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September 15, 2009

This is Tony Battie, Reporting ...

It's been 12 years since Nets big Tony Battie was majoring in communications at Texas Tech, and in the twilight of his NBA career, the center sensed it was time to dip back into his intended field.

"Ive always been intrigued with the reporting of the game," Battie said. "I love play-by-play, and I think thats a big part of the game. Dont get me wrong of course a play speaks for itself, but I think you can help people understand the game, especially if you have played the game for years and can articulate and get across to fans. A lot of them know the game, but a lot of them dont, and you can draw them in and spark an interest."

The NBA Players Association offers a variety of transition programs, from business to coaching, for athletes preparing for entry into their post-playing days and last year set up Sportscaster U in conjunction with Syracuse's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. The Newhouse School boasts a number of notable broadcasting alumni including the Nets' own Marv Albert (who attended from 1960-63, though he graduated from NYU in 1965) and Ian Eagle, as well as ESPN/ABC NBA play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico.

The four-day introduction to broadcasting is run by Syracuse adjunct professors Dave Ryan (ESPN play-by-play) and Matt Park (Syracuse basketball play-by-play). This year, Battie was one of six players to participate, joining Mike James, Brevin Knight, Donyell Marshall, Anthony Parker and Malik Rose in Syracuse from July 26-29.

After orientation and intial diagnostics on Sunday, July 26, Monday began with a briefing and some instruction before the players were whisked off for studio warmups, the first of several varied broadcasting situations they'd experience. The players also filmed studio segments, heard from ESPN talent evaluator Gerry Matalon and prepped for a Syracuse Chiefs minor league baseball game they'd be covering the next day.

They spent the next morning reviewing video of the previous days' performances and then working on interview technique before heading to the Chiefs' game. They recorded "live" breaking news segments, and also recorded interviews and reports. The final day included calling a pre-recorded game and breaking down the tape.

"A lot of guys, when they're nervous, speed up," Battie said. "They were just teaching us how to stay calm, speak clearly, keep it simple. 'You dont have to race through things' because (then) youre mumbling your words because youre nervous. Theres a lot going on when a guy's talking in your ear and youre looking at the teleprompter, youre trying to get the timing of cameras down: you're starting with Camera One and theyre going to swing you to Camera Two, so you have to know when to turn your head.

"It was a lot of good, hands on experience. You look at TV a whole different way after you look behind the scenes at whats going on."

In one of the studio sessions, Battie had to playact host of his own show, interviewing Knight. He realized that you had to go in overprepared, because if the producer radios into your earpiece that you have an extra minute, you can't be out of questions. The experience left him with a healthy respect for the media's job, but also encouraged about his own prospects Battie plans to return within the next few years.

"I dont think theyll turn down the check that it costs to get in to the program, ha!" Battie joked. "Typically its guys who are on their way out that take a lot of interest in these programs, but Im not on my way out Im just getting a head start."

Battie said that he spent most of the summer "just trying to get rooted" in New Jersey, but that he's starting to feel settled, especially after sending his daughter off to her first day of school. He's learning his way around, familiarizing himself with the front office staff -- and his new teammates.

"So far so good," Battie said. "Weve got a core of young guys who are excited about the game. They're still finding their way, but are very talented, athletic guys and the skys the limit for them. Its going to take a lot of hard work, more repetition, more practice and staying on track."

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