Portsmouth Preview: Interview with Ryan Blake (part two)

Portsmouth Preview: Interview with Ryan Blake (part two)
Apr 05, 2005, 10:07 pm
's Jonathan Givony had a chance to talk with Assistant Director of NBA scouting services, Ryan Blake, about the Portsmouth Invitational, the Chicago Draft Camp, and the NBA draft in general.

Ryan, and his legendary father Marty Blake (the Director of NBA scouting services), are responsible for many of the draft decisions the NBA officially makes. Paramount of these responsibilities is informing teams who the NBA views as a credible draft prospect. In addition to this, they establish who the NBA would like to see in the Portsmouth Invitational.

The Portsmouth Invitational will be played April 6th through the 9th in Portsmouth, Virginia. It is a showcase for NCAA seniors (64 in all), a place where they can be evaluated for the next level. will provide first hand coverage of all the days at Portsmouth.

Before that, decided to sit down with Ryan Blake and get his take on this year's Portsmouth Invitational, but we came away with alot more than that.

Part Two (Part one can be found HERE)

Jonathan Givony: So....going back to Portsmouth. I was going to ask youhow many of the actual decision makers are going to be on hand for Portsmouth?

Ryan Blake: Decision makers for what?

Jonathan Givony: You know the people that actually draft these kids. The GM's, the executives, all those guys.

Ryan Blake: All of them. Most all of them. All the teams are going to be there, the GM's, the scouts, the only difference this year is that they are going to be more on hand splitting time going back and forth between that [Portsmouth] and the Nike Hoop Summit.

JG: Yeah, that was going to be my next question. How does the fact that the Hoop Summit is going on at the same time affect Portsmouth?

RB: It affects them in that all of their staff [NBA teams] are going to be working overtime. But what we have is a newwe got these guys from Accurate [?] recruit, the biggest ones they call ‘em, they do DVD's for everybody. There's always been films in the past, but there is this a whole thing now where as soon as the games are over they'll have them handed directly to them and mailed to them, so they'll have everything with them. Each year Portsmouth gets stepped up, and it's always improved and that's what's good about us and Portsmouth is that they are always looking for a way to improve it, and that's a good thing. The people that run this, they've been doing it since they were 55, when Bobby Cremins was playing in it, you know your history since you did your homework

JG: Yeah, I talked to Booty [Baker, one of the camp organizers] and he's a fascinating guy to talk with. We had a nice conversation, he's such a wealth of information on the history of the camp and the players that have been through it.

RB: You might not have enough time to talk to Yale, and Mahlo Parker, those are the guys to talk to if you're stopping people. I've been going to this since I was five years old.

JG: Hopefully I'll see them and be able to pick their brain a little bit, its always nice to talk to people who have been around the draft process for so long, just to see how its changed and stayed the same, they've got experience in that, that's something that is only going to come to me personally in time...

RB: And the people surrounding the tournament, the volunteers and stuff, are just amazing. I know it sounds like I'm boosting it up, this is just a smidget of what I do, but the people there are just great. I've been around the world and in all kinds of organizations playing professional tennis, and these people are great.

JG: I'm excited about it personally. The more players that are there, the better as far as I'm concerned. It's great to watch guys on tape, but its just that much better to actually see them in person.

RB: Yeah, you can't tell someone's athletic ability [on tape], you can't tell actually how they shoot. You may think you can, and then the next thing you know you go how awkward is that shot? That's sort of unorthodoxwhy is that release so quick? Those are things you can't tell on tape. That's why I hate watching tape. It's not professional, although some tapes are better than others. But yeah, live is best.

JG: Yeah, it's going to be good

RB: It's very important when it comes to scouting is the poise, delivery and leadership, and all that can be vocal. You can find a guy who is a leader and is vocal just by his eyes. Gerry McNamara would be an example, he is obviously vocal, but I've seen guys in the past who can really read offenses well and really deliver the ball and get people in the right way just using his body language, and you can't see that on tape. And that goes back to professional scouting, but I don't want to dwell on that.

JG: How important is this camp for players who NBA scouts have only seen once or twice? Maybe someone that plays for a small school, maybe a guy like Ronnie Price? How important is it for him to play well, if he doesn't have a good camp, or doesn't end up on a team that can really help him bring out his individual ability?

RB: If a kid is voted in for Chicago and he played bad here, it doesn't mean he's not getting in to Chicago. But a player that was not immediately going to get that invite to Chicago, and he plays well here, may get invited to Chicago. And when we look at guys last year, we have guys like Jackson Vroman, Andre Barrett, Flores, Bobbitt, Edwards, BurksIvey, here's a guy that ran the point, played some two guard, but showed that he can run the point at Portsmouth. James Thomas, Ricky Minard, who I'm still a big fan of, hopefully we'll see him somewhere. He was drafted, but I thought he would go higher. And then you have Rashad Wright, Erik Daniels, went undrafted but he's in the league. We used to have the Phoenix league, but the agents just kept pulling and pulling and pullingthat's not the foundation of the draft though. You make this tournament and it doesn't mean you are going to get drafted now, because you need to rely on your homework and what a guy has done all year. If you look at a guy that's not here, then that team will bring him in. David Young for example, from NC Central. There are only so many players.

JG: It seems like quite a few seniors from last year that weren't at Portsmouth or Chicago ended up getting drafted. What about his teammate, Jonathan Moore? I have a tape of his here. Has he been invited?

RB: He has not been invited. He's been on our lists and discussed repeatedly.

JG: You said something about being voted to Chicago? Has that already been decided?

RB: No. The invitations for Chicago will not be done until May. You don't know who's going to be declaring for the draft.

JG: Right. Cause I was wondering, there have been a couple of juniors that have declared recently, and they'll say in a matter of fact way I'm going to Chicago, and I was kind of thinking to myself that that probably hasn't been decided yet

RB: That's what I'm saying. When you have these pull-outs, I feel bad because these players are getting adviceand some of them will go to Chicago and some of them won't get invited. Again, this is not a punishment because if the teams want to see them, they want to see them. But then there are other guys coming in taking their spots, especially when there are a lot of international guys. Let's say Joe Blow has been seen all year in college, and there is another guy from Slovakia that's a good player and they haven't seen that muchwho are they going to pick? The international kid. Or maybe another underclassmen that might be better and might not have the serious intentions of going to the draft but the teams will want to see him just in case. They didn't expect him to come out. That's the problem with the advice, its teetering. If you're not a guaranteed first rounder and you say I'm not coming to Portsmouth, thinking that you are a 2nd rounder, and then the teams think well maybe he's not that good, I'd rather see someone else instead. It's difficult, but there is nothing we can do about it.

JG: See, that's a tough situation to be put in. I don't want players looking at our mock draft and saying I'm ranked 35th, I don't need to go to Portsmouth, because things change quickly, we're almost 3 months away from the draft still, I would never tell a player who isn't a guaranteed first rounder to skip Portsmouth unless he's playing in the finals of the NCAA tournament or something.

RB: I don't want to dwell on the situation, but hopefully your mock draft and any others aren't going to have that kind of impact.

JG: I agree. At the end of the day, its going to be the GM's, the scouts and the directors who decide who gets drafted where, and its up to the players to position themselves as best as they can to put themselves in a good situation to make that happen.

RB: And the teams aren't going to tell you who they like. Why would they do that? Let's be realistic here.

JG: I doubt they would. That's why we've been watching and following these guys all year and for their entire career. Watching them play as much as we can, talking to their coaches, players they've played against, other coaches in their conferences...that's the best thing we can do. The teams are paying their scouts' bills, why would they tell me or anyone else who their sleepers are? Why not steer people in the wrong direction by feeding the media disinformation?

Just out of curiosity, you do scouting too. What is the exact process you go through when you're scouting at a camp like Portsmouth? How exactly do you do it? Do you sit down with a notebook and write everything you think about the players you're watching?

RB: Absolutely. When I'm at Portsmouth, I wear many hats by the way, I come in, weigh the kids, measure them, wingspan and all that, make sure I speak to them. During the process of scouting, I make a report on every player and put that in the database. However since all the teams are there, they are going to be there evaluating as well. So I chart stuff and put it in our database as well. We send that stuff to all the teams, but we also keep that in our own database for any guys to collect at any time.

JG: Do you think there are any potential 1st rounders at Portsmouth this year?

RB: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or however the cliche goes. In the past, there used to be quite a fewbut as things changed, the 1st rounders have diminished, now the 2nd rounders have begun to diminish, just the overall draft picks have diminished. However, you bring in a guy like Devean George, Willie Greenthese are guys that can actually play, they might not have this great upside because they been seen for so long. That might be changing. We have guys here who can play, that are intelligent, gifted athletes, and they will be given a chance to play. I don't know about the 1st round, its kind of like a wait and see type thing. If you ask me, though, do we have guys here that have a chance to play in the NBA? Yes. That's a better question.

What I do, I make three mock drafts. One is what I think the GM's are going to do, one is what the mock drafts are saying, and one is what I think should happen. It's not an exact science.

JG: Anyone in particular that won't be at Portsmouth that you think should be here?

RB: Hmmmhow do I answer this. I'll just say that there are guys that pulled out that might be making a mistake because they will end up not being invited to Chicago. I know there are some that will get to Chicago, but there are a few that I am very worried about that won't. And I'll feel bad for the kids if that happens. It's a missed opportunity.

JG: But you'd rather not say any names at this point.

RB: Correct.

Jonathan Givony: So how close is this 20+ rule to coming in? It seems like that could play a big factor in how this draft plays out.

Ryan Blake: I really do not know. We don't have any involvement in it. It's between the league, the players and the owners. I personally think it would be a positive thing for basketball, for our side, saving resources, evaluating the talent, sorting out the ones that are good at 18, 19, seeing how good they are at age 20. A lot of the young men that are drafted on upside right now, they might not get to accomplish that potential. Its not just a physical thing, overall on their general knowledge of basketball, their basketball IQ, the ability to play and make others better. Which are the most important things.

JG: So would you mind if I published most or all of what we just talked about on the website?

RB: Everything that I talked about is on the record. This is your gig.

JG: Alright Ryan, thanks so much for your time. I appreciate the insight and I'm sure our readers do too. I'll see you at Portsmouth I guess.

RB: Well come up and say hello. And have a safe journey.

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