Are you a basketball player looking to earn playing time overseas as an import player? Sometimes there is more to it than the simple, “I am better than the player ahead of me.” Playing overseas comes with a much different set of rules than you are probably used to, but if you are aware of these rules (both written and unwritten) you will be better off. 

Coaches have to balance the needs of the team with the desires of individual players, so you might have to wait for your chance to shine. As a player, you tend to only think about yourself. As a coach, however, you must think of the whole team. Which rotations are better? Who plays best together? If I take this player out, how does it affect the defensive scheme, etc? I never thought of those things as a player, but as a coach, I constantly thought of those things, and more.

Another thing to consider is that if you want to play more, someone has to play less. Are you outplaying the player ahead of you during practconsistently?  Work hard, show your skills, and make sure the coach knows what you’re capable of. If you can consistently perform at a high level, you’ll have a better chance of getting more minutes in games.

Of course, it’s not just about practice. You also have to produce on the court. Are you outperforming the player ahead of you consistently in games? When you’re given an opportunity to play, make the most of it. You may never know how much you will play at any given time, so you have to stay ready whenever your number is called  Score points efficiently, get rebounds, play tough defense – whatever it takes to help your team win.

As a foreign player, you also have to be ready to accept a role on the team. Different countries/leagues have different rules about how many foreign players can be on the court at once, so you might not always get to play as much as you’d like because of the roster depth. Understanding your role and some rule situations will help you understand, even if you do not like it. But if you’re willing to be a team player and do what’s best for the squad, you’ll earn the respect of your coaches and teammates.

I once had a player when I coached in the 2nd league in Germany that did not start games because of the import player rules. The rule was that 2 German players must be on the court at the same time. He played the position of one of the better German players on the team so we had to be mindful of who else was on the court at the same time. The import player was probably our best overall player, but there were times when we needed something else on the floor because we had to figure out which Germans would be on the court. I spoke with him about it, and although he did everything we asked, I knew he would rather play more or start sometimes. 

Another part of understanding your role could be if you are on a very deep and good team. Euroleague players are faced with this especially. On such a talented team, there may also be games when you will have to sit out. Some Euroleague teams have many players on their roster. They rotate players sometimes to fight against fatigue during a long season. 

It could be that you play league games, but not Euroleague games, and vice versa. The more talented the team, the more efficient you have to be because the weight of the team’s success does not rest on two players, but more on all shoulders. You will probably not play a huge amount of minutes so you must be effective in the minutes that you play…if not, there is someone right behind you that is probably equally talented.

Remember, earning playing time isn’t just about your performance. It’s also about being a good fit with other players. You might not play so well with a certain player so it makes no sense to be on the court at the same time. Be supportive, work hard, and stay positive – your chance to shine will come.

I hope these tips have been helpful for all the basketball players out there looking to earn playing time overseas. Keep working hard, and don’t give up on your dreams. With dedication and perseverance, anything is possible. Good luck on the court!