By Damian Arsenis | The Story Behind The Pick and Roll’s #AussieHoops success
Preface By Janx….
VIDEO: The Pick and Roll media channel has rapidly become a household media name in Australian basketball over 4 years. Here we learn of the story of Pick and Roll and its leader, Damian Arsenis.
If you are talking in terms of information and promotion of the sport, Damian Arsenis and the media platform he helped launch, is a contemporary Australian success story in our sport.
We have long admired the articles and content because they are independent and capture the full gamut of Aussie Hoops from junior nationals through to Aussies in the NBA. Clearly 10s of 1000s of the followers and readers of The Pick and Roll, all over the world, agree as it has grown into the largest independent online media platform in Australia.
There are very strong synergies between what we do at www.highperformancehoopsnetwork.com and the content Damian and The Pick and Roll provides. We are not entirely unbiased in our content and we are focussed on specific athletes; those that we have coached and have strong personal relationships with, with an educational and inspiring focus for youth athletes and their families in Australia. Our content deep dives into the pathways, careers, learnings and efforts of athletes we work with and that agree to post blogs for us. The Pick and Roll is independent, much broader in its coverage, and focussed on delivering news and articles. Because of these synergies we have now partnered with The Pick and Roll to share each other’s content where relevant to our readers.
Getting to know Damian, he is a great guy who just wants to grow his platform for the good of the sport and continue to succeed. We are very intrigued with his journey into this space how he and the team grew the platform to be so large and where he sees it into the future.
This is a great read for the 10s of 1000s followers of The Pick and Roll or anyone interested in reading a story of a start-up that grew into dominant player in the basketball media and information landscape, and one of the men who helped start it.
Over to Damian…..
Basketball is such an amazing sport. For me it is all involving, and all consuming. It has been a massive part of my life ever since I was pushed into playing as a near 7-year-old by my parents. It’s something I really should thank them for too, as I fell in love with the game. Despite having given up and sacrificed so much time, so many things across the past 35 years, basketball has given back plenty in return.
To be an elite player, you have to be either exceptional at one or more particular skills or areas of the game-- if not also possessing physical and mental attributes required in order to excel. I would consider myself as a pretty handy player back in my youth, and I had the pleasure of playing with and against some players who would go onto play as high as the NBL. However I knew by my teens that I was never going to be elite. Instead I chose to become what I call a ‘basketball all-rounder’.
PICTURED: Damian playing pickup hoops with the locals in Vanuatu.
A basketball ‘all-rounder’
PICTURED: Damian the coach. Warrandyte Venom U12 Div 1 Vic Championship division side.
At Warrandyte, I took up coaching at 12, started officiating at 13, and was even on the club committee from the age of just 16. I played out my junior career at Warrandyte, before focusing on officiating while all the time hold a position on the committee. Earning my level 2 accreditation, I was on the Victorian junior and senior panels, travelling around the state each weekend with the whistle around my neck, dating back to the days of the Country Victorian Invitational Basketball League (CVIBL) and the Victorian Basketball League (VBL) before they later became known as Big V. I was a regular at the National Junior Classic each year, and after many years hung of the whistle to concentrate in coaching juniors instead. I liked officiating, but I was not enjoying it as much as I liked helping teach young kids and seeing them grow and improve.
PICTURED: All-rounder..... former youth player, coach, referee and even....... TV commentator, here with former National Women's coach Tom Maher.
As an accredited level 2 coach, I loved coaching the under 10 and under 12 boys domestic and representative first teams at Warrandyte, ending up as Boys Chairman of Selectors at both domestic and representative level. Some of the junior talent to come through such a great community oriented club still amazes me today. Guys like Joel Macdonald, who not only played state primary school basketball for Victoria, but go on to win AFL premierships with the Brisbane Lions, through to the Roberston’s (Daniel and Josh)-- and I would like to think I helped kick-start their younger brother Tyler’s rise to play for Australian junior teams. I just love seeing young players fall in love with the game just like I did myself. Even more so when I see them improve and go onto bigger and better things and make a positive contribution.
I ended 10 years on the Warrandyte Basketball Association committee as President, and to this date remain the youngest recipient of Life Membership. When my first daughter arrived, the time had come to take a break from coaching, from living and breathing basketball every day, each week. And while I would continue to play socially, after 30-odd years directly involved with Warrandyte basketball, I stepped away.
I must admit, while I still played socially, I really missed being involved within the greater basketball community. Thankfully ESPN gave me a great dose of NBA, but more importantly for me, college basketball. But it was not enough.
My attraction to college hoops probably goes back to when Andrew Gaze played with Seton Hall. I loved that an Aussie was taking on the Americans and beating them at their own game, but it was the style of game that was being played. It was team basketball--the way the game should be played. Plus the crowds were nuts!
Andrew Bogut and Luke Schenscher got some good air time on ESPN when they were still at school, and with the growth of the internet, I started reporting on the Aussies in college on hoops.com.au. I guess I developed a bit of expertise in what was a niche area of the sport in Australia, becoming a bit of a ‘go-to’ person for details on Aussies in college.
PICTURED: Schenscher!!!! has blogged to www.highperformancehoopsnetwork.com previously as well. All about his journey to the NCAA Championship game with Georgia Tech. Click here.
Everything Aussie Hoops
PICTURED: The Pick and Roll emerged in 2013. Like so many great ideas, including www.HighPerformanceHoopsNetwork.com, it just emerged through trial and error to become the largest independent basketball media platform in Australia.
The concept behind The Pick and Roll was actually not something that I have ever really envisioned, and honestly, was not even my idea. A couple of other like-minded basketball enthusiasts, including current business partner Kein Chua, Terry Goldfain and Steve Chalmers were the guys that hooked up online. They approached me given my knowledge and experience with college hoops, and invited me to join them to build something special. The timing was perfect for me, as I was craving an opportunity to be involved with basketball at a more hands-on level. And once I commit to something, it has my full attention. So in September 2013, we tipped-off and launched The Pick and Roll.
The concept behind The Pick and Roll when we started was two-fold; be the best basketball news site we could be, while also providing pathways for aspiring basketball journalists in Australia. Both had their challenges too. We quickly realised where our niche was, and we eventually made the decision to focus solely on Australian basketball, covering all things “Aussie Hoops” and helping promote Australian’s playing basketball across the world. Nobody else was promoting the successes of the Aussies in US College or those playing in Europe at the time. Plus we were also doing our best to try and cover the up and coming juniors too, both at home and abroad. When we made that decision to focus on Aussie hoops, things really took off. It was the best decision we made.
Run by volunteer contributors
Part of our success lies with our contributors. Everyone one of them helps us work toward ensuring we live up to our commitment to provide accurate, relevant and timely coverage of Australian basketball to help promote and educate the public.
All of our contributors are in essence volunteers – nobody gets paid. We provide opportunities for people passionate about the sport to share that passion with others. In return they gain real world experience, including the opportunity to gain media credentials, and a chance to build their profile, portfolio and industry relationships. When you consider the quality of some of our contributors and their content, it is not surprising to see them end up employed within the industry, such as Olgun Uluc who ended up as the lead basketball writer for Fox Sports Australia, Grant Richardson with Basketball Australia, and Steve Chalmers with Basketball Victoria just to name a few. I am sure there will be far more successes to come to in future as well with the talent we have on board.
We are always on the lookout for new contributors too. We would love to expand our coverage further, and via all digital medial channels. We have specific opportunities for boosting our coverage of the Aussie women in Europe, the WNBL and the WNBA. But we also are looking for interested and talented writers to help us cover various state leagues, the SEABL and junior events such as Australian Junior Championships. Expansion of our coverage could also include any digital media outlet, and not just a written article – think podcasting or video content—with many opportunities to be had. I have event recently started a sports live streaming business called Live Sport Australia with a view to helping Australian basketball reach more people at both home and abroad. With basketball on an upward trajectory in Australia, the opportunities moving forward are almost endless.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure to interview many great athletes, coaches and administrators, forming great relationships along the way. College basketball has always been my number one area of expertise, and a particular interview stands out. I received a rare chance to interview Stephen Curry’s coach at Davidson College, the great Bob McKillop. He was a great guy, and we had a great chat too. The result however blew me away, as the eventual article went viral! Major media outlets in America were referencing my interview, as I had elicited some information that was still unknown back in the US. That was pretty cool, even more so because the news came from little old Australia! However being able to interview college athletes like Hugh Greenwood and Cameron Bairstow at New Mexico, Venky Jois at Eastern Washington, Anthony Drmic at Boise State--the list goes on--all remain very special. I just wish I had the time to do more!
The largest independent Australian basketball media outlet
PICTURED: The Pick and Roll and emerged in the space of just 4 years to have dominant onlinesocial media network in the basketball media space.
For all the hard work, late nights (we all still have a day job or study full time), somehow over more than four years, The Pick and Roll became the largest independent Australian basketball media outlet. We managed to foster a massive social media community, with over 70,000 followers on Facebook, 34,000 on Twitter, almost 3,000 on Instagram and 1,500 on YouTube, all established without paying to boost our posts. Our website visitors and social media followers include coaches and recruiters from across the globe.
Everything we have done and grown was purely organic—we don’t do paid posts as we reinvest everything we do make back into making The Pick and Roll even better. At times it has been hard work. But ultimately, the return has been worth it.
Everyone that supports The Pick and Roll is not only helping promote Australian basketball, especially our athletes who otherwise do not receive the attention back home that they deserve, but it is also helping promote our contributors and budding journalists.
Just like it does on court, success still breeds success off it too. We value everyone who supports us at The Pick and Roll, and with every visit to our website, with every like and share on all our social media channels, you are indeed supporting #AussieHoops, but in so many ways.
PICTURED: Damian's caricature. We can all thank Damian for his contribution to the Aussie Hoops landscape in Australia at all levels and look forward to seeing The Pick and Roll continue to develop and grow.
Keep up to date with #AussieHoops from across the globe at www.pickandroll.com.au