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RBK Treviso Eurocamp Epilogue: A Meeting With Pete Philo

RBK Treviso Eurocamp Epilogue: A Meeting With Pete Philo
Aug 17, 2006, 09:30 pm
In the calmness of the summertime, just waiting for the World Championships action to start, it's a good moment to take a look a couple of months back and reproduce a meeting we had with Reebok Eurocamp director Pete Philo, in order to discuss stuff from the camp itself as well as what concerns international basketball in general. This interview took part during the final day of the camp in Treviso. We joined Pete Philo during his coffee break. He looked exhausted, but kindly answered all our questions.

Luis Fernández: How the camp has gone? Are you satisfied with this year’s edition?

Pete Philo: Extremely satisfied.

Luis Fernández: How has the feedback been from the scouts?

Pete Philo: To me, everybody seems to be pretty happy. You know, it’s always successful when there are players here that people didn’t expect to see and didn’t expect to play well, as well as seeing players that they wanted to see to help evaluate for the draft.

Luis Fernández: Any unfulfilled wishes for this edition?

Pete Philo: Of course. You have some players you expected to come, and we had a couple that committed to us to come two months ago and then pull out late, which is unfortunate. I just hope that, at the end of the day, it’s the right decision for the kids. At the end, it’s the kids who are going to suffer, so...

Luis Fernández: What about the supposed lack of first-round material. Do you agree here?

Pete Philo: What you have each year, no matter what camp anywhere, whether is ABCD, whether its Orlando, whether is the Reebok Eurocamp, you have one-year away guys. The players you’re seeing this year, many of them will be drafted next year, and to me, to see them all in one place is a very interesting scenario. I think there are a few here that, you know, can be drafted in the first round for sure.

Luis Fernández: What is the process to recruit players for the Eurocamp?

Pete Philo: It’s not so much of recruiting players. The first and second year it was more of a recruiting process, because you had to get the word out, get the people aware of what the actual camp was about. Now, everyone knows what it is, so they call and they want to help, put their players in or suggest players. We basically scout all year around. I have a group of scouts that work for me around the world. And then of course NBA scouts sometimes want to see certain players. So there’s a dialogue between many people.

Luis Fernández: For how long has the Treviso Eurocamp been running?

Pete Philo: This is the fourth year.

Luis Fernández: What are the main changes that the Eurocamp has seen since its first steps?

Pete Philo: Well, hotel space (laughs). When an event like this gets so big, you have more requests, you have more people coming, the media, more agents, scouts, fans in general. Now we have national teams that want to come in and play us to help prepare them for the U-20 European Championships, so a lot of people are starting to come. I believe we had representatives from twenty Euroleague teams here yesterday, as well as all thirty NBA teams.

Luis Fernández: Yes, actually there were plenty of Spanish scouts in the gym.

Pete Philo: Yes, which in the past there were maybe one or two from Spain. Yesterday I think there were many, which I think is absolutely wonderful.

Luis Fernández: In hindsight, which are the players you think have benefited the most from past editions of the camp?

Pete Philo: I think Johan Petro really helped himself. If you remember correctly there were a lot of people that were a little unsure about Petro going into that draft, which made him a potential second round pick. I thought he played really well in the camp and that made him have some interest in the first round, get selected for a nice team and now he’s the starting center for them.

Luis Fernández: This year the average age of the participants in the camp went up, with there not being any player here born later than 1987. Is it a new policy?

Pete Philo: We wanted to use the draft eligible years. This year is 1984 to 1987, and as you see, we have a very interesting group of 1987 born players. So for the scouts I think it’s a unique set where they can see the 86s and 87s that may not be in the draft this year, but will be in next years’ draft, and you have them, and it’s good to get to see them at this age. Maybe they’ll come back next year and we’ll see them again, so I think it was a good idea to stay with draft eligible kids. Because if you take an 84 born kid and you play him with some 88 or 89 there’s too much of a strength difference and experience difference for the youngsters to really compete.

Luis Fernández: You work for the Timberwolves, right?

Pete Philo: Yes

Luis Fernández: Does it interfere with your work here at the Eurocamp?

Pete Philo: No. Business as usual. I come here I do the job, it’s an NBA setting.

Luis Fernández: Don’t you ever have the temptation of hiding a player?

Pete Philo: No, not at all. You can’t do that. It’s unethical. At the end of the day, what makes Pete Philo tick is helping the kids. At the end of the day is all gonna come out in the wash, you know; players are going to play their way into a draft position and players are playing themselves out. I like to give everybody a chance and go from there.

Luis Fernández: Don’t you think there’s something perverted in this type of camp setting, that has more to do with markets than sports, individualism over winning and players end up exhibiting themselves?

Pete Philo: You can say that, but if you watch camps, once you put the basketball in the players’ hands, no matter if there’s an NBA scout in the gym or if there’s no NBA scouts: some players will play exactly the same, some are selfish, some unselfish. The interesting part in basketball games are instincts. If you pass me the ball and I see a cutter, on instincts, I have to either pass, shoot, cut, put the ball on the floor and dribble. Now, there will be some players that will maybe do things that they shouldn’t be doing to try and help themselves, but we give a speech at the very beginning and tell them, if that happens you’re probably end up hurting yourselves because you do things you can’t really do, so play basketball, play it to win, pass and move the ball, because that’s basketball. So, you know, it’s gonna happen a little bit, but I think that the way we put in the camp on things you see, you have each coach also uses a couple of offenses that they’re putting themselves, I think there’s a lot of passing and cutting, I really do. I think it’s pretty nice.

Luis Fernández: How has international scouting changed in the past 20 years?

Pete Philo: You know, the world is getting smaller, with technology and with you writing (laughs), but no matter what you write, no matter what everybody else writes, each scout has to get out and do their work. Technologies and evolution have their part in life. I think international basketball, in some countries, it’s now starting to suffer, other countries are starting to flourish. It’s just evolution again, it just happens. How they get to come back around? This next year, I think there are some very nice young prospects but, you know, you’re not gonna find as many mistakes as you had in the past or trickery, let’s say, moving forward.

Luis Fernández: Do you think that the massive influx of international players to the NBA is affecting the international leagues?

Pete Philo: Of course it is. However, this is life, this is basketball and there are some teams that are trying to change their methods, I’m talking about international teams now, how they, let’s say, sell players or do things. I don’t like how some players are being affected by this. But, keeping that in mind, it’s just part of the business.

Luis Fernández: What’s your opinion of getting so many young players to the NBA with little to no experience in high level competition?

Pete Philo: I don’t agree with it at all. In fact, these players need to play, but it’s a business, you know, and in any business you want to have assets to grow your business. But, that being said, that is also coming full circle. I believe we went to a couple of years when young players were drafted and started their development and now you’re seeing the trend turn the other way now. I think older players are talked to be drafted in the next couple of years rather than the young ones, and if they are the young ones, I think they maybe get to the second round where they can continue some other career in Europe and continue to develop. I think that’s not a bad plan. I don’t like them sitting on the bench as obviously it really hurts their development.

Luis Fernández: Are there real team practices in NBA teams during the season?

Pete Philo: Of course, I’ll tell you what, that’s a big misconception now. Our NBA teams work very very hard. Each team has one or two development coaches where they’re working with the players…

Luis Fernández: I don’t mean individual work, but team practices, with five-on-five sets, where the players can get used to the game.

Pete Philo: Absolutely. Still there’s something…, when the lights come on, is a totally different scenario. Ok, no matter where you are in the world, or what level you’re playing at. When the lights come on, the referees are there, the fans are there, it’s a different ball.

Luis Fernández: Do you think the NBDL will help these really young kids?

Pete Philo: Sure, absolutely. It really can. I believe in that system and I think, utilized correctly, it will definitely help. Absolutely.

Luis Fernández: Don’t you think NBA teams underestimate the ability of European teams to develop players? They don’t seem to keen on letting them developing here.

Pete Philo: When you say the NBA, it doesn’t mean that team A is exactly like team B…

Luis Fernández: Yeah, well, generally speaking.

Pete Philo: So I think that’s a very situational basis. So to answer that I would say, possibly some, but I would think the majority are in favor of and understand the European system.

Luis Fernández: How about the recent trend of signing veteran free agents from Europe? Do you is it going to last?

Pete Philo: The good news is, the Olympics and the World Championships bring ourselves together almost on an even playing field where we can evaluate their real ability against our Olympic athletes, and it gives us chances to compare and contrast. You know? I think people are not afraid to pull the trigger anymore. The guy can play and help a team, they are gonna do it. Absolutely.

Luis Fernández: Many people think that, although less athletic, European basketball has more quality than the NBA. What’s your opinion? Not that it’s stronger, of course.

Pete Philo: The NBA is the best league in the world and always will be. Of course, respecting the level of European basketball…

Luis Fernández: Tactical-wise also?

Pete Philo: Yes... I mean, tactically it’s different. We have different rules, we have different rotations, we have different concepts. However, that doesn’t make one or the other better.

Luis Fernández: With so many stars who are so powerful, do you think it’s possible for coaches to display good tactical teams?

Pete Philo: Have you ever been to an NBA practice?

Luis Fernández: No, but I watch games.

Pete Philo: You need to go. You would be amazed with how tactical it really is. You know, you watch the games and you might see a lot of one-on-one play, but there are a lot of schemes, a lot of tactical approach, and honestly, you need to go to a NBA practice and check it out. Because what’s gonna happen is, the next time you watch a NBA game, especially that team that you watched, you’ll say to yourself, wow, ok they just worked on that set, you thought that was a one-on-one pick but it’s an actual set, ok?

Luis Fernández: Regardless, don’t you the NBA would be benefited from a more team-oriented approach? Something in the line of what European teams do?

Pete Philo: Yes and no. I think like I’ve said before, the NBA is a different game than the European game; we have a different game. Of course it can help and it can hurt. I mean, our coaches don’t get enough credit; our NBA coaches are the best in the world. They work so hard and they are so good, they come up with schemes and offensive plays, defensive schemes and responsibilities fitted for their team. And you know what? If there was some magical formula in Europe, they would use it.

Luis Fernández: How can you assume that the NBA coaches are the best ones when there’s nobody there coming from outside America?

Pete Philo: I guess it’s my opinion from my experience.

Luis Fernández: It looked to me that Messina’s chat today was a sort of statement about passing game opposed to the more one-on-one oriented NBA style.

[Current and three-time Euroleague champion coach Ettore Messina had given an excellent chat about passing during the mourning to the camp participants, stressing that the last Euroleague winner teams were all good passing teams].

Pete Philo: Not at all. In fact, we discussed what he was going to talk about, he asked me, and I though it was a great thing to do with passing. In fact, a lot of the stuff that he taught today we use in the NBA all the time. There are certain ways to enter passes and certain ways people will call and need to receive the pass in order to get a shot open clearly. We discuss that everyday in our practices.

Luis Fernández: Do you think the US Team will win the World Championship this time around?

Pete Philo: I sure hope so. I think USA Basketball has done some good things in the past couple of months to change some things and move forward. I think we’ll do a much better job.

Luis Fernández: What do you think were the main problems of the latest US squads?

Pete Philo: I think it’s a combination of not competing against our opponents and not knowing our opponents. If you know your opponent when you go into a fight, you have a better chance to beat him. At the end of the day, that’s what it is, and I think if we know our opponents and we can understand European basketball a little bit better, which I think we’re starting to, I think it can give us a better chance. It has nothing to do with the players; we have enough talent every time we assemble teams.

Luis Fernández: That’s all Pete. Thanks for your time.

Pete Philo: Thank you very much.

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