Welcome, Spurs enthusiasts, to a thrilling exploration into the global landscape of basketball, where international talent converges and influences the NBA's dynamic evolution. Today, we embark on an illuminating journey alongside Tremaine Dalton, a visionary scout who stumbled upon the remarkable Victor Wembanyama through his journeys before Wemby reached the States.
Beyond scouting prodigious talents, Dalton shares a close professional bond with the trainer instrumental in Wembanyama's growth, offering us a unique window into the French basketball scene. In Dalton's interview, he will unleash intriguing insights into Wembanyama's journey, the Spurs' trajectory, the upcoming Olympics, and the significant impact of European basketball on the NBA.
Hold onto your seats and dive into an extraordinary narrative that transcends borders, offering a glimpse into the future of the San Antonio Spurs and the global basketball stage.
You are the founder of The Process, which has trained athletes in numerous countries for years now. What led to you starting the program, and why do players around the world trust The Process?
For starters, I'm happy to say that basketball is a universal language. We are in a special time where we can connect with this great sport through the NBA, social media, and my specialty, community service and helping millions around the world. Ive had a number of stints around the world playing pro basketball, including in Australia, France, and Israel, just to name a few places.
I had a decent career, but what definitely connected with the basketball community in these places was my ability to score efficiently within any system. To give context, I was one of the top 1v1 players in the world and won the Red Bull King of the Rock tournament in 2011. Once I got my shot overseas, players and coaches alike had major respect for this and wanted me to teach them. Over time, this style of play surged throughout Europe to what you see now, even in the NBA.
Most importantly, players trust and connect with my work because I tap into their communities with the sport of basketball. Nearly every player I work with, I make sure we do philanthropic work in their communities. For example, I host an annual gun violence program in Michigan, home to my client James Young, the Kentucky standout drafted by the Celtics.
I also host a number of clinics in France, home to both Mathias Lessort (France National Team) and Tidijan Kieta (Guinea National Team), both past NBA draftees. So for those players, if I’m willing to come to their home and give back, it inspires them even more to give it their all during trainings.
Your journey around the globe led you to a scouting trip to check out Victor Wembanyama. What was the first thing that jumped out at you when you saw him play for the first time?
During this scouting trip, he was playing against one of my clients whom I’ve been working with for a number of years, Ronald March, who was actually the 2nd best player in France under Wembanyama. I knew it would be an intense game, especially with these two on the court at the same time.
Once the game got going and I saw the way Wembanyama moved, especially at his height, I knew this is by far one of the most skilled and confident players I’ve seen at his age and height. His maturity to put both these things together on both offense and defense assured me that he was everything that everyone was saying he was—a once-in-a-generation talent.
As colleagues with the trainer Wembanyama worked with, what insights can you provide into Wembanyama’s training regimen and development and how that will impact his career? Do you see him facing issues with 82-game seasons?
Wembanyama has an amazing group around him, from trainers to his agency, Com Sports, who, from the outside looking in, have done a wonderful job with him. The American trainer working with Wembanyama is Tim Martin, whom I met during that scouting trip during the team's game dinner and gathering. We had a mutual connection as my uncle, Walker D. Russell, is one of the head scouts from the Mavericks, and Tim is from Dallas.
Tim, definitely being one of the top trainers in the world, spoke to me a bit about some of the work they have been putting in and let me know that Wembanyama had the mindset and discipline of an NBA player even when playing in France. From there, we keep in touch occasionally. Benoit Gomis, one of the main basketball trainers with Com Sports, is also a really good friend of mine.
He is the French National Team's head skill trainer, and he works with a lot of the top talent in France. We’ve had a number of in-depth discussions on Wemby’s potential and possible impact on the way basketball will be played in the future.
Let’s shift the focus to the Spurs. Are there specific aspects of their playing style or team dynamics that you find noteworthy, and how do you see them evolving in the coming seasons?
Most importantly, the Spurs have one of the greatest basketball minds ever in Coach Pop. So from the start, the team will buy into his system. Sometimes it’s tough for European players to come into the NBA and dominate, not just because of skill but team and style of play. What it feels like when I watch the Spurs play is that the team have bought into the system and understands that, regardless, Wemby is the focal (point) of that system.
How would you describe the role the Spurs have played through the years when it comes to scouting international basketball talent?
I believe the Spurs have played a major role in the discovery of international talent, especially during the Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker Era. That era let the world know that there are many styles of play that, if put together properly, can win, and win big! The Spurs-Lakers rivalry proved that point.
Kobe (RIP) is my favorite of all time, especially as a 1v1 player, but with the Spurs winning titles against even the best 1v1 player and the greatest center of all time, it let me know that the combination of both styles would have major success, which ultimately is the basis of what I teach. I’m a specialist in teaching players efficiency on the floor.
The upcoming Olympics are a significant event for basketball. What aspects of the game are you most excited to see on the international stage?
I’m extremely excited to see the best of the best play and to see if the world has truly caught up. In the past, whether in the Olympics or world championships, the top American players usually don’t play, and from a good source, I was told some of the top guys will be on the floor this year.
It’s also great that players like Karl Anthony Towns and many others have tapped into their heritage and are playing for their national teams, which will make things a lot more competitive, ultimately bringing the world together through the sport of basketball, which is extremely important to me.
As an advocate for world peace through competition, my role will be working with some of the French national team guys this summer, as I have over the past 4 years. I think with passing hoops knowledge, it will make the game better and more enjoyable.
Sports are powerful and have helped connect cultures. You have helped do that with basketball, and it’s led to some cool things like your basketball comics. How did your philanthropy lead to tying in your love for comics?
Well, this is a very unique story. I actually learned how to read through comic books. Learning is based on interest, and I always wanted to be a superhero, and in order to conceptualize what was going on in comic books, I had to learn what words like telekinesis meant or what vibranuim was. Once I got the opportunity to create my own comic book, it was a no-brainer!
The beauty is that all the stories are real, coming from all my streetball and one-on-one battles. The comic is called Old Man Dalton, and the stories revolve around community service trips around the world and then getting called out to hoop while doing that work. The pages in the comic are QR-coded, so you can see real footage of me playing.
It’s the first of its kind, and some of the players I’ve beat are literally some of the top players in Europe right now. The comics also come with a tutorial of the top 1v1 moves. It’s in eight different languages, with an emphasis on continuing the trend of bringing the world together through the sport of basketball.
Philanthropy has provided a powerful opportunity for me to connect cultures through basketball in other ways, too. In September, I partnered with the Danish brand Les Deux to open a refurbished basketball court in Tribeca, New York, and the next month, I worked with the Israeli team Maccabi Ra'anana when they played a preseason game against the Cavs.
Both experiences connected people from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures, and they would not have existed without this part of my company. The world needs more of this, and basketball is a powerful means to make it happen.
Lastly, do you have any insights or thoughts on Sidy Cissoko and how his playing style or potential might contribute to the broader landscape of basketball talent?
Sidy is in a unique situation being in the G League, specifically the Spurs squad. This means he has access to an incredible staff and room to grow. Not everybody can be Wemby, but the G League gives a platform for players like him to bring his Euro experience and group within NBA systems without NBA pressure.