RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here's an example of how popular playing professional basketball overseas has become: Camps are springing up in North Carolina to help players get there.
Beginning June 26 in Durham and July 24 in Charlotte, former Fayetteville State guard Larry Bratcher will host three-day seminars designed to help players learn about international agents, nutrition, salary stipulations, and what it takes to sign with a team.
Most participants are likely to come from smaller colleges. But on the heels of Clemson guard Terrence Oglesby's decision to leave school early to play in Italy and Florida sophomore Nick Calathes opting to pass on the NBA draft in order to sign with a Greek team, Bratcher's camps show how playing in Europe has become a viable option for more and more Americans who want to continue their basketball careers.
"There is an opportunity to make money over there doing what you love to do -- if you're prepared," said Bratcher, a Hillsborough, N.C., resident who has played for basketball leagues in 14 countries the past 10 years.
Bratcher tells prospective players about the downsides of playing in another country.
Players often aren't paid on time.
There is almost always a language barrier.
And in some places, the local McDonald's (or the Krispy Kreme, if you happen to have a contract in Kuwait) is the closest thing to home.
Salaries can range from hundreds of dollars, to hundreds of thousands of dollars each week -- plus room, board and bonuses. But players such as Oglesby and Calathes could land six-figure deals worth well above the NBA minimum ($473,604 in 2010-11 for a player with zero years of time in the league). And because of the increased competition and number of games played in European leagues, they could end up better prepared to vie for NBA roster spots in the years to come.
"There's so much money, so much experience you can gain from going over there," said ex-Duke standout Ricky Price, who played on multiple foreign teams before becoming an agent with New Jersey-based World Wide Hoops.
"Their teams are trying to rally with ours ... and there are rivalries over there that are almost equal to what we have going on over here. So (playing internationally) is not a second-tier thing anymore. For some people, it's their first option."
Price expects more players to go the way of Oglesby, Calathes and N.C. State forward Brandon Costner, who gave up his final year of eligibility and wants to play in the NBA but will probably end up playing internationally next season.
"I would like to make $2 million (eventually) -- tax free," Costner said. "I'd rather play and make that kind of money than sit on the bench in the NBA and make the league minimum."
Because of the NBA's age minimum and college entrance requirements, more high school players might also join San Diego's Jeremy Tyler, who decided to skip his senior year of high school and play internationally; and Brandon Jennings, an Arizona signee who instead played last season in the Italian league and is expected to be a first-round NBA draft pick later this month.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he is surprised more underclassmen haven't made the jump to Europe before now.
"I think just like a kid who has a talent in singing and tennis and playing an instrument or whatever, if they feel that a certain course would be best to develop their talent, they should be able to do that," Krzyzewski said.
Bratcher hopes his camp helps that process. For as little as $200, athletes will compete on eight-member teams, participate in NBA-style skills tests, be measured for height and weight, and leave with a personalized DVD, as well as a list of more than 200 international agents and scouts.
More than a dozen players with ties to North Carolina who have played overseas -- including N.C. State's Anthony Grundy (Greece) and N.C. Central's David Young (Italy, Greece, France) -- have agreed to teach at the Durham camp, sharing their tips and experiences on everything from how to write an effective resume to how salaries vary.
"My hope is that this camp will open the door for more guys -- and makes it easier, hearing what we did right, and what we did wrong," Bratcher said.
Arc could come sooner
One of the reasons the NCAA basketball playing rules committee last month didn't recommend a painted arc to go along with the new "no charge" zone under the basket for "help" defenders was because it could have taken four years to institute a new painted line.
But when the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved the roughly-24-inch no-charge area earlier this month, it did something smart: It opened the door to quicker implementation of a painted semicircle, if one is ever recommended and approved by the membership.
The Oversight Panel agreed that if the committee opts next summer to suggest that the no-charge zone be painted, the markings won't need to go through an experimental stage in 2010-11. That could allow arcs to be added in 2011-12, when the next rule book is printed, said Ty Halpin, the NCAA's associate director of playing rules administration.
The reason it could have taken up to four years had it been recommended this time around is that the NCAA rulebooks go through two-year cycles. Had the arc been an "experimental rule" next season, then had the Oversight Panel opted not to promptly approve it because of the cost of painting a new line on the court, it might not have made it to the floor until the 2013-14 rule book was ready to be printed.
The new rule is meant to curtail the increasingly physical play under the hoop. As it stands, it still likely won't solve the problem because without a painted arc in the designated area from the front of the backboard to the front of the rim, it will be difficult for officials to judge the boundaries of the no-charge area.
Ol' Roy's story
UNC Press is scheduled to publish "One Fantastic Ride: The Inside Story of the Carolina Basketball's 2009 Championship Season" on Oct. 19.
Another interesting read for Tar Heels fans will be published a few weeks later.
Coach Roy Williams earlier this month began the process of writing his autobiography with Tim Crothers, a North Carolina graduate and former writer for Sports Illustrated. The book is titled: "Hard Work: My Life On and Off the Court." Famed novelist John Grisham wrote the foreword.
Crothers also wrote a biography on UNC women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance titled "The Man Watching" in 2006.
The Williams book is scheduled to be published by Chapel Hill-based Algonquin Books in November.
BRATCHER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL CAMPS
WHEN: June 26-29 at L.T. Walker Sports Complex in Durham; July 24-26 in Charlotte (site TBA)
COST: $250 ($200 for early registration)
FIVE TIPS FOR PLAYING PRO HOOPS OVERSEAS
If you're married or have a girlfriend, always answer the phone.
Get your teammates to love you.
Go out when your teammates go out.
If your team pays you late, keep playing and practicing.
If you play in an Arabic country, learn what "boukra" means (tomorrow), because you will hear it a lot on payday.
--Larry Bratcher, former Fayetteville State and international player