By Eric Weinstein

July 24-27, 2004
Treviso, Italy
La Ghirada Sport Center (Benetton)
July 26-- As the sport of basketball continues to grow in popularity so does the pool of talent around the world. NBA teams have expanded their scouting networks to include almost every major country.

At Basketball Without Borders Europe, talked with international scouts from three NBA teams: Amadou Fall from the Dallas Mavericks, Masai Ujiri from the Denver Nuggets, and Mark Crow from the Atlanta Hawks

What is it that you look for in these kids?
Amadou Fall, Dallas Mavericks: "I'm looking for intangibles, stuff that you can't teach. At this young age, so many parameters can influence development, you're looking at pure natural talent. I'm emphasizing work ethic a great deal."

Masai Ujiri, Denver Nuggets: "We look for kids that have NBA talent. It doesn't mean were scouting for our teams needs, but you have to keep tabs on the kids and see how good they become. You keep tabs on these kids because when they look at a kid now in the NBA who has played five years, they get their notes from 7-8 years ago that we compile. Its not as much about the draft. You have to cover it in case of trades or interest in some other way."

Mark Crow, Atlanta Hawks: "There's a mix between the intangible parts--the energy and the competitiveness, if he's a good teammate, will he play hard all the time? Will he get back on defense? A lot of guys run faster on offense then they do on defense. And obviously the skill level and the athleticism. The athleticism is the easiest thing to see. The skill level takes a little longer to see. The intangibles get picked up over time."

Are you tracking these kids over the years to see improvement?
Fall: "You have to see them over a time period. Its difficult to make up your mind one way or another based on one encounter, one trip or one game. Unless they reach Michael Jordan type talent at age 16, then I track their development. Some of them really stand out wherever we go. It tends to be the same kids. At 16 or 17 a kid is stil growing physically and emotionally. Some dont really stand out in these types of scenarios, that is why you watch them over a period of time.

Ujiri: "You follow these kids and see how much better they get. If a kid is 16 or 17, if we follow him you start patching it up and seeing if he's gotten stronger, if his ballhandling is better and you measure it. If you don't see improvement in one or two years, then there is no upside. I see them in a lot of tournaments, competitions and camps and you measure them against each other. Some kids have growth spurts and they are special because all of a sudden they have ball handling skills and they are big."

Crow: "If a kid has great skills at 16, then they're only gonna get better. If he can really shoot and has a good handle and knows how to play the game, all those things are gonna augment as he grows and plays more. There's a kid here who I saw earlier in the summer who grew 2-3 inches and got bigger and stronger than he did a month and a half ago. When you see a kid from year to year improve his body, that's a good sign, that means he's committed to getting better. He's not satisfied with where he's at."

How far down the line are the kids you see from being prospects?
Ujiri: "Potential prospects is different from being drafted. In three years some of them are, in terms of contributing to the NBA, far away. In terms of being prospects here, they are going to be right there in a year or so."

Crow:" The NBA is highly competitive and very athletic and quite frankly a lot of the kids wont be athletic enough to play at the NBA level. Its part of scouting to see where the top of the potential is for these kids."

How do these kids differ from U.S. kids the same age?
Fall: "Just like anything else, the styles are different, but the basic principles are the same. Dribble the ball, put it in the hole, blow by a defender. The athletic emphasis is bigger in the States. The thinking is that Europeans tend to be more fundamentally sound and better shooters. For some reason these kids tend to play the game the right way. There is less emphasis here on individual talent."

Ujiri: "The skills are different. In America, the kids are more athletic, their body type is much stronger. These kids are technically sound. They know how to fake, jab step, go left and right, and I think its because they are coached so much here. Summer basketball in America is almost streetball. These guys play year round with the same guys for years as a team."

Crow: "Their skill level is more advanced. The athleticism in the States is probably better. In the States they play too much and don't work on their skills enough. Here maybe they don't play enough and all they do is work on their skills."

How has scouting grown globaly?
Ujiri: "You cannot miss it. There's no running away from it. You have to cover everywhere. Basketball globally has gotten better, the skill level has gotten better. What some of the international kids are doing in the NBA is amazing."

Fall: "You want to know everybody because you want to be prepared. Its an information business. The guy you're looking at may not be drafted, and you may be in a position to have interest in him and sign him as a free agent. When you see a name in the draft you want to be comfortable that you have seen him. The talent pool has expanded. As in soccer, I'm sure FC Barcelona has people in South America and the States scouting. The game has gone global and as a result, we try to cover all the bases."

Crow: "The world is changing certainly. This Basketball Wihout Borders is a good thing, for sure. These camps for me are great because you come here and you pick up on the people you like and you follow up on where they play during the winter."

Scouts were on hand to catch the action in Treviso.
What is the next scouting frontier?
Fall: "I think the term has lost it's sexiness. The notion of the new place that no one has explored is dead pretty soon, because people are going everywhere. I think eventually people are gonna start investing in development in Africa. There is natural young talent there and Basketball Without Borders Africa (Fall is the Camp Director) that we're doing in Johannesburg is the only event that league people are going to be comfortable going to. The potential is definitely there."

Crow: "Down in Africa you see all this athletic potential, it literally jumps out at you. There the skill level is really behind. The kids in Africa need to get to Europe and get to American colleges to get the coaching that they need. Last year there were 30 7-footers waiting to be taken off and schooled. There are no diamonds there."

Ujiri: "Russia is there but its difficult to get into, there's a lot of talent over there. Africa for me is tops. You can find big 7-foot kids. They have physical talent, but they need coaching. It's gonna get better."

You can't see every kid in the world can you?
Fall: "Players are popping up all over the world. You cannot pretend to know them all, the goal is to know as many as possible, to be as prepared as possible. But I'm always ready to see somebody new. That's the exciting part about what we do, the excitement of the unknown, that novelty that your seeing a guy for the first time, its a different feeling than when your seeing a guy over and over again. But you still go see them."

Crow: "The nba draft has become a draft of upside and potential. Some people can turn it on and turn it off and our job as scouts is to find the guy who's always got it on"

With all the camps you cover, how much do you travel?
Ujiri: "Since the day after the draft, I've been to seven or eight camps or tournaments in the last month in seven countries."

Crow: "The last eight weeks, I've been home one week."

Fall: "I can't remember, but its like I've been out forever."