Chat Transcript: Director of Scouting Joe Ash

Joe chatted live with fans on Wednesday.
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Joe Ash begins his first full season with the Pacers and brings years of basketball experience to President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird's staff. Ash is responsible for all aspects of scouting for the Pacers, including college, professional, free agent and international scouting. He also assists Bird in organizing, preparing and carrying out the NBA draft.

Ash is a graduate of the University of Nebraska with B.S. and Masters Degrees. After graduation, he spent 11 years coaching high school basketball in Nebraska, Iowa and New Jersey, where he won two Coach of the Year awards. From there, Ash spent five seasons as an assistant coach at William Patterson College in New Jersey, helping with scouting and recruiting there.

After organizing and directing a college team scouting service, Ash move on to the NBA as a scout working for the Philadelphia 76ers for five seasons, the Charlotte Hornets for three seasons and the Houston Rockets for 11 seasons. He also has vast international scouting experience, having visited more than 20 countries in his career.

Joe dropped into for a live chat on Wednesday. See what he had to say about the upcoming draft and much much more.

Tim (Danbury): How did you actually become a scout? What training do you need?

Joe Ash: When I started, I had a high school and college coaching background. In the early 80s advance team scouting was starting up and I began with the 76ers, then I did some regional college scouting. Then I eventually got fulltime work with Charlotte in the NBA and the Houston Rockets.

Justin (Cape Coral, FL): What type of potential do you think our Joneses have? Both have grown a lot in a short time, but how would you predict them after they've settled?

Joe Ash: I think that both of them are good contributors this year, with James getting chances through the injuries and suspensions. Fred started out well backing up and has established himself now as a good perimeter shooter and he's improving defensively. James just needs to build on the experience he picked up this year.

Greg : Were you with the Rockets during the Yao Ming draft year? If, so what was scouting him like?

Joe Ash: Yes, I was. That was probably one of my more memorable scouting experiences. I traveled to both Beijing and Shanghai to watch Yao in games and practices. It was a rich, unique experience to see him playing there and to try and project how he may fare against NBA players. It was very interesting working with the Rockets in making that very clear choice. He was the No. 1 pick there was no debate about other players. It was Yao. There may have been some doubts by people who hadn't seen him play, but it's no surprise he's progressed and excelled the way he has.

Mike (Indianapolis): Hi, Mr. Ash. I am quite interested about our scouting efforts in Africa. What are the Pacers doing in regards to scouting there, and what have you seen in general as far as Africans and their (basketball) talent level?

Joe Ash: The African scouting is also unique in itself, in that we do have contacts and get scouting reports. The NBA has been very involved with the Basketball Without Borders program which is excellent. At this stage the higher or better prospects are mostly still coming from US high schools and colleges. The players go to US prep schools and junior colleges and colleges first and then we see them, it's not always a direct connection from Africa to the NBA, like it often is with the European players.

Ken (Indy): Throughout your travels what's your favorite country to visit and why?

Joe Ash: I've done a vast amount of international scouting, I've been to about 30 countries and they are all unique and nice. I particularly enjoy Spain and Italy, and I was recently in Belgrade which was great. But they are all great. My favorite to visit and travel and not necessarily for basketball would be Spain and Italy.

John (South Bend): Who was the best player you ever scouted?

Joe Ash: The best players I've ever scouted...hmmm. NBA scouting is different in that you evaluate everybody. So of course Michael Jordan was scouted, but we didn't draft him. As far as guys that I scouted and we drafted...I'd say Charles Barkley and Yao Ming. Alot of that has to do with the NBA Draft...or the Lottery.

Rob (Fairlawn): Though this season still ahs a way to go, what needs do you see the Pacers will need to fill in the upcoming draft?

Joe Ash: That's hard. That's a situation now with the way the our season went, it will be difficult based on our injuries and suspensions. It will be tough to determine, but of course we are always looking for shooters and players who can help us right away. Right now, we're not zeroing in on any particular players or positions, either here in the US or internationally.

Ben (Indiana): How has it been so far working with larry?

Joe Ash: That's been a great experience, especially working with someone who has been so successful in basketball...from college to as an NBA player and now as an executive. It's fun traveling with him and discussing the game and how we feel we can improve. It's been enjoyable as well as educational, working with Larry.

Ron (Fishers): Hi Joe, I coach a boys jr high team and they are always talking and asking about getting to the pro level. Can you give me some ideas to share with them on areas that will help them to improve their game and increase the chances of moving up through the ranks. Also, what is the most important thing you look for in a prospect? Thank you!

Joe Ash: To start the very beginning, it's important to have a solid background in the fundamentals of the game. Regardless of position or skills, you need to learn how to play the game..and play as a good teammate. You need to know roles and work on your weaknesses. Some young players tend to only work on what they're good at, when they should also be working on things they need to improve. Also, it's important to be be open to advice from your coaches. It's also important to put in the time and effort to get better.

Joe Ash: Thanks for your interest in the Pacers and the NBA. It's a pleasure to be working for Indiana in this league and it was great to chat with you today and I'd like to do it again in the future.