British Basketball: perceptions of an international agent

This season’s on-court action may have taken a back seat, but for many agents it’s the busiest time of the year.

We caught up with SIMS Basketball (Scott International Management Services) founder and CEO Shasta Scott to talk contract negotiations, the art of being a succesful agent and how British basketball is viewed internationally.

Scott has a long and succesful history in the game, having played his senior season at Point University in West Point, Georgia where he led the nation “NAIA” in three pointers made with 110 and shot over 40% averaging 17 ppg. He later signed to play professional basketball in Uruguay and Brazil. Today, however, with a wealth of talent on the books at SIMS, including Leicester Riders guard Neil Watson (pictured), Scott’s interests have moved to providing prospects with the ins and outs of the business side of basketball to help players find the right job.

We began our conversation with Scott telling us about his journey to becoming an agent: “I became an agent after I retired in 2013, I was offered a position as an independent contractor for MSA International Sports Agency based in Tampa, Florida. After a successful year I was promoted to Vice President of Basketball Operations. However, I didn’t renew my contract when it expired because I had other plans: I decided to launch my own sports placement company called SIMS Basketball (Scott International Management Services). SIMS has been around for 2 years now and we have placed over 60 players, with a placement rate of 90%. It was a big help when we signed our exclusive partner agreement with European Agency Cro Pro Basketball Agency, based in Croatia. I scout and manage all players signed under them.”

I’ve had the chance to be on both sides of the fence: as a player and now as an agent. I think 90% of agents sell dreams and tell players and parents what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. When I’m recruiting players for our agency I look for humble, hungry guys, such as my self, who are determined to prove people wrong in this business. One thing about me as an agent, I don’t lie to players just to have them sign with us. I don’t sell dreams and I am 100% honest, loyal and upfront about how much a player is worth and what their market value is. Most players understand but some don’t, it’s a test I always put guys through and if they pass we proceed and if they fail I move to the next. But as an agent it’s more than just a business deal to me, I treat my guys like family, like my brothers; they can talk to me about anything, it’s a brotherhood at the end of the day when they join us. Therefore, we always have our guys back 110%!”

With no shortage of prospective players looking for a professional job, Scott detailed what he looks for in a client and how he juggles multiple clients to keep everyone happy: “First and foremost our big thing we preach is COMMUNICATION, it’s a MUST. Then we sit and talk about if they fit what we need/want in our agency. We also see if are they humble, loyal and disciplined. How well can they manage themselves as true professionals on and off the court? Are they wiling to listen to us and follow the layout plan given?”

We work with only a select number of athletes. We do this in order to provide each individual with the highest level of care and personal attention possible. Every prospect is different and has a unique situation that needs professional consideration and a thoughtfully tailored approach, in order to achieve the highest level of success in their career. We always tell guys just be patient, keep working hard and be ready for that call.”

Wanting to understand more about the day-to-day workload of an agent, we asked Scott to explain how involved the players are in contract negotiations and who is the main negotiator at the clubs: “Usually the club tells us what they are looking for and if we have what fits their needs we approach and start selling/marketing our players to them. Then if the coach or teams show any interest and would like to move forward with the process then we start setting up phone calls, face to face meetings, Skype, Viber, etc for our players.”

Pretty much we as the agents complete the deals, but when negotiating we always tell our players what’s on the table and what are the terms and conditions before they agree to sign anything. Therefore, our players trust our judgement: that’s why they hire us as their managers/agents.”

All parties have some say in the player signing negotiations, but at the end of the day the GM/owners of the club has the final word.”

Perhaps the most interesting passage of our conversation revolved around Scott’s opinion of the game in Britain: “I think British basketball is good and has a good level of players with high level basketball IQ, because after watching these past few years I think some teams, maybe 2-3 for sure, can play in leagues such as the Euro Challenge, Balkan, Baltic League etc.”

I think placing a player in the UK is a good idea on a 2 year layout plan to build a solid resume and move up step by step, maybe into some bigger and better leagues in Europe. But also the player must do their part on the court as well.”

Players love playing in the UK, especially the BBL. For USA players it’s like home for them: no language barrier, the culture is pretty much the same as in the states and it’s easier for USA players to adapt to as well. [However] I don’t think the BBL can attract the type of high level guys right now who are Euro Cup, Euroleague ready as rookies, due to maybe not enough salary cap room. Maybe in the future I can see a change for sure though.”

I think bigger sponsors would attract high level guys more if they did more off the court marketing. Also I think maybe bring the top 2-3 teams, or maybe even the top 2 teams, in the league and give them a shot at competing on an international stage in leagues such as the Euro Challenge, Balkan and Baltic Leagues. I think that would definitely attract those high level guys to maybe look into playing in the UK.”

Finally, we wanted to know what were the best & worst bits of being an agent: “Being an agent isn’t easy by far, you have good days and bad days. But in this business only the strong survive, sometimes you land a big fish and sometimes you don’t but the name of the game is every man for themselves… so no days off. Also you deal with humble guys and non humble guys, grateful guys and ungrateful guys, guys who are loyal and guys who are not so loyal, last but not least you have those guys who turn down deals after you have worked hours, days and nights for them. You also have those guys who would do anything for an entry job, just to get their foot in the door. But hey, at the end of the day, when you love what you do it’s never a JOB!”

Image: P.Davies