If you’re reading this you’re most likely interested in playing professionally overseas or just simply curious about the whole process. This post may seem a bit lengthy, but it has some very vital information for you guys! I timed myself and it only took 16 minutes to read lol.
My name is Corin Adams better known in the basketball world as Tiny/TA9. I’ve been playing professionally overseas since 2010. I’ve played in Puerto Rico, Portugal, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Sweden, Czech Republic, Chile, and Switzerland. Throughout my career I’ve been through damn near everything you can think of. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Making it in this basketball world has been a roller coaster for me. It’s been very eventful and actually lead to me releasing my autobiography. The purpose of the book, much like this blog post is, to help my fellow hoop dreamers through this transition and also to help you guys learn from my mistakes.You can ask any overseas professional basketball player, there’s always something(s) they wish someone would’ve told them prior to beginning their careers. Based on the person, you’ll get a number of different answers. I’m going to do my best to touch on as much as I possibly can. If you’re interested in reading about more in depth experiences and explanations, you can purchase my book entitled “Tiny Setbacks, Major Comebacks: From Brooklyn To Europe” on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
For most of you, your college careers are unfortunately coming to an end. If you’ve made it as far as the collegiate level, it’s safe to say you’re very passionate about playing basketball. So passionate that you don’t necessarily want your senior night to be your last game. You want to continue to play and after all the years you put in, you want to get payed for it. After college your options of playing are WNBA/NBA, Overseas, Semi-Pro, or recreational. For the majority of you guys – overseas seems to be the most realistic option. So your first few questions are most likely – How do I actually get overseas? What is it like playing in a foreign country?
Traditionally the most common way to get overseas is via an agent. An agent will basically market you to teams and General Managers with hopes they will sign you over the other thousands of players pitched to them. Although thats the most common way, its not the only way. For the first couple of years of my career I was my own agent. I attended exposure camps and also sent my resume out to teams myself. If you don’t have an agent you have to basically get your own exposure. Beware of exposure camps. Most are scams. There are a lot of people in this world looking to come up off of the fact that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make your dream a reality. Some camps promise to have scouts in the stands, or stream the camp worldwide to their ‘partners’ overseas, but never do. Make sure you do your research and ask to speak to peope who attended in the past and got signed as a result of attending. The camps I attended didn’t necessarily get me a job but I met an agent there who actually helped me get my first job in Europe. In addition to getting yourself some exposure, you have to also network. I knew the camp was a waste once I got there but I made sure I got everyone’s contact info and sent them all of my film and stats. It payed off, but I would’ve much rather saved $2000 lol.
The way overseas basically works in a nutshell is teams all over the world sign a certain amount of import players to help them compete in whatever league they are participating in. Some countries allow more imports than others. Some allow 1, some allow 2, and some even allow as many as 5. With that being said the first thing I tell most people who ask me for advice/help is that these teams are not looking for role players. These teams are looking to bring in players that will dominate and help carry their team. To put it in perspective and I’m not trying to throw any shade but say there’s a team in Spain looking for players to help them contend in their league. Why would they pay someone thousands of dollars per month to set screens and score 2.7 points per game? That’s just not a smart business move on their part. At the end of the day, for these teams- it’s all about winning. The more you win, the more sponsors you get. The more sponsors you get, the more money everyone gets. And we all know it’s always about the money!
Now let me back track to the agent thing. An agent’s job is to send your highlights, full game film, and profile (stats and accolades throughout your career) to coaches and General Managers all over the world. Similar to how hard it is to get a full scholarship – getting a deal overseas is just as hard. It’s a competitive market. You have rookies, veterans, WNBA/NBA players, and natives all competing for the same 2-5 contracts per team. Unfortunately, if you’re not a D1 player, that makes things twice as hard. These coaches and General Managers don’t believe in the whole ‘diamond in the rough’ thing. You have to truly be outstanding to have them consider signing you if you didn’t play D1 or even College Basketball for that matter. It’s not impossible, but extremely hard.
One thing you have to consider is: when your agent sends your stuff to these teams, there are 100s of other agents doing the exact same thing. Once a team says “hey we need a PG that can run the team, but also score”, they are going to receive 100s of names. So referring back to what I stated if you’re stats and accolades aren’t up to par, they’re going to most likely put you at the bottom of the ‘pile’. Now there are other factors that come into play when teams make their final decision. Say your stats aren’t that great but your film and highlights are very intriguing, that can spark some interest. Or say you actually went to a well respected school, or that team has a relationship with your agent, or when it came down to it you were willing to accept a cheaper salary than the other ppl they were considering. There’s a lot that comes into play, but at the end of the day you have to be marketable as a player.
The two most important things I’d say are picking your agent and learning how to be patient.Just off of what I’ve said so far, you can see why. Coming out of college I lacked patience and didn’t know any better, so I picked a lot of the wrong agents. My first agent turned out to not even be certified. Even though she actually worked very hard for me, she had no credentials. (You can verify whether or not an agent is certified on www.FIBA.com). This was her first year and she hadn’t quite completed the certification process, so after teams figured this out they stopped responding to her (WNBA teams included). My second agent was a top notch, well known agent out of Cyprus. One thing I didn’t pay attention to was the fact that there were American agents and agents abroad. When I graduated so many people contacted me about representation. I simply didn’t know how to pick. There are both some amazing American agents and amazing agents abroad. But most of the time the American agents have agents abroad that are their partners. So some would say it’s best to just simply go with an agent abroad and cut the middle man out. But in some cases it just depends. But that’s just something to keep in mind. My agent from Cyprus was ‘the man’, but we rarely ever spoke. My first “agent” that wasn’t certified updated me on her every move. “Hey Tiny, I contacted the LA Sparks today, a few teams from Spain and this was their response”. With my agent from Cyprus I’d hear from him every few weeks like “Hey Tiny, there’s a team extremely interested in you, but it’s between you and a WNBA player”. Now c’mon – I’m a rookie, 5’6 guard from a MEAC (low mid-major conference) school sir, who do you think they’re going to go with? At first I would be optimistic like “well I averaged 20ppg and 5apg my senior year and that WNBA guard only averages 2 points and 1 assist”. But the reality of the situation is that that ‘WNBA stamp’ on your resume goes a loooongg way. I know I said they’re not looking for role players, but to them that’s great for their organization to say they have a former or current WNBA player. It’s great for marketing and even makes their team more attractive. Most people around the world believe the WNBA’s players are the best of the best. So a player that’s averaging 49ppg may get overlooked because of the known WNBA player from the big college. Like every other industry, there’s always politics.
After continuously getting snubbed for deals I also realized that since my agent was ‘the man’, he didn’t necessarily associate with the teams I was more likely to get signed by. He had a lot of WNBA clients and top players. Meaning his contacts were in the top leagues like Russia, Turkey, Israel etc. I just simply needed to get my foot in the door, I didn’t need to be placed in those countries. But he didn’t really communicate with foot in the door teams. So without burning that bridge, I terminated the contract with him because he just simply wasn’t the right agent for me. You have to do your best to make sure your agent is best for you and the type of player you are. You don’t want to just sign with someone just because. You want to make sure they have your best interest in mind. Because at the end of the day this is your representation and you want to make sure they’re representing you right. You also don’t want to burn bridges because most agents work together or just simply know each other.The same way players talk, agents talk. So you don’t want anyone to have anything bad to say about you. In the long run you don’t want that to harm your chances of getting signed later down the line. Although I have a lot of horror stories in regards to how overseas life is, I’m going to do my best to give you the most non-biased picture I can lol. Everyone’s experience will be different, but it’ll also be VERY similar.
The average team has 3 imports. 2 Americans and another player from a different country other than the country the team is playing in. The average contract consists of housing, wifi, cable, certain amount of meals per day, transportation, a round trip ticket to go home over the Christmas break, and a monthly salary. Depending on the team’s budget you’ll live by yourself or with the other imports. Sometimes teams simply can’t afford to cover your meals or a car but for the most part teams give you a couple meals a week and a car. Also depending on the country, the car won’t be automatic. You’ll end up having to learn how to drive a stick shift or make your way around on public transportation.
Another important fact you guys NEED to know is that you should almost never have to personally pay your agent out of pocket. No matter what your agent’s percentage is – the TEAM pays the agent. Now a days a lot of agents are being sneaky and making double by charging their clients and the teams their fee. Some of them call it a placement fee. And some of them have even begun to try and charge for highlights and stuff. But come on that’s their job. Your agent works for you! Always remember that. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your self and make whatever necessary demands you need to.
So now (hypothetically speaking) your contract is squared away and you’re on your way over them waters. Some necessities to bring with you are a laptop, sling box, seasonings to cook, things like pancake mix, syrup (cause they don’t have them in certain countries), beauty products, an adapter for the outlets (their outlets have different holes. but you can also get that in those countries), apps on your phone to stay in touch with your friends and family back home like social media, Skype, face time, whatsapp etc. When you get overseas you’ll actually begin to realize how many things you use on a day to day basis in America that you took for granted. The number one thing you’re gonna miss is a dryer. 95% of players and people overseas hang dry their clothes. Dryers are rarely used. So unless you know how to get that fabric softener popping, prepare for hard ashy clothes. Unless you have an international plan like what T mobile offers, you’ll quickly learn how important wifi is. Wifi is life for overseas athletes. Without wifi you’re disconnected from the world.
The rest of your team will be made up of the native players. In some cases they will be very young and/or very old. One thing I had to learn is: overseas isn’t necessarily professional basketball to EVERYONE on your team. Most of your teammates will have their own lives going on. Like school , work, and family. Your team may not even be a priority to some of your teammates. Some of your teammates may not even be getting paid, they may just be playing for fun. You may be in practice and your teammate may be 15 years old. Sometimes it’s hard for teams to find enough bodies to have 10 in practice. With that being said, your team may not have any production from the bench. Be prepared to play 40 minutes every night. Unlike America there’s no age limit for playing on a pro team. So you may have to play with or against teenagers on a daily basis. Some are a little advanced, but they’re young. You have to also be open minded if and when they mess up or don’t play too well.
Some of you will be on top notch teams and won’t have to worry about that. It will feel like college. Competitive practices. Everyone taking it serious, working hard, happy to be there. Others will be on those mediocre teams where they’re looking to blame you for loses and wins. It may be you and your fellow imports vs 5 every night. But that’s the job. So you have to mentally prepare for that pressure.One thing you’ll quickly realize is that they do things a lot different from how you’re used to. MOST of it wont make any sense lol but you have to remain professional. You might know for a fact your coach is terrible and telling you to do the wrong thing, but you just have to shake your head yes and when the time comes to do it in the game do what you know is right.
Just because you have a contract you have to understand that if you’re not performing well or well enough these teams will get rid of you. There are thousands of players waiting for their shot, so the tolerance for under achieving is very low. Yes it’s a lot of pressure, but hey this is professional basketball. The same way Lebron gets ridiculed for not performing, so will you. Some teams are more professional than others. But most, sad to say move very shady. So another important thing is making sure you look out for yourself. If you allow them to, they will get over on you. If your team isn’t honoring your contract, you have the right to not practice or play until they do so.
Stay tuned for Part II…