Michael Oakes is an Australian athlete manager who has extensive knowledge in a wide variety of global sports, including basketball.
As an officially accredited FIBA player agent, he is providing his knowledge and expertise for Australians as to what to expect as a professional basketball player.
Website: mummu athlete management
How to make it in Europe from college
Europe could be viewed as a vast basketball wilderness; a largely unknown. However there is one constant; a sheer mass of teams.
There are 47 European countries boasting anywhere from one to four divisions of teams that all could be considered professional at varying degrees. What this does equal though is a lot of opportunity!
Each country and each division has various import rules, with provision from one to as many as six per team. Subsequently there are many roster spots available. Yet there are also many other factors to consider when thinking of playing basketball in Europe.
An all too common thought pattern evident amongst players finishing college is that ‘I'll just go play in Europe.’ The reality is that for most players, this will not happen. To assist those considering a career in Europe, there are some key areas to look into to maximize chances of success.
Brock Motum went from Washington State to Virtus Bologna in Italy.
Choosing an Agent
Choosing an agent is hard. Many European agents attempt to sign players through contact via Facebook, email or over the phone. Make sure you meet with your agent face to face prior to signing to find out more about who they are. It is definitely worthwhile signing with an agent that has a European base or local agents, otherwise you are simply signing with someone who has to broker a deal with another European agent to help find you a team.
Participating in an exposure camp is a great way of showcasing your skill and capabilities to prospective European coaches and General Managers. While there are no guarantees, they do also provide players with a taste of what it is like being a pro. The most successful camps are actually held in Las Vegas just prior or during the NBA Summer League, with many European coaches already in the US. For some more information on selection and format of an example of a good camp program click here.
Holding a passport from a European country is going to go a long way to assisting any player in gaining a position on a roster as a result of being recognized as a local. However the effect of a European passport is dwindling each year due to ongoing rule changes.
In Germany, an import is considered any player that is non-German. So a European passport will have no effect in BBL, Pro A or Pro B Germany. Players with a dual passport (i.e. Australia and France) should also look into whether theirs falls into the Bosman A or B category. Several Eastern European countries fall into the Bosman B category and therefore it cannot be used as freely (more here on the Bosman ruling).
If you are eligible to obtain a European passport of some kind, it is recommended that you arrange it during your senior year, if not sooner. These can often take up to 6 months to attain as many often unidentified issues can cause delays. The last thing any player wants is to miss out on a contract because of a passport delay.
Experience, Skill and Capability
Each year hundreds of rookies manage to secure a chance to play in one of the many European leagues. However just because your team made the NCAA tournament or you’ve originated from a Major program does not guarantee anyone a professional contract. The standard is extremely high in Europe, and for many the chance to secure game time and impressing coaches in a second tier division is a better options than trying to make the transition to a division 1 league in their first season as a professional.
The money in Europe in established division 1 competitions is generally very good, with no ceiling (salary cap wise), and a large tax-free component for imports. However the days of crazy money being thrown at players is all but over.
Yes, the best players continued to be remunerated extremely well, however if you start in division 2 in Germany or Spain you can expect a range of between USD800–2,500 per month. In essence, don’t expect huge money immediately - you have to prove yourself first!
As a rookie, on top of your contracted salary, you can also expect as part of your package the use of a shared apartment, shared vehicle, gym memberships, meals, visas and return airfares. This is all dependent on what your agent is capable of negotiating of course! While your salary may be small in your first season, there can be other benefits attached to s contract that can and will make life easier.
Be prepared; depending on your skills, capability and agent, you could end up playing anywhere. There are countries and leagues that are considered better to help propel your overall career. The German Pro A (D2) league is seen as a great place to commence a career, with contracts ranging from EU800–1,500 per month. They are reliable in paying players, you are looked after, and the league provides decent exposure.
An opportunity in a country such as Luxembourg, which provides great starting salaries, isn’t necessarily viewed as the best way to progress your career. In any case, carefully plan with your agent as to where you should be playing and what will be the best situation for you.
There are so many positives to playing in Europe; the competition, culture, financial benefits and the chance to develop a strong career abroad. Just be cautious in your expectations and make sure you do your research. Succeeding in Europe is tough, yet it is a rewarding challenge which many Australian players have and continue to excel in.
Michael Oakes' views are those of his own as a player agent of mummu athlete management.
He will be providing further insights into professional basketball pathways for The Pick and Roll in future.