Talent is good to have, but possessing a strong character and making yourself into a well-rounded, educated individual is even more vital to having success in basketball. Those were the messages the future stars of European basketball learned at the 2017 Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Players Educational Session.
The players from the eight teams at the EB ANGT were given the opportunity at the session to learn life lessons from former Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion head coach David Blatt of Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul and Cedi Osman from EuroLeague side Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
"Character is the most important thing I learned – to have confidence, to study and to have character," U18 CFBB point guard Sofiane Briki said. "It was a big opportunity to learn from Osman and his experience. I really learned a lot."
U18 FC Barcelona Lassa guard Arnas Velicka called Blatt's messages "inspiring".
"Coach Blatt’s talk was really motivational and inspiring," Velicka said.
"We need to work hard every day and just be a good person - not only on the basketball court but off the court too. It was very inspiring."
Blatt and Osman were invited to talk to the EB ANGT players at the annual educational session. And the former Maccabi head coach Blatt enjoyed the gathering as much as the players did.
"After this talk that we all had together I feel better than I do after most wins. Because it’s very meaningful and very important when you get a chance to interact and to learn from other people and to have some impact on kids’ lives. It means a lot to me," Blatt said.
The Darussafaka coach’s biggest messages were having character and being educated. Blatt was aware that many of the players on hand did not understand everything he was saying. But that made his point that much more important.
"There is nothing more important for your career if you want to get to a high level than to learn English. To communicate wherever you go," Blatt told the session.
"Before you take your next shot, get your next rebound, or open your phone and play all those dumb games you play, I want you to get an application to teach you words. Learn them in your free time instead of playing games. You’re going to need it."
He talked about the players having coaches from other countries in the future, teammates from multiple countries and living in other countries. And the main communication avenue is the English language.
"English is critical and you need to take it seriously," he said.
Blatt also said that a player having good character is crucial.
"Your reputation is what people think you are. Your character is who you really are inside."
Have heart and desire and a strong work ethic, urged the coach. And reach for a book instead of a smartphone.
"Understand you have to educate yourself. Your life is not only about basketball. Your mind must become more than just the basket and the ball," said Blatt.
Osman told the players of his tough beginnings in the game as he moved from FYROM to Bosnia and Herzegovina and then to Turkey.
"I always played to win. And then playing in the second division in Turkey, I didn’t lose my faith. You need to believe in yourself and always give your best," said Osman, who played at the EB ANGT in 2011-12.
The 22-year-old also told the players to start taking care of their bodies. And the Anadolu guard added that his approach is team first: "I am always thinking about how to help my team. The team is always first."
The third speaker in the session was Alex Ferrer Kristjansson, Brand and Communication Director for Euroleague Basketball, who talked to the players about how to better understand what it means to be and become a professional.
"When you come to the EuroLeague and its clubs, what you find is a totally different world than what you know beforehand," Ferrer said.
"You have to do your job – the game on the court and off the court. … Our job is to grow the business and the fan base, and you play a special role."
Blatt finished the session off with a task for the players: "I suggest everybody here make five new friends, and not players from your country."
He said that is a major help in character building.