Dermot Russell, a FIBA certified agent, is director and founder of both the North Atlantic Basketball Academy based in Dublin and Players 1st Sports Management. Dermot recently visited Rajnandgaon at the request of the Sports Authority of India (SAI). During the 3 days spent there, Dermot was able to check out the talented players in attendance and identified 14 exciting prospects to work within his consultancy’s development pathway. One of these players, a 6’11’’ 15 year old boy from Punjab state, has since been offered a full scholarship to the prestigious world class Spire Academy in Ohio, USA. In addition to these 14 players Dermot Identified 82 other boys and girls to offer international scholarship opportunities to.
Following a rapturous reception at the SAI training centre in Rajnandgaon, Dermot met with the 295 players who attended the trials from groups aging in range from u13 to u20. From this 295 players, a total of 96 players have subsequently been offered full and partial scholarship placements in Academies throughout Europe, including to the North Atlantic Basketball Academy (NABA) in Dublin, Barcelona and Sofia.
The recent visit generated huge media interest across India and stories ran in over 100 different publications nationwide in addition to been interviewed live on National TV! Coverage in the India Times, the largest English speaking publication globally, followed an expression of interest in the work of Players1st Sports Management.
Following the success of the trial hosted by the SAI Dermot has been invited to return to hold further trials in different locations in India. Dermot has high hopes of finding more talented aspiring ballers across the Indian state in the near future. The next proposed project with the SAI is to bring a group of top level Indian players to play in an AAU tournament to be held in Las Vegas this July. This event will be attended by recruiting college coaches from all over the USA and promises to be an opportunity of a lifetime for the players.
The route to playing top level basketball, the highest obviously being in the US, is a long and winding road for many players. Full athletic scholarships in the USA are only offered to 1% of players in the USA, with only 0.5% being offered to players from outside the US. Gaining the college scholarship to play NCAA basketball is the dream of most players internationally, however statistically the percentages of it happening are very low. Players such as those who enter into the Players1st development pathway increase the possibility of gaining one of these scholarships dramatically as Players1st are experts in the field, getting players in the shop window of US college coaches should their ability permit. Players and parents alike need to make a significant commitment to training and development which in many cases can mean that a significant financial and time investment is required. Training 2 or 3 times a week is simply not enough to reach elite level, explains Dermot, and basketball academies which we recruit for offer the best platform to transform potential to elite level.
Since its formation in 2010, Players 1st has assisted a number of Irish and international athletes to take the necessary steps in their dream to play elite level basketball. Up until the first trial in Ireland in 2012, recruitment was done independently. However since then the trial concept has grown considerably.
The 1st international trial took place in Lisbon, Portugal where Dermot discovered Ines Ferreira, a 17 year old PG/SG with great potential. Ines was offered a partial scholarship to the Nottingham academy. Ines worked hard for 2 full years until she finished secondary school there, played no small role in the Nottigham wildcats WBBL squad as well as u18 and u19, before being offered a full scholarship to Western Kentucky University in the USA. Ines is currently is due to attend this coming September 2016.
Another Portuguese ladies player identified at that same trial is Ines Viana. Dermot was able to secure a full scholarship to NAIA D1 Concordia University in California. Ines subsequently declined the offer as she decided to complete her economics degree in Portugal which she was 1 year into. She is currently playing for top league side Quinta Da Lombos in Portugal.
Home grown players that Players1st are proud to have helped are 2 sets of Donegal twins, Padraic and Jason Carr, and Cian and Tadhg Hickey. These 4 boys have represented their country fantastically since making the move to an academy outside of Ireland.
Dermot spoke to Padraic and Jason Carr’s then coach in Donegal Town, Nigel Weir, following a game he saw them playing in, to discuss the option of the two boys playing abroad. Nigel then put him on to the parents and the rest is history. The twins, now 19 and from Donegal Town, were signed to Plymouth Raiders Academy in the UK. Both boys have since moved onto third level in Plymouth and Jason is a regular feature on the Raiders professional BBL team.
Cian and Tadhg Hickey from Letterkenny were spotted by Dermot representing Ireland in an u18 game in 2014. Following discussions with the boys parents and Dermot, both boys went to Myerscough Basketball Academy in Preston, North of England and played in the Elite Academy Basketball League before graduating this year. Following the completion of their secondary school education at Myerscough, 5 different universities have offered them places to study law which they are currently considering. Cian is currently playing with Semi-professional EBL1 team the Lancaster Spinners and will continue to fly the Irish flag in English basketball leagues while he finishes his University degree in the UK.
Another Players 1st recruit, Kiko Stavrev, teamed up on court with the Hickey twins and made a fantastic trio who helped their team win 4 national championships in their first year together. Kiko, who hails from Bulgaria, is now on a full scholarship with NCAA Division 1 School, Weber State University – Damian Lillard’s old stomping ground. Weber fought hard for their place in this year’s NCAA tournament, losing out to Xavier in Round 1 on March 18.
At this stage of its existence, Players 1st has placed over 100 players in Europe and the USA following invitations to hold trials in the UK, Portugal, Spain, Malta, Belgium, Finland, Latvia and Bulgaria. To date 4 of these players who have passed through the development pathway have found offers to play NCAA basketball which is a good indication of the percentages/ratios and also to the work required to achieve the goal of playing college basketball in the USA.
Following these recent successes, Players1st have received further invitations to run trials in France, Denmark and Iceland, and Dermot is excited about the talent to be discovered in these countries too. If you are interested in talking to Dermot about your future you can email him on firstname.lastname@example.org