This is the second installment from Portland Trail Blazers Director of Scouting Mike Born who is helping to lead the Basketball Without Borders in Africa program as we speak. Mike is contributing his thoughts here and you can also read them at iamatrailblazersfan.com.
DAY #2 - Another great day- was all hoops today for the coaching staff. Started by doing an hour of media and pictures with everyone. Once most of the NBA players finished with the media, we got into some fundamental drill work. I was part of the offensive post-play station. We had 15 minutes with each of the six teams. I threw hundreds of passes to players flashing into the post area. None of them looked quite as good as when I made passes to both of my post-play assistants- Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. I racked up the assists as they finished with jump hooks, the drop step for a lay-up and the sky hook into the middle of the lane. My assist to turnover ratio on the day was impressive and yes, "Superman" is all he's hyped up to be. In our scouting world we would call him...big, strong...ATHLETIC. C. Bosh looks great too. Guess he's been working hard since the season ended and put on some added muscle for next season. Man I swear he is almost 7-0. As you can imagine, the campers hung on every word the players spoke. Both men did a really nice job by keeping their teaching points very simple and talking about having fun at the camp. Dealing with the various language barriers, we spend part of our time explaining things and then waiting for the translators to translate. Overall, it was a good day teaching the kids the basics at each station and I felt we helped our groups understand what good post players should do each time they take the position.
Now on to our team...Felt good about it after the draft last night, but you just can't be sure until you see them play. I really, really like our team called...the LAKERS. Yep. I come all the way to Johannesburg and they give me the LAKERS. Maybe it's being a rookie at camp and the dues you have to pay? Guess they are the defending champs and I am a team player so I will live with it. Plus I am so happy to be here that coaching the Lakers or any other team is just fine with me. Got a great group of guys. Have nine players in all. We have players from Nigeria , Senegal , Cameroon , South Africa , Algeria , Tunisia , Mozambique and Kenya . Seven of the campers understand English pretty well with one who speaks only French and another who speaks only Portuguese. Obviously, it can be a little challenging describing things like set plays and telling them to get back and match-up on defense. Our translators are there every step of the way and my helpful assistant Carlos speaks English, French and Portuguese so that is a huge bonus as well, but all the coaches deal with it and we feel lucky that seven understand English as well as they do. After drill work, we had a 20-minute practice and a 10-minute scrimmage. Needless to say, we need some work on a few things tomorrow in practice. I spoke to our players about doing a few things prior to practice. Some of the same things KP, Nate and our coaches talk to our team about and I have believed in all my playing, coaching and scouting career. Good teams play hard, play smart and play together. Have fun and take in this awesome experience. Play great defense (I love defense...man I love it), rebound the ball and let's get it up and down if we can. I also finished by telling them that I want this to be the most unselfish team in camp. Hands down the team that cares the most about its teammates. Make the extra pass to the open man, help each other on defense and really work together as one unit. It's been awhile, but my coaching juices were flowing. I felt the guys really understood what I was asking them to do. Now...will it make it to the floor is the big question.
After our station work and practice in the morning, all the coaches and NBA/WNBA players had lunch together. The camp is on the campus of AISJ, which is a private school just outside Johannesburg . This was good chance to hang out with the players and coaches and chat about...what else...basketball. When lunch was over, we headed to our games. We played our first game in the inside gym and played a nice game. We had stretches where we were really good and we had some stretches where we got out of control and took a few bad shots, but overall it was a good game and I thought the guys really played hard and, just as important, together. We also put the clamps on our opponent in the third quarter by holding them to 0 points in the 10-min quarter. I felt like a proud father. Our guys played a great second half on the defensive end and shared the ball tremendously. We got the W our first game out of the gates. We headed outside for game #2 and found ourselves in a battle with the Houston Rockets. It hurts me to say we lost by one on a 3-pt play with about 12 seconds on the clock. We got a good shot on our last possession, but missed a jumper to finish the game and came up short. Overall, we had a nice first day. I loved how the guys competed. Just like any coaching staff, we have things we can help the kids understand better and will work on this tomorrow, but as I said yesterday, I can really tell the kids appreciate being here and are soaking up basketball knowledge as fast as they can.
We finished the day with another really nice dinner with most of our staff. We have had two excellent meals and have hardly had to walk more than 100 yards each night. We sat at dinner for over three hours just enjoying the camaraderie, conversation and the food. We will be doing our Habitat for Humanity Build for two hours tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that and whatever else the day may bring.
Thanks to Scout Born for sharing his experience and perspectives.