The NBA is partnering with a group led by agent Warren LeGarie to rescue one of the pillars of international scouting in the wake of the FBI investigation that has rocked college basketball and sent Adidas scrambling to rethink the makeup of its involvement in grassroots hoops.
Adidas will take a step back for at least a year and withdraw its support from three influential basketball programs, according to sources associated with the company. That includes the EuroCamp (founded in 2003), Adidas Nations and the PATH program, which only started last year but already managed to reel in 13 of the 24 players eventually named to the 2018 McDonald's All American Game.
To fill the void, Legarie and Albert Hall, who co-founded the NBA summer league in Las Vegas, are teaming with NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe to salvage the EuroCamp.
Stripped of sneaker affiliation, the EuroCamp will be rebranded as the NBA Elite International Camp, held June 2-5 in Treviso, Italy.
Key to the NBA's involvement in this venture is making sure the camp delivers the information front offices need in their draft decision-making process. That will likely include medical info, interviews, measurements, athletic testing and scrimmages refereed by NBA-trained officials.
"As a GM, I found that it can be very difficult at times to get good information about prospects internationally," VanDeWeghe told ESPN. "It can be difficult to meet them, difficult to find time to sit down and to get to know them. Even to watch them play at times. Many don't always play a ton of minutes with their team. This is about giving teams access to the players and making sure that they have the information they want, and making sure all teams have equal opportunity to get to know these players."
The NBA draft combine in Chicago (May 16-20) provides a ready-made template for the international version to follow, which the league is calling a pilot program.
The key components now are getting buy-in from NBA and international agents, as well as clubs who hold the players' rights. The inclusion of Maurizio Gherardini should help, as he lends his expertise and reputation to the event. Gherardini is a European basketball icon and general manager of Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, as well as one of the original founders of the Reebok EuroCamp and its predecessor, the Euro Big Man Camp.
The EuroCamp's placement on the NBA calendar, just days before the early entry withdrawal deadline (June 11) and a few weeks before the draft, has traditionally made it a significant draw for executives.
Without the restriction of sneaker affiliations, the NBA Elite International Camp should now have a much bigger pool of prospects to choose from. It won't be hampered by the politics that prevented high-level European prospects from participating in recent years, which lessened the prestige of the camp.
The NBA will select the players invited in a process similar to the draft combine, with all 30 teams being asked to submit a list of preferred candidates.
"Most of the top prospects are pretty well-known," VanDeWeghe told ESPN. "We intend to invite somewhere between 40-50 kids. Those prospects we'll take from team suggestions, as well as utilizing our contacts to make sure we're getting the top prospects that teams want to see. We'll be making sure that we work with the top agents in Europe."
In the past 10 years, 73 EuroCamp participants have been selected in the NBA draft, making it one of the most fruitful events for NBA teams to scout anywhere on the globe. The list of participants is notable and includes Goran Dragic, Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela, Isaiah Thomas and Brandon Ingram.
"Twenty-five percent of our league are international players," VanDeWeghe told ESPN. "Some of the best players in the NBA are internationals. That will only grow. It's a big world. The NBA is expanding globally. That's an important part. We're invested in academies around the world; we have seven of those currently. Having the ability to spread the knowledge of basketball, to provide great training against great competition -- this is a natural part of that."
The NBA Elite International Camp, which will be streamed online, will also give the league another platform to provide its academies with the exposure and competition the players need for development.
One of the biggest hurdles facing the seven NBA academies in Australia, China, India, Senegal and Mexico City is the fact that they don't play competitive games regularly within their countries' leagues. The NBA is exploring sending a roster of elite academy members to Treviso, which would allow them to be tested against the world's best players in their age group, while also potentially serving as a means to recruit future prospects.
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