We are living in a time when many people in entertainment and sport build a career merely by their association with famous people especially in the world of social media. So there is a distinct sense of irony that someone who is responsible for bringing some of the top American basketball talent to Europe over the last two decades remains virtually anonymous. Linzy Davis first came to France in 1997 to participate in a tournament in Douai. Obviously something magical happened there because since than Linzy has brought major stars like Carmelo Anthony, Ty Lawson, Kevin Durant, Robin Lopez, Brook Lopez and Rudy Gay to compete against top European talent.
Future Stars had the pleasure to catch up with Linzy who will bring the next generation of American talent to the Future Stars International tournament in London this August.
In 1997 you arrived in Europe for the first time as an assistant coach for the Sports Express team to play a tournament in Douai, France. Somehow, I cannot believe that you expected that for almost the next 25 years you would be bringing to Europe your own teams full of future NBA mega stars to compete against top national teams from all over the world. So, what happened in 1997 to inspire you to take such a complex task, both logistically and financially to bring young top-class Americans to Europe on a regular basis?
I saw this as a great opportunity for aspiring young players who had a desire to play basketball in the NBA, and if not, then have an opportunity to continue to play FIBA basketball professionally somewhere in the world. Of course, since then Turkish Airlines Euroleague has emerged as a major destination for top Americans. so many of our players end up in this competition. I felt that this experience would prepare the players for the future. They would know how to handle the new culture, including language barriers and food differences. They would develop a skill of learning how to work with any kind of person. I also saw it as an opportunity for them to understand that there is more to the world than the USA. I also want the players to understand that half of the NBA jobs are going to international players, and they need to understand why.
Actually, I was always fascinated by European basketball. In the early 90’s in America we had a first wave of European players and they were completely different from the stereotype of European ballers which we expected. We were bombarded with stories of Europeans not being able to defend effectively or cope with the athleticism of NBA players .Instead of that we were graced with presence of players like Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja, Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis. These were guys with a limitless shooting range, playing multiple positions, with a great basketball IQ and absolute workaholics. They made basketball a global game.
So, I thought that it would be a great idea to take top American players to Europe and confront them with top Europeans.
Your background is far from typical. You played basketball at Eastern Michigan University but after that decided to forge a professional career in the medical field and created your own company supplying medical and laboratory equipment to hospitals all over the country. Tell us how despite an extremely busy professional life you have access to the top talent in the US and how do you convince them to come to Europe?
I have an AAU Club, Team Georgia Elite, that plays in elite basketball tournaments throughout the USA. I attend the top sneaker basketball camps and tournaments. I rely on my friends who are NBA pro scouts, pro coaches, and college and high school coaches to tell me about the top talent they have seen. Then I discuss the benefits of playing on our USA Elite National Team Selection that has a history of developing future NBA players, and out-performing players who have competed with USA Basketball. I also tell them we don’t play politics. We only select high level international tournaments to compete in so college and pro scouts can have a good evaluation of the level each player.
The list of megastars which you have brought to Europe is beyond impressive. Carmelo Anthony, Ty Lawson, Kevin Durant, Robin and Brook Lopez, Rudy Gay and Thaddeus Young to name just a few. How did these guys react to playing in Europe and how did travelling abroad help them in their career?
We have always delivered on our promises and we have exceeded player expectations. This is the first time many of the players have travelled outside the USA. This is the first introduction to the rest of the world. This experience creates a template for their future in many ways. These players return home understanding they have to work hard and remain committed to improving daily in order to reach the highest level.
Can you tell us what were the most memorable moments from your trips to Europe? Also, what was the most demanding opposition which you have encountered in Europe? The list of stars which you have played against is almost as impressive as the list of players which you have brought to Europe.
I really was absolutely excited to see how top American kids will compete against the cream of European talent. You must remember that leading European national teams had a great advantage over us because they were able to practice together for much longer than us. It was not uncommon that we had to travel to Europe after 2 or 3 training sessions. This is not an ideal scenario when you have to face players like Tony Parker, Andrei Kirilenko, Ersan Ilyasova, Milos Teodosic, Nick Calathes, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gobert, Sani Becirovic or Goran Dragic, These guys are a major stars with immense talent and the national teams which they played for were absolutely fearsome opposition for us.
For some reason my most vivid moment was being down by 14 points to Turkey led by Ersan Ilyasova in Douai, France. We made a 4th quarter comeback that included Ty Lawson going the length of the court in 4 seconds to make the game winning shot…. Actually on reflection, I must say that one of the most demanding opponents was the English team led by Luol Deng and Nick George. These guys were absolutely fearless and couldn’t care who was playing against them
For the first time you have decided to bring your team to London next summer. What are the reasons behind this decision? Is this going to be a long term cooperation?
I know you know how to put together a high level tournament. In the previous years you had players like Tomas Satoransky, Jan Vesely, Dario Saric and Rudy Gobert and many others coming with their respective national teams. Recently Ariel Hukporti came with Posche Ludvigsburg and he certainly will be first to mid second round pick in this year’s draft. The date of the tournament is fantastic and also London is a tremendous destination. This has made it more attractive than going anywhere else. We hope to grow this tournament with you as a platform where top young players from all corners of the world can compete against each other. I really like this concept.
Please tell us more about the new wave of stars which you are planning to bring to London. Who will be your best players in 2021?
We have put together a special roster filled with the best players in the USA. This may prove to be the most talented team to ever come to Europe. We are loaded with potential future pros and I’m talking here about NBA calibre players, We will be led by Derik Queen and we are still hoping that DJ Wagner will be with us.
For more information on the Future Stars International tournament please click here.