Playing With Americans in Europe

Tobias Seitz not only plays professional basketball in Europe, but also runs a German basketball blog called HoopNation.de.

He has also written for NBA.com's German version. Here's his bio from HoopNation:

Hallo, mein Name ist Tobias Seitz. Ich spiele nun selbst seit ueber 10 Jahren Basketball. Durch Kontakte zu professionellen Spielern, Spielerinnen und Trainern aus den USA (WNBA, NBA, NCAA), Frankreich und Deutschland kenne ich mich natuerlich recht gut im Basketball-Umfeld aus. In diesem Blog versuche ich meine Erfahrungen und Erlebnisse rund um den Basketball zu beschreiben.

I don't speak German either! No idea what it says!

He offered to write an article about professional basketball in Europe, and specifically how American players fit in that scene. Here it is:

The biggest difference between college basketball and playing professional overseas is the fact that it is your job and you must perform at a high level. In college, it does not matter whether or not you play well. As long as you follow the rules, you will have your scholarship. Some people take the "free ride" to college for the party and chill on the bench their whole career. As a professional, if you continuously have poor performances, you will likely get fired and have a short career. A player must learn how to be a "professional", which basically means doing the things that must be done in order to keep their job. A lot of it is politics, just like everything else in life. This is knowing how to conduct yourself with people within the club, being on time, putting in extra work, and most importantly getting your job done in games by winning and having a full stat line. (Not just points!)

The biggest adjustment for an American at a high level, such as the Euroleague, is to adapt to the style of play. First of all, it is less power, more finesse and fundamental. The next thing, is figuring out how to, "do your job", as they say. A player must learn to be a star within the concept of team play. European basketball is surely a team sport with emphasis on defensive and many offensive systems. This is a difficult transition for many players. Obviously, most college teams and especially in the NBA, "the star player" is the focus and everything else falls around that. In the U.S., there are many rewards for individual achievement and this is taught from an early age. In Europe, many national teams have played together since they were very young and you can definitely tell. The focus is on winning championships. All of these things became apparent to Americans with our men and women's basketball teams taking home the bronze in the World Championship. Team basketball will beat individualistic basketball on any given day, regardless of talent (almost). It is much easier to guard one player, than an entire team of five.

There is also a big cultural difference when you live in another country. Another language, that you do not understand, is constantly being spoken around you. Imagine sitting in a restaurant and the entire table is speaking a language that is completely unknown to you. It is quite frustrating. Maybe you have no desire to speak the language fluently, however, it is smart to learn basic communication, to be able to read things such as a sign on the road or food packaging in a grocery store. And believe it or not – most of the Europeans such as French people do not like to speak English.

This will make your everyday life much easier. The less stress off the court, the better, because there will definitely be stress on the court, no matter what. The key is be able to look yourself in the mirror and say that you sincerely gave your best effort and that is most important at the end of the day. There will always be someone to say that it was not good enough. For example, you could have 30 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals, but it was not good enough, you lost. Sometimes, you wonder what more can you do? You think, I can not do it alone, I need some help.

In playing overseas, it is very important to be open minded and experience all that you can. If there is something to see, go and see it. Make the most out of your time there both on and off the court. You will be able to have once in a life time experiences that most people will never have the chance to have.

But what do the native players think about you? Well you have to know that you come to a team to help them so somebody is probably not good enough. It's the same thing in the NBA. Every team has at least one or two foreign players. Of course you love them because they are the best players (well some of them) from their country but he will always be that "French guy" or "Germanyguy", right? Same thing in Europe: If you are a point guard and you play overseas make sure you really pass the ball. If you are a post player, make sure you will get all your rebounds.

In France I played with an American post player. He averaged 32.5 points a game. Never passed the ball. He did not come back after the Christmas break because the team told the managers that they are not happy with that guy.

A lot of players in countries like Germany look up to the American players. They want to know how they practice, how they lift or want to go shoot with them all the time. But it's really tough in the big leagues like France, Spain and Italy so make sure you will be ready for Europe.