On a bas­ket­ball mis­sion to spot the best tal­ents and lead them to the top

The Baltic Times - - TALENT HUNTER - Li­nas Jegele­vi­cius

When a young as­pir­ing hoop­ster, Norvy­das Kli­ucininkas, from the in­dus­trial town of Aly­tus in south­ern Lithua­nia saw his bas­ket­baller dreams shat­ter due to a se­ries of pesky and grim in­juries on the court, he did not hang his boots on the hook, but in­stead re­shaped heav­ily the dream. “I’ve ob­tained li­cense of FIBA bas­ket­ball agent and founded my own bas­ket­ball agency, “NK Bas­ket­ball",” Kli­ucininkas, now 24, told The Baltic Times. The novice in the highly com­pet­i­tive close-cir­cle of bas­ket­ball agents is re­solved to take the job to new heights – more trans­par­ent and hu­man.

Can you talk a lit­tle about your­self ? Have you al­ways dreamt of be­com­ing a bas­ket­ball agent?

In­deed, I am now a li­censed FIBA bas­ket­ball agent and the owner of a bas­ket­ball agency, “NK Bas­ket­ball". I also de­scribe my­self as a bas­ket­ball en­thu­si­ast and fur­ther­more - a bas­ket­ball zealot in a tiny coun­try, Lithua­nia, that is so big on the bas­ket­ball map. All my life I was play­ing bas­ket­ball and I knew that I am go­ing to be a pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball player. Never dreamt of be­com­ing a bas­ket­ball agent though. But, things changed af­ter suf­fer­ing a lot of in­juries. My bas­ket­ball ca­reer was over. Later I started work­ing as a bas­ket­ball scout and I take pride in the fact that I had an op­por­tu­nity to bring some good play­ers to Lithua­nia. I re­ally liked the whole process and I thought I could make a much big­ger im­pact on the game by be­com­ing a bas­ket­ball agent. So, I took and passed a FIBA bas­ket­ball agent test in Switzer­land and founded my own bas­ket­ball agency.

Was it easy to come to grips with the fall­out from your mul­ti­ple in­juries that left you dis­abled to pro­fes­sion­ally com­pete on the bas­ket­ball floor?

Frankly, it was prob­a­bly the hard­est time in my life. Not phys­i­cally but men­tally. Never had any other thoughts apart from be­com­ing a bas­ket­ball player. To tell the truth, I didn't have much in­ter­est in any other area be­sides bas­ket­ball. It is very dif­fi­cult when you hinge your en­tire life on only one thing and that thing goes away. It took me about two years to get over it and move on.

You’ve spent some time scout­ing young tal­ents. What kind of work did your ca­pac­ity in­volve?

It doesn't mat­ter if you are scout­ing young tal­ents or pro­fes­sional play­ers – what you have to do all the time is watch and an­a­lyse a lot of bas­ket­ball game videos. When scout­ing young play­ers, you must fore­see what is go­ing to hap­pen with them af­ter 3-5 years. I would say that the main thing with the scout­ing of young play­ers is fore­see­ing the bas­ket­baller’s char­ac­ter. There are a lot of ta­lented young play­ers, but only a good char­ac­ter and work ethic can make him a solid pro­fes­sional player in the fu­ture.

To those un­fa­mil­iar with pro­fes­sional sports, can you talk a lit­tle about what be­ing a bas­ket­ball agent is all about?

To put it sim­ply, it is all about be­ing a me­di­a­tor be­tween the play­ers and the teams. Both sides have their own goals, and agents help to achieve that. Each bas­ket­ball agent must know the mar­ket and how it func­tions very well. It is ex­tremely im­por­tant to have great com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and cre­ate good re­la­tion­ships with play­ers and teams.

How many bas­ket­ball agents are there in Lithua­nia? Is the com­mu­nity friendly?

At the mo­ment, there are 9 FIBA li­censed Lithua­nian agents. There are some agents you can trust, but un­for­tu­nately, in this busi­ness you just can't trust any­one 100 per cent. Ev­ery­one minds his own in­ter­ests.

How are you go­ing to make a splash in the very com­pet­i­tive busi­ness?

The main thing that separates me from the other agents is the at­ti­tude, I’d say. I never put my­self first against a player or a team. I re­ally care about the player, try to com­mu­ni­cate a lot, and tend to be­come a very good friend of the player I rep­re­sent. I want to show play­ers the right way to­wards a suc­cess­ful bas­ket­ball ca­reer. I want to mo­ti­vate them. They can't stop dream­ing, reach­ing and work­ing hard. I want to help them un­der­stand that some­times they must ig­nore the trac­tion of money and make an­other de­ci­sion for their brighter fu­ture. As for clubs, they of­ten think that bud­get is ev­ery­thing. It is not true. I want to help find the right player and not waste money.

I am go­ing to be very ac­tive on so­cial me­dia, so I be­lieve peo­ple will no­tice my ap­proach. I be­lieve that my per­son­al­ity, cou­pled with my hon­esty will help me pave my way through.

Is there any­thing you’re not happy with as far as how the network of Lithua­nia’s bas­ket­ball agents op­er­ates?

I think they are com­pet­ing too much and not help­ing each other. They fight a lot for young tal­ents and for­get about their real mis­sion - to help play­ers.

What do you be­lieve makes an ex­cel­lent bas­ket­ball agent? The size of the com­mis­sion? The num­ber of top hoop­sters in the pre­mier clubs’ line-up?

Ev­ery agent comes with his own vi­sion. For me, it's def­i­nitely not the size of the com­mis­sion. I be­lieve that money can't be the main in­di­ca­tor in any area, as well as the num­ber of top play­ers on the best teams. For me, it's all about ad­just­ing to each player and help­ing him to achieve goals and dreams. If a player wants to play at the top level, and I help him with this, it means I am good at my job.

Can you speak a bit about the nitty gritty – how do you me­di­ate be­tween the clubs and bas­ket­ballers out there?

Nowa­days, the work is be­ing done on the In­ter­net. Each club has its own web­site. Ev­ery player, coach or even team man­ager is on so­cial me­dia. You can com­mu­ni­cate there or through email, phone calls, etc. It is very sim­ple in fact. The main thing is to bring the value. If you have some­thing in­ter­est­ing to of­fer, you will get your chance.

Are there any deals that you are par­tic­u­larly proud of ?

I have not signed too many deals yet, to be hon­est. When I was work­ing as a bas­ket­ball scout, I worked with bas­ket­ball club Palanga, which plays in the NKL, Lithua­nia’s sec­ond-tier league. I am very proud that I’ve brought two great play­ers for it. The first is Ti­tus Robin­son, who helped the club win 3rd place in the NKL. The other player is Johnathan Hud­son. I found him play­ing in the fourth di­vi­sion in Italy. He be­came a top scorer in the NKL league last sea­son, and in mid-sea­son, he moved to the LKL, Lithua­nia’s top league. It was a huge step for him to come from Italy to Lithua­nia’s top league just in one year.

Some club own­ers I’ve talked to re­buke bas­ket­ball agents that they mind only their busi­ness and dis­re­gard the in­ter­ests of the bas­ket­ball play­ers, es­pe­cially young and ta­lented ones? What would be your re­sponse?

Un­for­tu­nately, there is a lot of truth in this. As I men­tioned ear­lier, agents are fight­ing too much for young tal­ents. In most cases, young play­ers do not even need an agent, but a bunch of them swarm about the tal­ents, promis­ing them the earth big-name teams, big money, an af­flu­ent life­style, and so on. It is very hard to re­sist the lure for a young player. I’d say, eight out of ten agents would send the player to where he will get a bet­ter agent fee, ig­nor­ing the fact that the club is not the best op­tion for the player. It is very sad, but re­al­ity is like this. Not so many agents care about the player's fu­ture.

Can the best bas­ket­ball agents make a lot of money in Lithua­nia?

I would say yes. In Lithua­nia, bas­ket­ball clubs do not have very high bud­gets com­pared to other coun­tries; how­ever, the best teams here can pay de­cent money.

What chances do you be­lieve Lithua­nia stand in the up­com­ing Euro­pean bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onship in Is­tan­bul?

I be­lieve that the na­tional team will be among the top four teams.

Will bas­ket­ball re­main Lithua­nia’s “sec­ond re­li­gion” in years to come? What do you be­lieve needs to be done to bol­ster the lo­cal bas­ket­ball leagues in terms of or­ga­ni­za­tion and man­age­ment?

It doesn't seem to me that it could change soon - bas­ket­ball will re­main the sec­ond re­li­gion in Lithua­nia. I be­lieve that lo­cal bas­ket­ball leagues should pro­vide even more in­for­ma­tion about the leagues and the play­ers, es­pe­cially in lower-tier leagues. With more videos out, even more play­ers could be no­ticed too.

Do you see your­self step­ping up the lad­der and be­com­ing a bas­ket­ball club di­rec­tor some­day?

The po­si­tion of bas­ket­ball club di­rec­tor is prob­a­bly what I will be aim­ing for in the fu­ture. If I have an op­por­tu­nity of that kind in the fu­ture, I will def­i­nitely take it!

Norvy­das Kli­ucininkas

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