2007 Reebok Eurocamp: Pete Philo Interview
By Aran Smith
NBADraft.net caught up with Reebok Eurocamp director and Minnesota Timberwolves international scout Pete Philo.
Q: How do you see the Reebok Eurocamp fitting into the draft scheme of things?
A: This camp initially started five years ago as an exposure camp for some of the younger international kids and has blossomed into lets say the unofficial predraft camp. You know what it's done over the years, and last year, it's been extremely successful, and we're just happy to be a part of it.
Q: How was Treviso chosen as the spot for the camp?
A: As you know, the legend, Maurizio Gherardini has had a wonderful relationship with many NBA people over the years. He was kind of the guy that opened his doors to many NBA people, when many others were closing their doors. So when we decided on a place, why not Treviso? The atmosphere is great, the food is great and the facilities are top notch.
Q: Tell me a little bit about this year's camp, you had a few guys pull out, What do you think are some of the strengths of the group that's here now?
A: Well you obviously have the Belinelli's the Shabalkin's and I think some players that are better than advertised. And you know the funny thing about European basketball, and especially Eastern European, you can't go by statistics. Statistics can be very misleading, and the proof is in past drafts where some players have done better in the NBA than they have in Europe, That's where evaluating a player in person is very important. And I think this is the strongest camp we've ever put together. We've had a couple issues in the past few days where some players cancelled
Q: Something to do with a visa for some?
A: Yeah there was one player that had an issue with his visa: Kyrylo Fesenko. And it was unfortunate because he had planned to be here and he would have done well here. In our environment we really promote ball movement and 5-on-5 and we give players an opportunity to play the game of basketball and by the end of the week you know who can play and who can't and that's all you can ask for.
Q: Ok you have a couple of national teams coming in and you have a Reebok team from the US coming in, how will they fit into the camp?
A: Well we have a Reebok USA team that is going to play tomorrow night that's going to face our first group of all stars. This Reebok team is a younger team of high school basketball players, from what I know there are a few very good players one that is committed to UCLA and another to Ohio State plus Billy Walker who obviously got injured last year, but I did see him running around and shooting the ball so I think he can play. So it's very exciting to add this American piece to the camp without actually putting American kids in the camp. Because it would be taking away from what our camp is which is a camp for International players. And it provides a good barometer for the International kids. And for scouts I think it's a great thing as our players are going to get to play against the speed and athleticism of the top American kids. They will face the Italian under-20 team on Monday and then the Russian under-20 National team on Tuesday. it's a great week, outside of the 45 guys we put out there, you're going to see another 30. So it's a can't miss event.
Q: They have closed the window on workouts this year, does that make it harder to get scouts and GMS to come over here?
A: Well that depends who you talk to. Not every NBA team scouts the same. There are some teams in the NBA that still, to this day, do not scout the way they should, in my eyes. So I think it depends on how you look at it. I think that it has affected it to some extent. But lets say some general managers may choose to stay behind for workouts, for many in four days the teams are having in 4 players per day so 16 players in 4 days. But they are missing out on 85 players here. Now not all of them are draftable. But you're going to miss 40 NBA draftable players. So it's a little puzzling to me. But then there are just some teams that do not scout internationally the way they should.
Q: What's your feeling about USA basketball and the struggles we've had in the Olympics and international competitions recently and what can we do about it?
A: That's a great question. It's a very sensitive issue for me being a full time International guy as an American. My job is international, and international scouting, and there are many issues that need to be cleaned up and I'm sure they are addressing them, and these issues probably should have been addressed 8 years ago and then 6 years ago and then 4 years ago. I just wish them the best moving forward. I hope that we are assembling a staff of international scouts to make sure we're prepared. because many Americans don't see this, but to the eyes of many people outside of the States, our game is falling apart.
Q: What's the biggest factor that we're failing on, is it related to assembling the team?
A: You know I don't believe all this stuff about assembling the team so much. They didn't have a problem 12 years ago. I think it's 2 things. I think it's more that our rules in the NBA promote a certain style of basketball. The rules in Europe promote a lot of ball movement. And as our younger generation go through the ranks, they're not as well rounded, and by the time they get to the NBA they have learned a different brand of basketball. And putting talent aside, these guys over here are passionate, they're very focused and they are getting better and better every year.
Q: What about the fact that European ball tends to mirror the International game more so than the NBA game. is that a big factor?
A: No. Quite frankly, if you had to put them in order. The players over here are just getting better. There's no fear factor anymore. Papaloukas, Diamantidis, and Spinoulas. These guys aren't afraid of bringing the ball up under American pressure anymore. You can't pressure Greece. You can pressure 90% of National teams, but you can't pressure Spain with Calderon, Navarro. You cannot pressure Greece, Slovenia, Yugoslavia, Argentina. There's 5 teams. So then it becomes a half court game. So at that point it becomes fair game. And the principles are very sound. The ball movement is impeccable and we don't move the ball as well. And it's a lot of problems that need to get worked out soon and if they don't you're going to be looking at a decade of trouble ahead.
Q: Is Coach K the right guy to coach the USA squad?
A: That's a great question. I'd rather not answer that because I don't know Coach K personally. I did not go to training camp with USA basketball. I did not see what preparation went into it. All I say was what was happening on the court. And I feel that would be an unfair shot if I were to say that he was not the right coach. It didn't work out for us in Japan, and it was not all his fault. If I were to vote for a coach i would go with Bob McKillop, Davidson College, the guy has coached more internationally and in the US than any coach and he's so under the radar. Coach K is a great coach and I just hope that the entire picture comes together from the scouting staff, to our scouting of the opponent to our implementation of a game plan.
Q: Anything you would like to add?
A: I'd just like to thank all the individuals that are involved here, all the coaches that work the camp and all of the people here that help make the camp run succesfully.