Former Euroleague star and NBA scout Pete Mickeal is the man behind Myrtle Beach International Combine, which will gather 40 players from eight different countries, most of them draft prospects, from June 13 to June 15.
Mickeal sat down with HoopsHype and gave lots of details about the event and the people who will be working with the young talent there.
Please note this interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
A lot of interesting names coming over at the Combine, right?
Pete Mickeal: We have some really good names, and we’ve had some big-time agencies that reached out to us with their players. One guy that pops out is DJ Funderburk from North Carolina State. He could be drafted in the second round. His agent thinks he’ll be a high-level guy in the ACB [Spanish League] if he doesn’t get drafted. We have Sterling Manley, who went to North Carolina last year. He’s a name that really sticks out. And there’s a Canadian kid, Jordy Tshimanga from Dayton. There’s also a kid from the University of Indiana, and he’s probably one the best guards to come here: Devonte Green. He’s a guy to really keep an eye on. There are just so many guys… Matthew Moyer from George Washington, Koby Thomas from Coppin State, Manny Camper from Siena, Corey Sanders who is one year removed from college and had a really good season in Poland. We’re also taking some guys that are at least one year removed from college because of the pandemic, but most of them are draft eligible. We have a ton of guys that averaged between 18 and 21 points in college this season. High-level scorers, combo guards, a ton of guys that can play the three and four positions… We’re very happy with the list. We chose 40 players from a pool of 200.
Was it difficult to put together the list?
PM: We wanted to make sure we had quality over quantity. What I’ve done is I’ve gotten all my coaches, which includes former Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen, also Bill Bayno and Ty Ellis… all these guys are part of my committee to decide if we take the players or not. We have one kid that’s coming from Poland, we have a Nigerian kid, we have a Senegalese kid and a Canadian kid… we have eight different countries represented. This is truly a one-of-a-kind event, this has never been done on US soil, no one has ever brought together top seniors and international players in one room. In this pandemic, this opportunity to have your games live-streamed… I’ve been contacted by every single coach, every single GM over Europe, we’ve been going through that for two months, and let them know that this will be live-streamed, and I’m sending off the list of players this week, everyone that’s interested in it, including NBA teams. We’re doing NBA-style measurements, and those measurements will be available, we are doing interviews with all the players… We are doing our due diligence, we are doing a legit Combine. I have a business partner, his name is Ernie Cambo. He’s the head coach of Humacao in Puerto Rico and he’s helped me implement this on the business side. He is a big part of what I’m doing. We’ve got 100 years of head coach and assistant coaches in the NBA. I’ve never seen that level of head coaches, that level of experience anywhere.
You have planned activities apart from the regular basketball training sessions.
PM: We have Paul Biancardi, National Recruiting Director for ESPN, doing the play-by-play. We have Mike Bibby coming in as a mentor and as a coach as well. So we bring in all of this to the players. We bring an opportunity to be mentored and also we’re bringing in financial advisors to talk to the players about what happens when you make money, how to save it, how to transition over from never having money to finally have the money in your account. So we’re bringing all these life experiences to play. This is not only basketball. This is more of a life experience. Anyone who wants it, we’re going to interview the players too, and we’re going to live-stream this event. We got teams everywhere from Asia to Europe that are going to be watching this Combine. The gym is unbelievable, 100,000 square feet of space, six courts… We have our VIP seating for former and current players that are going to be coming to visit and some coaches also. I’ve put together the best staff. These guys have developed All-Stars. Why wouldn’t you want to learn from some of the best minds in basketball?
Can you give us more details about Bibby's role in the Combine?
PM: Well, we really want the players to feel Mike. He was brought to me by Ty Ellis, they’re really good friends. My idea for Mike was not just to coach, my idea was to have a guy who played in the NBA for a long time, who’s had the success of being an NCAA national champion and being the second pick of the draft to come and tell his story. And I thought these kids would be really, really fortunate to have a guy like that in their presence. He tells his NBA story, and then I tell my story about being in the NBA, not being able to play, having to take my career overseas and make my own way, and being proud of the career I’ve had with no regrets. I’m able to tell my story from a European standpoint, the ups and downs of trying to make it to the NBA, not making it, going overseas, starting my own career, and finally being considered one of the best in Euroleague history. They can relate to that story because there are gonna be a lot of ups and downs for these players that are coming here. It’s not always going to be second-round draft picks. It’s not always going to be G League or two-way contracts, it’s going to be some disappointment, it’s going to be ‘Hey, I got to go overseas for one year, two years to show people I can play at a high level before I come back.’ I’ve lived it. They can relate to me, as a former player. Ty Ellis has been a player overseas, and he’s also been a head coach in the G League two times. That experience right there is really, really good for the players. And then Jim Boylen! He’s got three NBA championships as an assistant coach and he’s also been a head coach. If I’m a player, I want to be coached by that guy. I want to listen to his advice or what it takes to coach Zach LaVine. I want to hear that. Bill Bayno, my coach back when I played in the Philippines in 2002. Me and Boylen, we were together in Houston, that was Yao Ming‘s rookie year. Unfortunately, I got injured and wasn’t able to play but I was able to build relationships while I was there.
The Combine schedule shows specific three-point shooting drills.
PM: I’m glad you mentioned that. This three-point shooting drill is very different than a regular three-point competition. This is called the Myrtle Beach 100. It’s the same drill that the Timberwolves do, that the Knicks do right now. I stole the idea from Tom Thibodeau. When I was a scout going in, they always chart players 100 three-point shots, each player. It’s a full-court drill, and it’s 100 three-point shots and you chart the player every shot he makes versus every shot he misses. The fans are going to be able to see guys move at game speed. Somebody is rebounding and the player just flies up and down. It’s a drill that after you finish it, you need to take a 10-15 minute break. We are putting these guys through NBA-type situations. If you want to play an NBA, you have to be able to do the ‘100’ drill. We are putting in some things that I learned in Spain, some different defensive concepts, different one-on-one drills that I love to do. My head coaches and assistant coaches have great ideas of their own.
There's a one-on-one tournament on the last day too.
PM: The fans and the coaches attending are going to see something unique, right? It’s like going to a Miami Heat workout… Everyone knows, when you go to a Miami workout as a college guy trying to get in the NBA, they put you through these types of workouts. They put you through a full-on-scale, one-on-one type of workout, and we’re going to do that because I think it shows the competitiveness of the player. We’re gonna know who’s gonna quit and we all know who has the heart to be able to pull this out on the last day because obviously, the legs will be a little tired.
The combine will have almost 300 fans. Coaches included, right?
PM: Yes, a lot of coaches are coming also. We have college, high school coaches… This event will also be like a clinic for them. So that’s why it’s important that we do everything with all of our experiences. For example, there’s gonna be a ton of things that I took from coach Xavi Pascual as far as spacing and offense that I want to implement myself into the system because I think he’s the best coach in the world at spacing the floor.
Talking about Europe, Anadolu Efes beat Barcelona 86-81 to win the Euroleague. You won the title with the Spanish club back in 2010. Did you watch the game?
PM: Yes, of course. It was a difficult game. Whenever you have Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin on the same team it causes a lot of issues for your team. They put so much pressure, they’re so smart, they can both shoot it, they can both pass it, they both handle it. They’re the two best in Europe right now, and they’re on the same team. And Shane didn’t play well but he shot 12 for 12 free throws. And when you shoot like that from the free-point line, it opens up your game for more confidence. Those guys put so much pressure on your defense. It was a learning experience. You always have teams that they get to the finals, they lose and it motivates them to come back and win the following year so I think that could be the case in Barcelona.
Will Micic jump to the NBA?
PM: Well, he’s a little older. Sometimes when you’re a little older as a former scout there are a few teams that don’t mind taking older guys. He’s 27 so there’s always a role for guys like him and in good teams. For example, Luca Vildoza went over to the Knicks. He’s 25 so he’s not young. In scouting, we consider young players that are 16, 17, 18 years old. So he’s not young, but he has a ton of experience playing in Argentina and playing in Spain for Baskonia. He can come to the NBA and play for a guy like Thibodeau, who I know very well, and play well. He has an Argentinian mentality, a tough mentality, he played for coach Dusko Ivanovic… So Thibodeau understands that he’s getting a guy that is willing to work hard. I think Micic has proven this year that for a guy his size, being able to play the point guard and shoot the ball and pass the way he does, I think if he goes to the NBA he’s going to be a contributing factor, he’s definitely going to contribute to the team.