It was a project which, for some, took all summer. But a month into the BBL season, has the scouting process come up trumps around the league?

For most, the jury has yet to reach its verdict. For a few, the original recruiting list has been ripped up or set aside for an extreme makeover.

Cheshire Phoenix has been a constantly revolving door, despite head coach John Cottino having the rare luxury of viewing most of his overseas additions at close hand. And it appears ready to keep spinning for a few weeks yet.

Only a handful of players have fallen all the way from the NBA to the BBL but it’s understood former Nuggets swingman Julius Hodge is set to become the latest arrival.

Hodge: Cheshire target

Hodge: Cheshire bound

The 30-year-old, a 20th overall pick in 2005, spent two seasons in Denver before a cameo in Milwaukee, followed by a world tour taking in Australia, Italy, Belarus, Japan, France and most recently Lebanon.

If his visa is secured, he will replace Brad Karp with owner Andrew Donaldson looking intent on spending big to win big following last week’s acquisition of replacement point guard Mike DiNunno.

And on top of that, the Phoenix will have to replace Gareth Murray who is heading to Challans in the French NM1 league (their third tier).

For most, how BBL teams undergo their recruitment is mere white noise behind the actual signings and departures. It is not, unlike in the major leagues, a highly scientific process involving dozens of global sightseers, evaluating talent up close with super-computers running the meta data in parallel.

With budgets running low, it needs graft and a little luck to thrive. So I asked Leicester Riders’ Rob Paternostro, the league’s most consistently able finder of talent, how he went about his summer’s work.

“At the start of the summer, it comes down to who’s coming back initially and where do we want to get better?” he said. “For me. I try to stay on top of everything before the season ends, following college basketball and figuring out what players might be available.

“It’s crazy because you might look at 500 players and you probably have no chance with 499 of them. But hopefully with all that research, you’ll find someone you really like.

“When I look back at my old note books, I’ll have lists of combinations that might change every day. But in the end, it comes down to what they want.”

With only a mid-tier playing budget, Riders have inevitable turnover each off-season but have remained a staple near the top of the standings. With Drew Sullivan among their exits, Paternostro cast his net wide for reinforcements, landing rookie guard Neil Watson (pictured above) and veteran backcourt duo Derrick Rowland and Tyler Bernardini.

“Watson was through an agent who sent me a list of players,” he revealed. “We liked him right off the bat. We liked his skillset. We thought he had the ability to shoot, to handle the ball. But we also liked the fact he was a winner. He’s got the most wins in the history of his school. We wanted a leader and someone who can give us a positive spark.

“Rowland was from an agent who I know. We’re in a position where we can’t sign a bunch of veterans. We have to focus on guys new to the league. But his situation worked well for us: he’s been in South America for a few years and he wanted to break into Europe. He was an athletic player who we felt could cover multiple positions and that was an area we wanted to address.

“Bernardini was an interesting guy. We needed someone with a European passport but we were talking to an agent about somebody else. But I asked what he was up to? He told me: ‘I’ve got no idea but I’ll reach out to him.’ He had stopped playing basketball and he wasn’t thinking of playing any more. But he’s an intelligent kid and we talked to him. We were able to offer him a Masters programme. He’s an Ivy League guy. And that’s worked out well for us. He’s the kind of guy who might even be here for a while.”

Most coaches go through a similar process, banking DVDs from agents or other contacts, combing YouTube and reaching into Google Translate for some alternative insights. A few head overseas to combines – with London Lions’ Vince Macaulay and Sheffield Sharks’ Atiba Lyons doing business this year in Las Vegas where both were taken out on what is effectively a junket to where the free agents of the world perform en masse in the hope they will get signed up (and their agents pocketing the commission).

Not everyone likes that approach despite the glamour. “The problem,” one coach, who has undertaken such visits previously told me, “is that you only see what’s there in front of you rather than the thousands of guys who aren’t. You can end up with some average players.”

Paternostro is unique, I understand, within the BBL in that he uses one of the small group of scouting databases – including Crossover and Synergy – which combine hours upon hours of video reels from the college game (and the NBA) with highly detailed analytic stats.

“It breaks down every game, not just their stats but to how often they went left and how often they went right,” the American says. “I spend hours of time looking at every individual player. Yeah, I can’t see them in person. That’s always nice to see how fast they are, how strong they are, their body language. But the next best thing is getting as much data as you can.

“The more video you can get, the better. This is my seventh season and it’s much easier now. Seven seasons ago, someone might send you a couple of DVDs in the mail. Now everybody has highlight tape, everyone has access to games on YouTube.”

Ultimately, it remains a gamble. Dave Forrester of Newcastle Eagles, assistant coach and superscout, is modest about how you minimise the odds. “A basic working knowledge of the internet and the meaning of Euro stats as they reflect on BBL ability is as it really takes,” he declares. He is being unduly modest but even the champions struck out with point guard Ricky Taylor who was freed after two weeks. Too raw, too many mistakes.

At least that was one small blip and quickly rectified. Teams like Plymouth Raiders recruited early but have had minimal returns so far. They, like others with under-performing assets, may have to soon delve back into their notebooks or bombard agents for available players before their seasons are wholly lost.

The numbers, like a few carefully chosen highlight reels, cannot always tell the complete picture about who will come good in a league which is as relatively basic as the BBL.

“I spent a lot of time searching,” Paternostro affirms. “It’s not just about their game. It’s about the kind of person they are as well. With extensive research you can find info on personality and behaviour and read between the lines a little bit. It’s not an exact science but you can make the best guess you can.”

The BBL Insider column appears every Tuesday on MVP

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