John Ebeling has had a successful career as both a player and executive in top leagues around the world. After finishing his Hall of Fame career at Florida Southern College in nearby Lakeland, Florida, Ebeling was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the 1982 NBA Draft, and spent over 20 years in Europe playing in some of the top international leagues in countries such as Italy, Spain, and Switzerland. In the years following his playing career, Ebeling has transitioned into the management side of European basketball, spending the previous two seasons with Pesaro, which competes in Italy’s top league, Lega Basket Serie A.
The Tampa Bay Rebels would like to thank Mr. Ebeling for taking the time to answer our 5 Quick Questions!
You have served as Sports Director for several top level teams in Italy, and it appears to be a common position with top teams throughout Europe. Can you tell us about your responsibilities in that role?
The position can vary from team to team as to your responsibilities. I was fortunate to have the total trust from our owners. You are responsible for daily operations such as organization of practices, solving player problems, and scouting for the future. Your job is 24/7 in all directions. My dream is to eventually to work for an NBA team so I continue to follow the rules I have used throughout my career of staying humble, work hard and feel fortunate!
How has your experience as a player in top international helped you as a scout?
When scouting you need to know all aspects of what a player is experiencing in order to evaluate his playing ability. Culture, living conditions, as well as his coach all can be important factors. After being overseas for 30 years I know many of the teams and coaches which helps in evaluating a players production and his ability to adapt to situations.
At what point in your playing career did you realize that you wanted to transition into a front office position after your playing days were behind you? Did that change the way you approached practice, film sessions, and the like as your playing career wound down?
I played as long as I possibly could, due to my love for the game. When I finished playing I was lucky to be offered the position of Sports Director. I consider myself fortunate of being able to step directly into a managerial position so quickly. I feel as a player ages they start to approach film sessions, practice, and the coaches view due to the fact of his maturity and understanding of the game.
You have spent a majority of your career as a player and executive in Italy, home to some of the best basketball clubs in the world. What makes the leagues and clubs in Italy so special?
Italy has always been one of the best countries for basketball in Europe. Although I feel the level in Italy has diminished in the past few years, it is still a great place for players to continue their development. The seriousness of professional basketball in Italy is still at a high level when taking into consideration other countries. The FIBA regulations have helped the overall condition of professionalism throughout the world.
What is the best piece of advice that you can give to players who are looking to make a career of playing in international leagues?
My advice would be to approach international basketball with the same mentality and seriousness as you would have towards playing for an NBA team. Don't make the mistake that you feel you are going to go there and teach them how to play but instead be open and try to learn while playing in Europe. Learn the language and adapt to the country and don't expect they are responsible to adapt to you. It can be an extremely positive experience towards your development as a player, so don't limit yourself to trying new things. To play in Europe is a fortunate thing and the number of players that would love to take your job is numerous! Play hard and be professional. Enjoy the experience!