Last Saturday the National Basketball Retired Players Association hosted the latest edition of its youth basketball and mentoring program called “Full Court Press: Prep for Success”. Several former NBA/WNBA standouts were in attendance at Central Gwinnett High School in Atlanta including Dale Ellis/Harold Keeling/Charlie Bell. The program travels all over the country to introduce kids to positive role models in both basketball and life. NBRPA writer Jon Teitel has spent time talking with many of the greatest players in NBA history and will share his interviews at LegendsofBasketball.com. Jon visited with Charlie Bell about his role with the Full Court Press program and getting a triple-double in the NBA.
What did you do at last weekend’s Full Court Press clinic? I worked at the ball-handling station and spoke to the whole group about my journey to the NBA and what I am doing now.
What was the best part of the clinic? Speaking to the kids was great. I did a Q&A and had a chance to engage with the kids: when I was little it meant a lot to me if I could talk to a former NBA player in depth. Some of the questions were funny and some were really intelligent.
How do you try to connect with the kids on the court? Just talking to them and letting them know that I really care about them. I ask them about their favorite food/school subject: you have to engage with them.
What do you hope that the kids get out of this great experience? I hope they learned some things that they can use to improve their basketball skills and take it up a level. A lot of people do not see all of the hard work behind the scenes and all of the practice that the guys put in.
What were the best/not-so-best parts of going from an active player to a retired player? The best part is not having to practice anymore and stay in shape! It sounds easy but when it is your job there are some days that you just do not want to lift weights/watch film. The worst part is that you miss the game, your teammates, the camaraderie in the locker room, etc. When you have played basketball your whole life it is hard to figure out what to do after it is over.
How did you end up as a National Basketball Retired Players Association member? Just through word-of-mouth. I was unsure how many branches they had but just talked to other guys who were not playing any more.
What is the biggest benefit of being a part of the NBRPA along with other legends of basketball? Just the camaraderie and having somebody to talk to. The community service aspect is great because you want to give back: they help connect us with different charities/clinics where we can help kids and meet other players. I got to meet Dale Ellis, who is someone I looked up to when I was growing up, and I got to talk to him about what he has been doing since retiring. It is about building your network with guys who have similar interests.
How do the older players serve as advocates to the younger players? We just try to help the younger guys because they do not know exactly what they are getting into. If you never played basketball before then you cannot always relate to those who have, but we give them someone to talk to and explain what we did to change our lives.
You scored 9 PTS for Michigan State in the 2000 NCAA title game win over Florida: what did it mean to you to win a title? It is probably the greatest memory that I have. In college we spent a lot of time together and I am still pretty close to all of my teammates: we are like brothers. When you have 6AM workouts and push each other every day to become better, it bring you closer. There are a lot of great teams who do not win a championship so it is something that you can never take away from us. To this day when I go back to campus everyone is still thankful: it was my claim to fame even when I played overseas.
In 2001 you were named an All-American: what did it mean to receive such an outstanding honor? It was great because I never saw myself as an All-American growing up: it was just fun and I enjoyed playing the game. It was a huge accomplishment because I was in the shadow of guys like Mateen Cleaves/Morris Peterson during my 1st few years of college, and a lot of people did not expect that from me as a senior.
You were regarded as a superstar while playing pro basketball in Italy/Spain: what is the biggest difference between basketball in the US vs. basketball overseas? When I was playing the fundamentals of the game were the biggest difference. Guys overseas might not be the fastest on the court but they can all shoot the ball. In the US younger guys lose sight of the fundamentals because they are watching all the crossover dribbles on SportsCenter and playing AAU basketball where the coaches cater to the kids. It is out of control with the FBI investigation and money in everyone's pocket and AAU coaches who are not really teaching the fundamentals and are just trying to keep a kid on their team. Most of the pro teams overseas also have junior teams: I remember playing with Marco Belinelli when he was only 15 years old. Their system is a bit different than ours.
After returning to the NBA you had 19 PTS/13 AST/10 REB for Milwaukee in a win over Phoenix in 2006: where does that rank among the best all-around performances of your career? I cannot remember the specific game but our coach (Terry Stotts) pulled me aside before the season and said that he wanted me to be a good practice player. I knew that I could play in the NBA so I stayed ready because I did not know what would happen. We had a few guys who got injured (Michael Redd/TJ Ford/etc.) and a few games later I got the triple-double, which really put my name on the map. It does not happen every day, especially for an undrafted player like myself, so for Russell Westbrook to average a triple-double for an entire season is unheard of!
You currently work as an assistant coach for Iowa in the G League: McDonald’s All-American Darius Bazley announced last week that instead of going to college at Syracuse he would be taking his talents to the G-League? I think it is a difficult decision that he made. I am sure that he got advice from different people but the G League is a grind: it is a lot harder than college in terms of games/travel/etc. I think next year he will wish that he could be in college instead of waking up at 4AM to catch a flight and then getting stuck at the airport for 4 hours! I am sure he might get a shoe contract but the G League only pays players around $20,000-25,000/season, and playing time will be hard because every team has 2-way guys who are guaranteed a certain # of minutes. I wish him well and hope it all works out, but I think that NBA teams should be able to draft high school kids, put them in the G League, and put more money into the league in ways such as charter flights.