I have sent out my Head Coach, Coach Franck Belen to France, partly because he needed to touch some French soil, eat duck and reacquaint with people he knows that speaks his language. I gave coach Franck some homework to do asked him an important question that he needed to find some answers. The question I believe most aspiring South African Basketball players want to know is, “How does a South African play or turn professional in Europe and is there any money in it?
Coach Franck having coach several professional teams in Europe though it would be best to ask him friend , Coach Romain Leroy for an interview.
Coach Leroy is a professional basketball coach in France and assistant Coach for the Boulazak ProB Basketball Team. He is an expert in video analyses and this makes him the perfect person to answer our questions. He advises the coaches and now he share is insight with South Africans on …
WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR A SOUTH AFRICAN TO PLAY IN EUROPE FOR A PRO TEAM? WHERE ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES AND HOW MUCH MONEY CAN ONE MAKE?
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This article is proudly brought to you by Ballers High-Performance Basketball Schools South Africa and Advanced Sports Performance. Please note, the translation is directly from French.
Around a nice cup of tea, we started discussing my friends eye on African basketball.
Coach Franck: Hey Leroy, do you know any South African guys in any of our French championships?
Coach Romain Leroy – Not really. But you know how many members we have? He laughs at me. (Around 650 000 members at the end of the season 2015-2016).
Seriously, I’ve never really heard of or seen any South African players so far. But I did some research into the NCAA database and I found 1 guy from Johannesburg who is in the roster of the Colgate Raiders in College basketball.
You have seen many players from Africa in Europe so far. What difference do you see between players from Africa and Europe?
Coach Romain Leroy – Tough question. First of all, I think that in general we remain stuck to clichés.
A player is a player. It doesn’t matter if he comes from France or South Africa. The potential of an African player is entirely similar to that of an American or European one.
If we want to find differences, we need to look at the lack of facilities, the lack of resources, sometimes the poor volume of training and the level of the coaching courses.
BOULA STADIUM – BOULAZAC
Coach Franck: What are the kinds of African players that we have in our different championships in France?
Coach Romain Leroy - Definitely the tall players who play 4 or 5.
Coach Franck: Why?
Coach Romain Leroy - Because we are looking for what we do not have. Simple as that. We have a lack of tall and physical players in our country. We have some who are very strong and play in the NBA, but not enough to cover all our semi-pros and pros divisions in France.
Most of the time, a good African player is also cheaper than a French or American player for the same position on the court. African basketball is mostly based on speed and physical impact. This is why we pretty much never see a lot of guards (especially point guards); a position that requires more ”control” and game ”reading” than only physical capacities.
Coach Franck: Do we go back to the clichés that you talked about?
Coach Romain Leroy - Exactly! We can quickly take a shortcut and define that the lack of intelligence is the reason for this issue.
But my point is that the lack of intelligence lies in thinking THAT!!! We are talking about lack of knowledge, about lack of practice to teach players how to read the game, analyse it and find the proper answers on the court.
Making a choice on the court is the key to success, and this is the path to follow if we want to teach proper basketball to our players.
Coach Franck: So what can we say to young players who want to start their” journey”?
Coach Romain Leroy
Start the journey at the youngest possible age because kids are sponges and learn very quickly.
The mistake would be to ”change” who we deeply are to become European like!!!
African players have amazing qualities that just need to be improved and mastered.
So I would push all of them to practice harder (which is not a problem because they are naturally tough) and most importantly, a lot more.
Building on qualities such as footwork and skills is very important, but shooting is crucial.
Repeat drills on a high tempo. Practising slowly does not help.
Their coach has to define their profile and find the right drills to improve their game.
And again, whatever their profile is, they need to ensure that they shoot the most possible every day.
Coach Franck: And physically?
Coach Romain Leroy - Explosiveness, coordination and lateral moves in defense. If they do not know what to do, they need to ask their coach or a personal trainer. To be fit would help in improving their game and to avoid injuries.
Coach Franck: Something else to add?
Coach Romain Leroy –
It will be very difficult to apply for a position as a pro directly from South Africa.
There are 4 usual ways to get exposure and get noticed:
Getting a scholarship to play in high school and college in the USA.
Being recruited by an academy from a Pro division team.
Taking their chances at the lowest divisions (Nationale 3, 2 or 1) to get a chance to show their potential.
Participate in summer camps in Europe or USA.
We have around 5000 basketball clubs in France, so there are a lot of opportunities.
Coach Franck: What kind of status will they have?
Coach Romain Leroy - To play as a professional, they will need a contract from a club and a visa.
The COTONOU agreement gives opportunities to players (Men only) to not be counted into the quota of extra-territorials (like an American for example). This is an advantage but it is only for the two first pro divisions if I’m not mistake.
For the rest of the divisions and all the women, they will be part of the extra territorial’s quota which is not an easy journey, but not impossible.
Coach Franck: You watched a couple of games from our Pro League. Give us three positive things and three things to improve.
Coach Romain Leroy - From what I see, the lessons that I’m learning are numerous.
Let’s start with the positive:
The” package” on TV looks pro and well organised.
The commitment in offence looks total and the way they ”project themselves forward” is very interesting.
The qualities of the shooters are good, whether it be the mechanic, the capacity to create their own shot or the speed to take their shot.
And the things maybe to improve:
Coach Romain Leroy
Point guards need to give more priority to the team than to their own game. More control of the tempo. This is why the game could look a little bit under control sometimes.
Develop a passing game with more movements without the ball (too many possessions result in less than two passes). Players without the ball act too much as spectators rather than teammates.
Improve the general level in defence. All I saw was very” basic” and with not really a lot of desire to get the ball. Technique is poor just as collective defensive organisations.
Coach Franck: Do you want to add one more thing?
Coach Romain Leroy - The potential of African basketball is real and unquestionable. However, beyond the lack of resources and facilities, federations and clubs, coaches need to be more focused on what we call: the” initial basketball training”. Africa definitely deserves better results than what it gets so far in light of it’s amazing unexploited and talented base of players.
Teaching the right things from a young age, practicing more and harder, then rejecting all the limits of your dreams!!!