Written for nbl.com.au by Tom Hersz
Patrick Hunt has seen it all over the years.
The President of FIBA’s World Association of Basketball Coaches and Chairman of FIBA’s Technical Commission is serving as the Camp Director at the 2018 NBL Next Gen, for the second straight year.
Hunt has had a hand in the development of a lot of Australia’s biggest basketball stars including Luc Longley, Shane Heal, Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova, so to say he knows a thing or two about player development would be like saying Andrew Gaze knows a thing or two about shooting – it wouldn’t do him justice.
Hunt’s role at the camp is to oversee the Coaches on hand, set the points of emphasis and also convey some very important messages for the players to take with them.
And as the Next Gen event has grown, both in interest as a genuine pathway, and in the talent on hand, he’s been very impressed with the calibre of player in terms of the skill and the attitude they’ve brought this year.
“The variety of athletes that are here trying out is broader than last year,” Hunt told NBL Media this morning.
“We’ve got a mix of athletes that have been studying at College in the USA – they’re back, we’ve got a mix of SEABL players, kids from the Centre of Excellence at the AIS in Canberra, the NBA Global Academy which is at the AIS in Canberra, NBL hopefuls and then kids that have played Under 20s nationally. So there’s a terrific mix of the 80-odd players that are.
“And I think, in speaking with the coaches, that the general basketball understanding is higher this year than it’s been at the last two, particularly from last year which is a good sign.”
With four players turning their 2017 camp experience into an NBL opportunity, the 2018 event has some real buzz from the players, but also from the NBL coaches and executives that are here watching and evaluating them.
It’s therefore the responsibility of Hunt and his Next Gen coaches, to ensure that the right messages are being conveyed, that they’re being coached to emphasise the style that NBL teams are looking for, and that players leave with a better understanding of how they fit into that.
That includes pick and roll play, which is a staple of most NBL offensive structures in today’s game, and the same is true for the top European leagues and the NBA. So naturally, that is something that is important for players to be able to excel in.
It also includes the importance of the team game, which has been an ongoing trend in recent years as the prevalence of isolation style offences has been replaced by ball movement and creating for teammates, whether off the pick and roll or otherwise.
“Pick and Roll has been an emphasis on both offence and defence, because that’s a big part of offensive play now,” Hunt explained.
“But also it’s been emphasised for the players to show their wares individually, but play as a team on offence and defence because as I mentioned to the players yesterday, the NBA teams – the more successful ones of those, the European teams – all of those players play great team basketball and that’s important for these players to understand that that’s what the NBL coaches are looking for.
“They’re looking for players who can come in in these spots, they won’t be major spots, but support roles, but are they good team people? How do they relate to other players on the team? How do they relate to their coaches? How well do they pick up stuff? Are they good learners?
“Because the coaches in this mornings practice sessions just put in a few wrinkles and part of that is to see who are the good learners.”
The Next Gen coaches are watching closely to ensure the players understand these concepts and that is something that has been made clear, with each player attending a presentation this morning from Hunt and Basketball Australia Coach, Peter Lonergan.
The presentation highlighted the importance of always being ready and present because somebody is always watching. It also conveyed how small the world of basketball has become in that if you can play, the world will find out.
So players were told that they need to control the controllables in their basketball lives, being conditioning, nutrition, injury management and skill development.
“The players will also receive evaluations from the coaches here as part of the event. So they’ll receive some written evaluations on their strengths and areas to work on, so it’s a good part of their development as well,” said Hunt.
While there are several players with legitimate buzz for NBL roster spots or development player roles for NBL19, not every player will leave the two-day Next Gen Camp with a clear pathway to the NBL. One thing Hunt stressed was that by being here, they’re already on the radars of every team.
“Well I think it’s pleasing to see that every National Basketball League club has sent their coaching staff here to see them,” Hunt said.
“So the message has been, if you don’t get an immediate opportunity from this, you’ve created an opportunity to be visible and be seen and that’s very important.
“The message from a presentation that was just given today is to keep working on your game. You’re responsible for it.
“You’re being evaluated continuously now with the world of technology either live or via live streaming or stats online. If you’re in a league that has any sort of technology accumulating information, you’ll be noticed and seen.
“And this is another opportunity here to be seen in person and to show people what you’re made of, but also think of the future as well.”