NBA veteran Carlos Arroyo of the Miami Heat is one of the best international point guards in history. He is most well known for leading the Puerto Rican national team with 25 points to an upset over Team USA in the 2004 Olympics -- the Americans' first-ever Olympic loss using NBA players.
Arroyo began his pro career in his native Puerto Rico, and then went on to play for five NBA teams. Before re-joining the NBA this season, he lived in Israel for a year as a member of the Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv Basketball Club. Recently, ESPN RISE correspondent Jared Zwerling caught up with Arroyo, who reflected on his international experience and offered insights for high school players looking to make the jump overseas.
Question: What advice would you give players who are thinking about going overseas?
Arroyo: I think you have to understand that it's a blessing to do what we love to do. Not a lot of people get to play pro basketball. That has to be in your head 100 percent. That's what I thought about when I was feeling homesick.
Question: In your opinion, is a high school player too young for the international basketball experience?
Arroyo: It takes time. There's a development process that you have to go through. You're playing against men; you're not playing against kids anymore. It's a physical game and it can really overwhelm you at first. It's eye-opening. But if you work on your body and game every day, you should be OK.
Question: What is the No. 1 thing to consider before signing with a foreign team?
Arroyo: Safety. After I got to Israel and made sure it was safe for my wife, Xiomara, and 3-year-old daughter, Gabriella, I brought them over. I put my daughter in an American school, which was tremendous. I got peace of mind with that because I knew she was getting good treatment in school. For me to be productive on the court, I needed for them to be safe. I wanted the security for my family more than for myself. I knew I was there to do a job and that was it.
Question: What security measures did you go through?
Arroyo: Maccabi traveled throughout Europe with five secret agents on board the plane. At times, we didn't even know who they were. When we went to Barcelona, we had more security because of the many Palestinians living in Spain. We had sharpshooters at the airport, on the bus, in front of the hotel and in the next building. Going to the game, we had two helicopters above the bus and cops in front of us and behind us. There were sharpshooters at the arena. It was crazy. It was like a movie. I thought I was in "Mission: Impossible" or "Casino Royale."
Question: Besides safety, what else should a player be wary about?
Arroyo: Make sure you know what is going into your body. I was always cautious about the water I was drinking and the food I was eating. Another good idea would be to get on the Internet and check out the local government and politics.
Question: What's it like being a new guy on a foreign team?
Arroyo: It's a lot different than in the NBA, but the approach should be the same -- it's basketball. I was lucky because all of my teammates spoke English, so I never had a problem communicating with them.
Question: How would you compare foreign fans to ones in the States?
Arroyo: They're more into the game, I think. They never stop singing, never stop jumping, and they always have their shirts off and paint all over their bodies. They permit all types of instruments in the arena. You can blow smoke all over the place. It's an adventure, man.
Question: Off the court, what perks are important to have?
Arroyo: The treatment was amazing from Maccabi, from the moment I arrived. When I got to the airport, there were like 1,000 fans waiting for me. That kind of warm feeling I got from them was tremendous. I felt like I was home. Maccabi treated me with little things. My Internet was up, I had international channels and I could watch NBA games. Americans on other Israeli teams were always complaining about not having Internet or not having an American channel to watch movies or ESPN. But Maccabi had that treatment down pat.
Question: What was one gadget you had to have when you traveled out of the country?
Arroyo: Obviously my computer and my TV shows downloaded to iTunes. Because if I went to Russia, let's say, and I turned on the TV, I'd have no idea what they were talking about. I'm crazy with "The King of Queens," so I had to watch the re-runs.
Question: Overall, what did you discover about yourself after playing overseas?
Arroyo: It was a learning experience. I wanted to grow and mature as far as my point guard position and character. I wanted to be a positive leader, have patience on the court and understand a little bit more about the game of basketball. Being out there and playing a lot of minutes helped me tremendously and develop those areas.