Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich Says Foreign Hoops Players Are 'Fundamentally Harder Working'
As you might have suspected, this is not a coincidence. In a brilliant and revealing
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But to spend time inside the Spurs organization today is to uncover another interpretation of the Spurs dynasty: that as America's youth basketball pipeline has produced a type of player that Pop has no interest in coaching, he has found an advantage not only in targeting international players but in avoiding domestic ones.
Buford had lived much of what he read. With two sons who recently played college basketball and rose through the AAU scene, Buford has had a floor seat to the yawning divide in how the game is taught in America and overseas. In AAU, anyone who pays a $16 fee and finishes a background check and an online clinic can coach. In the FIBA club system in Europe, although requirements vary from country to country, coaches must earn various licenses, which often require them to complete intensive training, covering everything from X's and O's to nutrition. The U.S. has the NCAA serving as a conflicted arbiter of both the players' time and money; there is no pretense of amateurism overseas, and for better or worse, practices often last hours longer than our regulated college ones. The Spurs, of course, are not in the business of worrying about the demands on a student-athlete's time and saw it as a plus that guys like Ginobili and Parker had been playing club basketball since they were teenagers, schooled by accredited coaches, the 10,000-hour rule brought to the hardwood. Consider Pop's brutal assessment that foreign players are "fundamentally harder working than most American kids," and it's no wonder the Spurs want to avoid the fate of so many NBA teams, which are, as Buford says, "the end of the road for the developmental habits that are built in the less-structured environment in the U.S."
Most of the foreign players not only have more experience playing basketball but more experience playing an unselfish style, with lots of passing and motion and screens, as messy as it is pure. As Spurs director of basketball operations Sean Marks, a New Zealander who played for San Antonio for two seasons, puts it, "The ball doesn't stick." For better or worse, the ball often sticks in America. A few months ago, Pop was scouting an opponent. He won't say which one. On video, Pop saw an international player wide open for a shot, with a confused look on his face. That's because his point guard, an American, was dribbling in circles. "It has to be a really different experience for him," Pop says, laughing. " 'Where am I? Is this is a different game? Is it a different sport?' "
The traits he scouts for -- players with "character," who've "gotten over themselves, who understand team play, who can cheer for a teammate," who "don't make excuses" -- hold true regardless of nationality.
when Pop looks at American talent he sees many players who "have been coddled since eighth, ninth, 10th grade by various factions or groups of people. But the foreign kids don't live with that. So they don't feel entitled," he says, noting how many clubs work on fundamentals in two-a-day practices, each lasting up to three hours. "Now, you can't paint it with too wide of a brush, but in general, that's a fact."
There is a lot more in this article, but this may give you a good idea of how Danny Ferry is going to build this team.
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