Over twenty-five percent of players on NBA rosters are international players. The defending champion San Antonio Spurs lead with 10.
There are also many international players on Division I college teams. Some have found their way to American prep and high schools. The Lee Academy postgrads have had international players every year since its program began. Some play on Maine high schools teams.
The University of Maine men’s and women’s teams each had seven international players on their 2014-15 rosters.
Former UMaine men’s associate head coach, Doug Leichner, currently an assistant at Iona College, recruited international players on the men’s rosters the past few years. He has many connections coaching summers overseas and a year coaching in Ireland.
UMaine women’s point guard Sigi Koizar is an excellent example of what an international player can bring to a college program. After playing her junior year at Stearns High School in Millinocket as an exchange student, she returned to her native Austria for her senior year where she played for a club team. There is no high school basketball in Europe. Club play is not based on age or grade, it is based on ability so younger players can compete with older players.
She was recruited by UMaine and has been a great find for the program.
Koizar is an outstanding player who has exceptionally high basketball knowledge which makes for great basketball decision-making skills. She can make her teammates better. She is an all- around player who can hit the 3-pointer, penetrate to the hoop and score, or penetrate and dish off to teammates. She can also control the offensive tempo, is an excellent defender, creator, playmaker and team leader.
She is an excellent local example of why many foreign players are successful playing on American courts. They are basketball players playing basketball and are more fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game, unlike some U.S. players. They are also very coachable.
I remember officiating some of her AAU games the spring of her junior year and immediately she stood out as a unique complete basketball player. She was the best fundamentally sound player on both the UMaine men’s and women’s teams and also at any level in Maine this season.
“Sigi is a terrific player and an even better person,” head women’s coach Richard Barron said. “She puts in hours of time practicing on her own. She has a 3.94 GPA in biology. She was named to the first all-academic conference team as well as a first team all-conference player. We are very excited about her continued development the next two seasons”.
The reason international players are fundamentally strong is because in the late 1950’s, veteran U.S. college and NBA coaches began going overseas to give clinics to players and coaches. In that era players relied more on their fundamentals and less on their athletic skills.
Over the years, U.S. coaches have developed many fundamentally sound international basketball coaches, players, team and programs. The U.S. eventually found it could not win the Olympics because international teams were so good. Only when the Olympic committee approved using pro players was America able to win the Olympics again.
If it’s good enough for the San Antonio Spurs to use so many sound fundamentally-skilled international players, it should be good enough for any level in the U.S.
Trivia question: What college player was the first to score a 100 points in a single game?