You are still free agent, are you ready to get back on the court?
First, I want to thank you for taking the time out Emiliano, I know you are a busy guy. Also congratulations on running such an informative website. We all in the basketball community worldwide are very thankful for your hard work.
..Yes I am currently a free agent and very ready to get back out there. Some of the most recent countries that I have played in may have confused or have turned some people off who has been keeping up with my career but I hope they understand the word “career” because every player has a different kind of career. I’ve played in many countries, some teams, countries, coaches may not like this, but again this is just how my career has unfolded. My basketball pedigree is strong. Despite the most current situations I’m the same player as I have always been, possibly better. I’m just ready for a good situation and ready to play.
Basketball brought you all around the world. Since 2012 you have been played in Turkey, Poland, Bulgaria, Finland and Canada. What are your memories about your last experiences?
Turkey was an awesome experience and was definitely the most competitive basketball I have played overseas. Fenerbache, Efes, Galatasary, Besiktas..come on man, and the list goes on and on. Any night you could get your ass completely kicked and we did at times.
That was my first season back after my ACL injury and personally I thought I performed well and was physically supreme. Mentally I struggled a bit though. A lot of energy, thought, and emotion goes into a season. Bad games, occasional disagreements within the team, its a long season and can be a roller coaster. At times I struggled with responding properly to those kind of situations that season.
The team and I decided to part ways at the Christmas break and some weeks later I signed with the Polish club Koszalin which was a mistake. Just a year previous I had played for and won a bronze medal in Poland with Czarni Slupsk. Everyone in Poland knows that Czarni and Koszalin are rivals. The Czarni fans are a very
dedicated and loyal community. I arrived in Koszalin and my teammates were super cool but after a while I started to see that they really didn’t need me and it felt like they were using me to make the Czarni community upset. I also had some personal things to handle back in the USA which all became a distraction so I felt it was best I leave.
Bulgaria may have been the worst situation I have ever experienced in my career. I was just leaving the San Antonio Spurs NBA Development team (the Austin Spurs) and got a job with Rilski. Once again, teammates were ultra cool and I was actually interested in experiencing Bulgaria on and off the court because my college teammate Illian Evtimov was from there.
When I arrived everything was fine. I practiced immediately and my teammates would tell you, I was running around dunking on people as usual. On the 3rd or 4th day of practice I banged knees with someone. At the time I thought nothing of it but after a few games I could tell something wasn’t right.
By now I was there a month and a half. I sat down with the coaches and talked, they wanted to part ways and I couldn’t have agreed more. So I asked about the contract and what financial terms we could agree upon and they said “none”. Of course I was a bit upset and we began to talk back and forth. Come to find out my agent at the time, he sent me the contract blank and I signed it with the obvious assumption that he would sign it also and then send it off to the team for them to sign it. After everyone signs it we all receive a final copy. This is typically how it goes and have never had to worry about these things ever in my career. Again, I was there for well over a month which is more than enough time to get these things sorted but they never were. I was basically playing for free and ended up leaving without a dime and all my American agent could do was blame the European agent for not getting the paperwork signed. Incredible.
After Bulgaria I went back home to have my knee scoped and cleaned out, no problem. I came back the next season in Finland averaging 18pts. 5rbs. 2asts. Believe it or not I stayed with the same agent from the Bulgaria situation because I wanted to give him another chance and refused to believe that the way he handled that situation was reflective of what kind of person he was. He didn’t fight for me at all. So we tried again with Finland. This was with Namika Lahti when they were in first division and the entire purpose of this situation was to simply show that I was back healthy, and that is exactly what I did.
As a country I actually liked Finland and met some awesome people. Basketball wise I have experienced more competitive markets but I made the most of it.
Finland was extremely cold and we did not have a car. We walked to and from the gym 20 mins a walk, 4 times a day. After a while I began to have plantar fasciitis and in the second to last game before Christmas break I tore my plantar fascia which was actually a good thing in my case. Pau Gasol had the same thing happen to him a few years back with the Lakers that last championship and he came back in a month and a half or so. The team sent me to a local Finnish doctor who saw elderly patients mostly and he told me that it was going to take 12 months for my plantar fascia to heal. Thats ridiculous.
I didn’t go on the last road game before the break because I was hurt. So I’m watching the game at my friends house who happens to be one of the biggest rappers in the country of Finland. Midway through the 3rd quarter I got a text from a friend saying “why didn’t you tell me you were leaving!?” - I went to the team website and I saw a press release saying that I was going to be out with a season ending injury and they were replacing me. It started a twitter frenzy for about 2 hours. Meanwhile I received no phone call, no text, no email, no nothing from anyone about the matter, not even my agent. The team and I surely parted ways.
I went back to USA and my foot was healed in a month and a half as expected. I decided to give Europe a break for a while and went to Australia. For Americans and Europeans our summer is their winter so it was just something to stay active over the summer. I had to deal with some unprofessional people but the entire experience was very refreshing and made me miss European basketball that much more.
Now I’m back from Australia and had plans to write a book so I set aside some time to do that. An agent that I built a relationship with over the years from Israel, he suggested this job in Canada. I wasn’t playing at the time and he felt like it could be something worth trying out and if goes well Israel is where we’d be next season. That was with the Halifax Hurricanes and we ended up winning the championship. My role on that team wasn’t to be a scorer but to be a leader. I came on the scene with 3 months remaining and the coach made it clear to me that he wanted me to take and knock down the big shots, play defense, but most importantly help this team stay together to win the championship. My numbers totally suffered but we did indeed accomplish the goal in winning the championship. In Europe don’t too many people seem to care about a Canadian championship but it definitely mattered to me and I grew a lot last year from that experience.
Canadian basketball is improving a lot lately. How is the Canadian league? In Europe there are not so many information about it.
Canada is very physical and competitive Emiliano. I actually had a conversation with a highly respected agent/ agency a few months ago and he jokingly said in response to us doing business, “I didn’t even know Canada had a basketball league..”. We both laughed, but you can never disrespect the game like that. I don’t know about this year but last year the league was competitive and had some guys out there who could play!
We are Italian so we must ask you something about your experiences. What do you remember about Casale and Rimini where you have been playing?
Casale was my rookie season as a professional basketball player. At that time Italy was the very first place I ever visited overseas and I remember everything about it. That was a very special year for me and I put up good numbers averaging 17pts 3rbs 2assts. Marco Crespi was my coach that year and I still talk to him to this day.
Rimini was a major let down. We had Michael Bernard at center, Ndudi Ebi at power forward, Carlton Myers at the 3, me at the 2, German Scarone at the point guard. Who is going to stop us Emiliano?? - We just could not figure it out and I’m not sure why. I averaged good numbers 16pts 3rbs 2assts 2 stls but as a team we just could not win. What I remember most about that season was myopportunity to play alongside a legend in Carlton Myers. That was his last season as a professional and I really wished it would have ended a lot better.
What is your suggestion for the next rookies that in their first summers as pro have to start a new path of their lives. Far from family, sometimes wife and sons to play basketball? How you can get used to play the entire season far from your life?
With agents, I’ve found the best ones are the ones who will fight for you and who can solve problems not just keep the business going when its easy.
But my biggest suggestion to any rookie in their first year is do not step on that plane without a purpose. Who and what are you playing for? There are many things you can be doing with your time and energy. You don’t have to risk breaking a bone or tearing a ligament or being away from your loved ones. You can make money doing a lot of things. Be sure to have a reason why you are risking all of these things just to play the game.
Your best season so far?
Overall, I’d have to say Poland for Czarni Slupsk. If not for that ACL I was in Euro League that next season for sure.
How long you want to play?
I really have no desire to stop playing. I have atleast 8 - 10 more competitive years in me. I’ve had about 2 seasons off so the wear and tear isn’t as much as one would think. Ever since I turned 30, mentally + physically + skillfully + experience, this is the best I’ve ever been and felt. Everything has come together.
The strongest opponent you have ever faced and the best teammate you have ever had?
Cam Bennerman by far! That dude is tough man. At 6’4 can jump out the gym, can post up smaller players, can guard bigger players. Can knock down the 3 and shoot the pull up. Can play defense. Good basketball IQ. Experienced and wants to win..this guy is by far my toughest opponent in trying to push him to be better.
The best teammate I’ve every had? Jeeeeeze, so many good ones man. But “Air France” Alain Digbeu was a former teammate of mine in Spain and has been a good friend and mentor. As a player he showed me that you can score 25 and totally lock your man down on defense at the same time. He showed me that exerting that amount of energy on both sides of the court was possible. To play hard all the time..that example really stuck with me.
Usually the American players build strong relations between each other. Have you been able to build great friendship with European players you have played with?
Absolutely! I am very big on relationships and I am very interested in what other people have going on. I want to know about YOUR world, so on every team I make it a priority to build as much as I can with them. I have a ton of friends in Italy and all over Europe. Basketball has made so many things possible and having it take me around the world has always been the goal. Its pretty cool to see how its done that.