The Basketball Africa League (BAL) hosted a combine in Paris, France on January 15-16 at The One Ball Training Center ahead of their third season that is scheduled to tip off in Dakar, Senegal on March 11. Thirty players from around the world participated in the two-day scouting event.
Former Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder served as the combine camp director, and he was joined by his former player Ed Davis. Davis, who played 12 seasons in the NBA, talked with HoopsHype in a wide-ranging conversation about his experience at the combine, his career, young stars in the NBA, and of course, Victor Wembanyama.
How has the BAL combine been out in Paris?
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Ed Davis: It’s going well, man. It’s my first time really being around this organization, you know what they got going on and I got to really talk to some people and see what they got planned for the future, and being around these prospects I can go over there so it’s been a great experience.
The BAL is now in its third season, what do you see in the future for the league?
ED: I actually see amazing things. They got a lot of support behind it. A lot of people are passionate about it. It’s basketball and it’s gonna grow and it has a lot of potential for sure.
Can you go through what bought you to help out at the BAL combine?
ED: Yeah, so I have a good relationship with Coach Q, Quin Snyder. He’s pretty much the camp coach director, we keep in contact, he mentioned it and it was an opportunity I definitely wanted to take, an experience.
Is coaching or scouting something that you're interested in now or in the near future?
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ED: Yeah, for sure. I definitely want to be around basketball, in some capacity. I don’t know exactly where I’m going to go or where it’s going to take me, but it’s in my blood so I can’t walk away from it.
What sort of advice/guidance are you hoping to give these young players?
ED: I mean, all sorts of stuff, especially the big men here, just trying to teach things I learned throughout my career that helped me and that I’ve seen. I’ve been telling these guys, just enjoy the moment, enjoy the grind, just trying to give them some big brother advice.
What are your thoughts with how fast the league has changed this past decade?
ED: Yeah, I think it obviously has a lot to do with the analytic side of it. I don’t think that the post game is dead, it’s just only a few guys can get those paint touches and get ISO plays for them. If you look back into the 90s and how they played inside out, now it’s outside out. But there are still some great bigs in the league that really have a lot of stuff on the block, so the league has always been a copycat league so it just takes for a team like Philly or Denver to win it and everyone [will] change their playing styles around a little different. Hopefully, it gets back to that somewhat. It’s not gonna fully be there but more where you can play in a post and get back that aspect of the game.
Do you think we will ever get back to what we used to have with the inside out kind of play?
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ED: I don’t know if it’s gonna go to inside out, but I think with the bigs in the league and the bigs that are coming up, the No. 1 pick [Victor Wembanyama], it’s going to make teams adjust. When I first got into the league, teams were carrying five, six bigs. Now they carry two, maybe three, so that right there is a huge adjustment and a huge change in itself.
With you being in Paris right now, have you seen the hype over there with Victor Wembanyama?
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ED: Yeah, I don’t think it’s hype. I think he’s that good. I’m interested to see how it plays out because you never know. I hope that he stays healthy his whole career, so he can reach his full potential. I’m interested to see how teams match up against him. Are they gonna put centers on him, or are they gonna put fours and threes on him? Whenever you can get a player with that skill set and how much he can affect the game, and change the game. You got to think about it, man, when I came into the league and when I was growing up, if you were that big they threw you in the post. If you shot threes, you were considered soft. It’s just crazy to watch the game and see how it’s evolving and see how skilled these seven-footers are. You got to think about it, when you’re seven feet, just to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time is an accomplishment in itself. I’m definitely rooting for him. I love when big guys come into the league, especially when they get dominant. I want those bigs back. I want the game to turn back in that direction.
The league used to have a lot more veterans on teams to help mentor their younger players
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ED: Yeah, I feel that it should be a rule that every team has to have some vet on the team. It’s not even about basketball, it’s just about NBA life. The NBA life is tough. It looks easy and peaches and cream on TV, but so much comes into it. The money, the dealing with family, the dealing with the highs and lows, the plans and not plans, to dealing with injuries and the transition period. It’s just so much that if you haven’t been in that situation, you can’t really give that advice, or God can’t lean on that. I feel that it is something that damn well should be mandatory, especially for these super young teams. You see a lot of these teams where they might have guys in the media for a bunch of negative things. They don’t have a big brother in their ear, so I definitely hope teams really start to invest more in that, because it definitely benefits the guys a lot, and it helps the organization out.
Were there any veteran players back in the day that really helped you?
ED: Yeah, so when I was in Toronto, I had Reggie Evans. At the time, he was hard on me. He used to say little stuff that I didn’t really like. I didn’t understand, I thought, man, he just always got something to say but really he was giving me the game. It was sort of tough love, perspective. But, I didn’t really understand it until looking back on it, six, seven years later, I appreciate him for that, for sure.
You spent last season with the Cavs. What did you see with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley?
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ED: They have all the pieces. Now they just need more experience. Just keep building that chemistry. I don’t really see a weakness in their team. They just need more time and like I said, more experience. Once Evan [Mobley] starts to develop more that’s gonna help. DG [Darius Garland] got some room [to grow] and he could take some leaps. And all the guys that are in between, Isaac [Okoro], and Caris LeVert, all those guys continue to get better. They gonna be tough to deal with for the next five to seven years or however long they can keep that bunch together.
In terms of Mobley’s development, what have you seen this year compared to last year when he was a rookie?
ED: He’s gonna continue to get better, but I’m expecting him to make a huge jump. Statistically, you might not see that for maybe a couple more years. Just for the simple fact that he’s the third or fourth option on the court sometimes. So, if you just look at these strictly pure numbers alone, you might not see that huge jump, but he affects the game in so many ways. When he makes that jump, that’s when the Cavs make the jump from being a contender to really being a clear-cut favorite to win a championship and as I said, they have all the pieces and everything. They just need more time together, man.
You were in Utah when Donovan Mitchell was there, a lot younger than he is now. How do you see his fit with the Cavaliers?
ED: It was something that the Cavs needed. There’s not too many two-guards in the league and he can play on the ball and off the ball. He’s a bonafide All-Star. He takes his profession seriously. He’s really dedicated and that was one thing that stood out to me the most when I first got to Utah was just how much time and how advanced he was for where he was at in his career and how serious he took it and how much he wants to win and how much he just wants to get better. So, when you have that type of drive with the tools that he has, the sky’s the limit for sure for him.
You've been with eight teams in the league. Who would you say was the most intense teammate you ever had?
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ED: I played with a lot of intense players, I played with a lot of nutty players too. But I say that when someone asked me to name a guy where I say that works the hardest or put in the most work I would say on top of my list would be Collin Sexton and Malik Beasley. They were the two guys that were locked in and ready to go no matter what. It could be shootaround or regular workouts to home workouts like those two guys… Man, they go to the limit. A lot of guys in the league have incredible work ethic. Me being one of them, but you know, it’s always another level and they reached that level where any more work they put in, they damn near cause harm to their body. That’s how hard they push themselves.
When Collin was hurt last year, he was still doing all that he could do plus more. Before the games, after the games, halftimes, he was just trying to get better any way he could.
With Collin Sexton now in Utah in the sixth-man role he is, do you see his role growing?
ED: Yeah, for sure. I mean, all the potential that he has, he’s definitely going to tap that. I don’t know what Will [Hardy] is gonna do with his role. That’s on them but for him, and reaching his full potential, like at the end of his career, he’s not gonna look back and be like, damn, I wish I would have worked harder, I wish I would have done this. He’s gonna tap his potential 100 percent.
Are you still looking to get back in the NBA? Any interest recently?
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ED: I still work out four times a week. I’m not staring at my phone all day waiting for my agent to call me. But if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m fine either way. So like, let’s take it day by day. I enjoyed my time in the league. I wasn’t one of those guys who took it for granted, so I know, at some point, it comes calling where your time is up. I’ve seen so many guys come in, while I was playing. So, obviously, towards the back end of my career, I wasn’t playing as much and I knew that this might be my last year so it’s not like a huge shock. If I get that call, I’m ready, but if I don’t get that call, I’m not losing sleep. I’m not bitter or anything like that. Life is good. I made some good money in the league, and made a lot of relationships, lifelong relationships. And, you know, I’ve seen a lot of things, playing eight different cities, so I’m not complaining one bit about how my career went.