Maalik Wayns called it “The Blueprint.” The former Villanova point guard wasn’t talking about dribbling or shooting or making it to the NBA, although he did that right out of ‘Nova as an undrafted free agent. He was referring to being a professional basketball player, how to have a lasting career in his sport.
The Blueprint for him, Wayns said, came from Lynn Greer, former Temple point guard who had charted a similar pro career a decade before. Wayns, 26, didn’t even know Greer, had never met him before Wayns left Villanova after three seasons. He followed Greer’s path from afar and remembers being thrilled to find out that Greer had been following Wayns’ progress.
The Blueprint isn’t on paper, and Greer, 37, didn’t invent it. He just passed on knowledge to Wayns and others that he had picked up from former Penn star Jerome Allen and others, an elite grapevine. Wayns now makes a point of passing it on to young guys, especially young Philly guys. He can add: The blueprint just recently allowed him to sign a partially guaranteed deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
“It’s a community,’’ Greer said of the basketball players who make their living overseas. “The community becomes small when you talk about Philly guys.”
Greer and former Temple teammate Lynard Stewart, who played overseas for a decade, ran into each other at Temple earlier this year and began talking about organizing something for local players charting their course, trying to help them get exposure in front of agents and overseas teams. That’s how the L2 Exposure Camp was born. (L2 is for Lynard and Lynn.) The first camp was held late last month over a weekend in a Temple gym.
“When you played in Europe, and you’re still in the basketball world, guys always come up to you, ‘Can you help me? Can you call your agent?’ ” Stewart said.
One bit of advice Stewart gives younger guys is to make good use of your time. He tells them that if they had online courses when he first got out of Temple he’d have a doctorate by now.
By the time Wayns got overseas, he had played in the NBA, but he also saw that, rather than shuttling between 10-day contracts and the D-League, steadier and greater income could be available overseas.
By that time, Wayns had met Greer at the summertime Danny Rumph Classic. Greer had noticed this young Roman Catholic point guard getting buzz and had seen him play in the All-City Classic. Greer had a little Reebok deal during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks, and he vouched for Wayns getting a similar deal during his NBA time. That stuck with Wayns. The two began to talk, and The Blueprint began seeping through.
“You have to go out and prove and re-prove yourself,’’ Wayns said.
He had to get used to two practices a day, that kind of thing. The advice from Greer that really stuck with him: Even if your club isn’t paying you on time, show up at practice with a smile. Don’t become a malcontent, even if your professionalism isn’t being reciprocated. You’re always playing for the next deal.
“You’re playing for yourself, and that can work in a good way or a bad way,’’ Wayns said of the typical one-year deals.
The other advice he now passes on to players such as Markus Kennedy, who just signed in Italy: Embrace the culture. Don’t go hide in your room. Being a good teammate is as important as being a good ballplayer.
Greer said he picked that up as soon as he got to Italy. Greer went to a team Jerome Allen used to play for. Allen was still in Italy, playing for another team.
“I would run into him, and we would talk our Philly lingo,’’ Greer said. “But then we got in the company of some Italian guys. He was speaking Italian to the rest of the guys, to the taxi driver. It brightened my eyes. He was able to adapt to this culture, and they look at him as a brother just as I looked at him as a brother from Philly.”
His next stops, Greer said, in Russia and Greece, he did his best to pick up the language, seeing the easier bond this created with teammates.
Like a grind
Looking for a first step on the ladder, the guys were on the court at Temple’s Pearson Hall, a Saturday morning. Some agents were there, and the whole thing was being taped. Maybe they didn’t have the future like Greer or Allen or Wayns, stops that added dollars to overseas contracts. Maybe Stewart’s path was more instructive for some of them.
“It was like a grind,’’ Stewart said of getting established even after getting a foot in the door.
He started in Argentina not coincidentally because former Temple teammate Pepe Sanchez was an Argentine. “Because I played with Pepe, guys came up to a practice. It was easier to sell, ‘Oh, a player from Temple.’ ”
Problems can’t always be foreseen. When he got down there, the coach was expecting a center and needed a center, and Stewart was clearly a forward.
“I need a center, but other teams need you,’’ Stewart said the coach told him. So he made a trade. Stewart traveled down the coast to his new team. The problem was that the new team wasn’t ready for him. It had an apartment for him, but it wasn’t set up. He could live in the team’s clubhouse.
“It was hard, my time out of college,’’ Stewart said. “I wasn’t really ready mentally.”
The basketball was fine, but Stewart received advice from home. It’s not supposed to be like that. Come on home. His next stop was China, which was just starting to take Americans. Former Temple guard Levan Alston was there and arranged a deal for Stewart with his club. The problem there, Stewart said, was that only one American was allowed on the court at a time, and the team needed Alston out there at point guard. He couldn’t exactly arm- wrestle his fellow American for the spot. He was a true forward. He mostly sat. Hard to build a resume sitting on the bench.
“I had no numbers,’’ Stewart said. “It wasn’t about money.”
He finished up that season in Spain, then moved to England. He found his niche there and planned to stay long enough to get citizenship and was almost there, four years in, when a former coach offered a good deal for one of the bigger clubs in Belgium. He went there but eventually returned to England when that coach, Chris Finch, moved on to the NBA.
Now head coach at his alma mater, Simon Gratz High, Stewart has been able to pass on what he learned. There’s a former Gratz player, Joe Reid, now in El Salvador, first job. Stewart told him it wouldn’t be like the NBA where the fans can’t touch you.
“These fans know where you live. That apartment right there,’’ Stewart said. “It gets around if you’re speaking to them. They appreciate you.”
Wayns, who played in Israel last season, knows that part of things, too. His team had lost two in a row, he said.
“Middle of practice, about 100 fans came in, walked on the court, started chanting in Italian,’’ Wayns said. They don’t prepare you for this. Was this bunch drunk? Nuns and priests there for some kind of basketball exorcism? No, this wasn’t a movie plot, just passionate hoop fans. Never happened like this at Villanova, or a mob bum-rushing Roman’s gym from Broad Street. He was new to the country, not quite ready to be the team’s sounder-outer for this rush of words. Teammates translated the basics: “We have to win the next game!”
Maybe it was not so different from back home.
Play and don’t complain
Greer ended up as one of the better-paid players in Europe, making seven figures. Getting a raise from your Milwaukee Bucks salary, to play instead of sit, that turned out to be a key part of The Blueprint. Greer earned his way up that ladder, though. College exploits meant little.
Pre-NBA, Greer’s first stop was in Greece. His first four months, his pay arrived on time. Then the team started to go south. His check was a month late, then two months late. He went in to complain. A veteran was there, too.
“They owe you money?”
“Three months,’’ Greer remembers telling the teammate.
“That’s it? They owe me 10 months,’’ the teammate said.
Greer asked why the guy was still there. The teammate explained that the more you stay and play and don’t complain, other teams see it. It pays off in the long run. Greer took that immediately to heart. He was supposed to make about $120,000 there and figures he went home with $50,000 and never got the rest. The next year, Greer got cut by the Bucks, went to Poland, was making less money but playing in the continent-wide Euroleague. He ended up being MVP of the Polish league.
“From Poland to Russia one year, then Italy, was MVP of that league. Then I went to Milwaukee,” Greer said. “I signed a two-year deal, only played one, went back to Greece.”
Who knows how the path would have been different had Greer not run into that teammate and his advice.
These days, he’s back home, the father of a talented guard, Lynn Greer III, a sophomore at Roman Catholic High. Time to haul out The Blueprint? No, Greer said, he just wants his son to have fun right now. Besides, the teenager saw the whole thing firsthand.
“He actually lived it,’’ Greer said. “Living in all these different countries. Some of my teammates didn’t do the right things. They’d argue with the coach. He’d see it, say to me, ‘He’s going to get cut.’ He would understand at a young age, fourth or fifth grade. He was learning these things.”