its worth and move on.

JG: I think you pretty much answered all my questions. You gave me some great answers, especially the ones about how you go about scouting the kids that are actually there. That's going to come in handy.

Scout: OK Jonathan, I hope that helped.

JG: It sure did. I'll see you at Portsmouth.

Scout: Sure thing. You know I'll be there (laughs)

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