Sports and Entertainment

The Other March Madness

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It’s that time of year for some good old school spirit.  Grab your old sweatshirt, fill out your tournament brackets, and let the Cinderella stories begin. There’s no better time in college basketball for players and fans.  It’s a dream come true to compete in the NCAA tournament.  This is what the players have worked for all year, to participate at the highest level of collegiate competition.  Many players are seriously hoping to have their one shining moment.   

All of the above are a part of March Madness but what about the other side. The side where agents, financial advisors, shoe companies, and others alike are vying, jockeying, and competing in their own elimination style competition to add these players as clients. Though nothing can be made official until after the season is over, messages indicating these companies level of interest in a partnership has most certainly been relayed to the players’ inner circle of family, friends, or coaches.  

The elite “One and Done” college players or “Consultants” are at the forefront of this other side of March Madness.  I used “Consultants” because it has a much more professional sound to me if you ask.  I mean seriously, there are generally no long-term services being provided to their universities.  They’re just consulting for 8-9 months; however without pay.  Well, I guess that is up for serious debate these days!     

The NCAA Tournament is the starting point of a collegiate player’s professional career.  Having to perform at a high level and understand what’s on the horizon is undoubtedly overwhelming at this moment. The pressure of making the right decision has never been greater in your life. How can a player handle everyone selling that they have the best service to offer? What is the differentiator? Does this person/company have my best interests at heart? After all they’re in business to make money as well. Who does a player really have that they can trust? Especially now with reports coming out that college coaches and even family/guardians have taken money to influence the decisions these players make in terms of agent representation and endorsement deals.  This should give you an idea of how fierce the level of competition is between agents and shoe brands respectively.  

The process leading to my professional career was common but still unique. Projected as a 2nd round pick in the NBA draft meant I had some interest from the larger well known agents but mostly received calls from agents with lesser-proven track records. My decision rested on do I go with a larger agency knowing I wouldn’t receive personalized service or take a chance with a lesser known agency where I would be their focal point. Though my college career was over, my own March Madness continued with this big decision I had to make.

I signed with IMG and Mark Steinberg as my agent.  Got drafted in the 2nd round by the Orlando Magic.  Released from the Magic prior to the start of the regular season.  Mark gets a call from IMG client, Tiger Woods, requesting Mark to be his agent.  Yes, the Tiger Woods! We all know Mark’s answer to that. I probably should have asked if Tiger needed a caddie!  Now, I have no agent and no job.  Connected with NBA agent Bill Duffy, BDA Sports, through my college coach.  Signed my first professional contract in Italy two weeks later and began my 13yr professional career.  It wasn’t March anymore but it was definitely Madness!

This is such a fun, memorable time of year for college players and fans.  Everyone hoping their team or brackets can survive!  It would be great if the focus were solely on basketball for all but that is simply not the case.  The other side of the game is being played as well.   Time will tell the outcome on both sides.  I just wish the best for the teams, players, and fans as this Madness begins!

Louis Bullock is a former European professional basketball player who established himself as one of the best American guards to ever play in Spain. Louis played for the University of Michigan and professionally for 15 years for teams in Italy and Spain. While living abroad he became fluent in Spanish and Italian. He is currently co-owner of SQN Systems, an IT company based in Maryland, coaches and trains young players, and is extremely sports-minded and loves all things sports. He considers himself a true sports analyst at heart.

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