By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
With the NBA season about to start, Eurohoops had the chance to speak with the man who produced one of its biggest stars. Robert “Bob” McKillop, the head coach of the Davidson College, was the mentor of champion and MVP Steph Curry. And his search for talent has pushed him outside the USA borders.
Davidson will have this year 5 international students on its team. Those are Oskar Michelsen (Finland), Manu Giamoukis (Greece), Nathen Ekwu (Nigeria), Dusan Kovacevic (Serbia) and Will Magarity (Sweden). With five of them coming from Europe and some former Davidson players, like Jake Cohen playing in Europe – previously for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and now for Aris – it was only natural to ask him about the talent in the old continent, the NCAA compared to Europe basketball and of course about the most famous of his students…
– You have five international students on your team, four of them coming from Europe. Do you think that it’s a small world after all?
The world has become a smaller place and basketball has certainly been quite a reflection of that. The NBA, college basketball, and high school basketball have all reaped the rewards of the globalization of the game.
– Why do you trust international students?
Trusts starts with a history of integrity, accountability and responsibility. That’s usually nurtured and cultivated by a great family. We have been very fortunate at Davidson to have international players who are products of such great families.
– Why so many colleges in recent years are following closely the junior FIBA tournaments?
The FIBA tournaments provide a very high level of competition in a perfect environment in which to evaluate talent. Generally, if a player is selected for one of his country’s Junior national teams, it’s a good indication that he is one of the best players in his country.
– What do international students provide talent-wise and what the NCAA helps them achieve basketball-wise?
International players are generally very skilled. They also have an impressive sense of emotional maturity.
– Many talented international players have the chance to turn pro even before finishing high school. Why they should chose the NCAA?
The International players come to America in search of a dream rather than with a sense of entitlement. To me, that is very commendable. Colleges provide the international player with a college education, an outstanding competitive playing experience, superb facilities, good coaching, exciting crowds and an experience that I can springboard them towards a very successful future whatever they choose to pursue.
– Do you feel that the NCAA has the potential to get the top European talent, or the big clubs of Europe “lock” the players at a very early age?
College basketball provides a unique experience. Going to school and playing basketball at the same time is not possible if a player chooses to pursue the pro experience in Europe. Also, young players with pro teams in Europe may not get much playing time and playing experience as many rosters are filled with older veterans.
The NCAA schools are able to recruit the best American high school talent but a good number of them only stay for one year. The best European high school aged players could be kept in Europe by the highest level European clubs but such clubs would have to offer short-term contracts for significant money. Today’s economic environment makes that significantly more difficult.
– What do you try to find when you scout an international player? Is it easy to recruit them?
I seek the same qualities and talents whether I recruit an American player or European player. Our standards at Davidson remain consistent. Perhaps, that’s why the many European players who have played for us have outstanding playing experiences and life experiences. We recruit toughness, work ethic, the willingness to be coached, a desire to be a good teammate and, of course, skilled players who have the versatile skills and the ability to play and play more than one position.
– Davidson is the alma mater of the NBA champion Steph Curry. What makes a champion after all and what was your experience with him?
Stephen Curry is a champion and an MVP on the court as well as off the court. That’s what makes him so unique and so special. He sees the game on offense and defense in a way that always puts him one step ahead of the play. He consistently lives in the moment and does not allow a previous action to impact his present action. He has an extraordinary balance between confidence and humility. His work ethic is insatiable. His quest for excellence permeates everything he does. He’s a magnificent leader who makes everyone on his team better.
– What are Davidson’s goals for the near future, after producing Curry? Investing in international talent and also having a new athletic facility?
Every time our team gathers for a team activity whether it be a game, a practice, watching film or weightlifting and conditioning, our team goals are guided by the same 4 objectives: Get better. Fight to win every possession. Play to win. Have fun. If we remain consistent in pursuit of these objectives, we will move closer and closer to our quest for excellence.
– NCAA is the birth place of almost every coaching idea in basketball. Still its own set of rules seem to hold it back compared to the rest of the sport. Do you agree that things must change and the unification of rules all over basketball should be a reality soon?
Let me be very clear about the first part of your question. NCAA coaches do not have a monopoly on creative coaching ideas. There are great coaches at every level everywhere in the world.
I do believe that there needs to be a unification of the rules for NCAA, FIBA and the NBA. Equally important, there must be a very consistent enforcement of these rules. However, The leadership of these various enterprises must stop trying to change the game to supposedly make it more exciting or create more scoring or give players greater control. Are the rules of soccer constantly changed to create more scoring or make it more exciting or eliminate tactics and strategy and give complete control to players?
– How do you rate the level of competition in Europe compared to the level in the States?
There are great players in Europe. There a great players in America. However, there are more organizations, more leagues, more playing opportunities, more levels of competition and significantly more extensive facilities to play in America so therefore there are more people playing basketball and thus more players in America. America also provides the unique environment of high school and college basketball. This further adds even many more opportunities to play this great game of basketball.