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This is the third year I've been a part of the Reebok Eurocamp, an NBA evaluation camp for some of Europe's best young players.
Held in Treviso, Italy, home of the Benetton company, this camp invites 48 of the best young players in Europe.
It's a little different than the NBA predraft camp in Orlando. While there are a number of draft-eligible players and early-entry prospects, it also has a number of talented, young high school- and college freshman-aged players who are now on many NBA teams' radars.
The coaching staff consists mainly of NBA coaches and scouts as well as coaches from Europe's top professional clubs. The opportunity for me to be a part of the staff gives me a unique perspective to be able to compare college basketball with the international game; it certainly helps me come the night of the draft each year in late June.
Among the NBA luminaries here observing the camp are Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, the Houston Rockets' future general manager, Daryl Morey, and the Toronto Raptors' new general manager, Bryan Colangelo, who enjoys the luxury of having the top pick in this year's draft.
The timing is good for NBA teams to be here, because the Italian League finals start Wednesday with Benetton Treviso taking on Climamio Bologna. Scouts can get another first-hand look at potential No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani of Benetton.
Another likely first-round pick in this year's draft is 6-9 Brazilian small forward Marcus Vinicius, who has worked out for a number of NBA teams prior to the camp in half-court situations. This camp will allow him to show his open-court skills in five-on-five situations. He's being coached by one of the NBA's top international scouts in Tony Ronzone of the Detroit Pistons.
Two intriguing Israeli players -- an Israeli has never been selected in the NBA's first round -- are 6-4 guard Yotam Halperin and 6-8 small forward Lior Eliyahu.
Another interesting prospect is Ali Traore, a 6-9 power forward from France by way of Mali. Traore started his career at the College of Southern Idaho, a junior college, but he moved on to accept a contract to play at Roanne in the French Pro A League.
Both Traore and Eliyahu are looking for a first-round commitment from NBA teams before June 18 or they will withdraw from the draft and continue their professional careers in Europe.
Among the bright young players in the camp are 6-10 English forward Joel Freeland, 5-10 point guard Rudy Mbemba from Sweden and Vilmantas Dilys, a 6-9 Lithuanian player who reminds me of Tayshaun Prince of the Pistons.
The beauty of NBA teams evaluating the young players in this environment is that they can follow their progression more closely over the next couple of years. With the amount of resources NBA teams are pouring into international scouting, it's less and less likely that you will see draft busts like Nikoloz Tskitishvili, who was taken with the fifth overall pick in 2002 by the Denver Nuggets.
The players and coaches are housed together at La Ghirada, Benetton's sprawling sports complex. I have found there is a family atmosphere at the camp because each of these young men shares a dream of playing in the NBA. It manifests itself daily as the players look to impress the NBA contingent on hand. There are very few entourages or AAU-type coaches hanging around. While these players are young professionals, there is still an innocence that goes hand-in-hand with their dreams.
This is a perfect place for me to be in the spring -- basketball in Italy. More to come after Monday's session.
Fran Fraschilla is an analyst for ESPN.
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