It has come to my attention that there seems to be a new “scheme” going around that will surely give agents a bad name. I have spoken with 4 players who have told me the same thing about different agents/agencies. I am sad to say that all 4 agents were based in the USA, which honestly, does not surprise me.
What I am about to discuss is not illegal. At worst, it is highly unethical and groups honest and hard-working agents in with money-grab agents if this becomes more of a trend. Right now it seems to be limited, but if more agents start making money off of this, it could grow.
The players, who all contacted me independently of each other, told me about their agents were steering them towards combines and player camps designed to help players get overseas. In my opinion, these agents were more than likely getting a kickback financially if players attended the camp. Is it illegal? No. Is it unethical? In my humble opinion, yes!
Based on some of the communication (that I read) between the agents and their clients, in each case, the tactic of the agents was pretty much the same.
First, was an admission that because of the player’s limited resume, it might be difficult for the agent to get the player a job.
Next, was an invitation to a particular combine. 3 specific combines were brought up between the 4 players. In each case, the player was provided with the dates of the event and was told that scouts would be in attendance both in person and online (more on that later).
Finally, each player was told to mention the agent’s name when booking so that the player could “possibly” get a discounted rate. Since when do agents give out discount codes?
Now here is my disclaimer. Do I know 100% that the agents got kickbacks financially if the players attended the combine? No, I do not know. Does my common sense tell me that they probably did? Yes, and here is why.
Back when I played, my agent advised me to go to a summer league in Treviso, Italy. The camp was for unsigned players and was run by Nike at the time and was known to be a great chance to get exposure and be seen by GMs and team representatives. The key information was that my agent paid for my flight (albeit from Austria not from America) and registration to attend the summer league after advising me that it would be good for my career. Why? Because he felt he would get his investment back. He believed in my talent and felt that he would get that money back through my next contract. Luckily, he was right!
My point is this if you have a serious agent that advises you to attend such a camp or combine, in my experience, he/she may not always pay for that out of his/her pocket, but at least your agent will not be lining their own pockets by you attending the camp. Maybe you have to pay that money back to your agent, but that can be worked out and in the end, you decide to do it or not. I do not think an agent should steer you to a camp to profit, but that is just my opinion.
Sometimes I play the “Devil’s Advocate” to make players think before you act. Ask yourself important WHY questions with any decision you make, especially if it entails a financial investment. If it feels shady, it probably is. Trust your instinct more hoopers. What I do is not rocket science, but I do have almost 29 years of experience in overseas basketball. That is what separates us. Your instinct, however, is usually correct. That was why the 4 players contacted me. Their instinct told them something was fishy.
I hope this does not become a trend. I know a lot of hard-working agents that will not find this post very funny. There are black sheep in every business. Find someone who believes in you as my agent believed in me. Trust me, it will pay off in the end.
*On a side note about coaches and scouts watching US-based combines online while living in other parts of the world, let me give you a simple example of why I think in general, that should not be a draw to attend a combine.
Let’s be generous and say the camp is on the east coast. I live in Germany, which means my time zone is 6 hours ahead of that where the camp is taking place. Let’s also be generous with the time of the camp and say it begins at 3 pm. Do you think many GMs are going to wake up to watch a live camp event online at 9 am in the offseason?
Yes there may be some die hard ones that do it, but I have many friends that are coaches and agents. I do not know one that would be willing to wake up at 6am to watch a 12pm start time at a camp somewhere…and I was being generous with the times. If the camp is on the West Coast, that is a logistical nightmare with the time zones. I am not saying it doesn’t happen…it’s just me playing the Devil’s Advocate again to give you hoopers something to think about.