In 2017, Antonio DePina launched his professional basketball career from humbling beginnings. In college, he bounced between schools, spending his final two seasons at Division II Lincoln University (PA) and starting in four games his senior year.
Unwilling to put down the rock after college, DePina marketed himself to professional teams around the world. Eventually, he sold himself to Portugal’s Electrico FC, who brought him across the Atlantic to chase his goals.
After a season in Spain, an ankle injury derailed DePina’s plan to play in France for a third pro campaign in 2018, and he came back to America with answers to questions many American basketball players ask in their pursuit of an overseas career.
“I was on a freaking bus ride from New York, and I thought about the idea,” DePina said.
What he envisioned on the bus, a platform to share knowledge of how to win an overseas contract and more, snowballed into something bigger after his webinars were successful: an app.
It took months of work to make it happen, but this summer, Overseas Basketball Connection (OBC) launched its app, opening up the overseas basketball world to male and female pros everywhere looking to profit off their play.
The main feature of the app is job postings and application submissions, cutting out the middle man and putting the player and team in direct contact. But the app is also equipped with overseas basketball news and content, an informational podcast, highlights from around the globe, tips on maintaining an overseas career and more ways to keep the professional basketball community together.
On top of that, OBC put on Overseas Combine, an opportunity for players to show their stuff on livestream for the world to see. Overseas Combine traveled to Atlanta, Indianapolis, Delaware, Houston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami from Aug. 21 to Sept. 29, spending a few days in each city. Only 100 players were allowed at each combine, and some were sold out well in advance.
What’s the goal? To remove agents from the equation to put more money in the player’s pocket and give the player total communication control with teams.
“Players only need an agent when dealing with EuroLeague teams, big-name teams or NBA teams, where you’re playing with hundreds of thousands of dollars and millions of dollars,” DePina explained. “Overseas basketball doesn’t pay as much as people think, so getting an agent to take that money out of your paycheck is unnecessary.”
Downloading the app and applying to your first team is free, with options for weekly ($19.99), monthly ($65) or annual ($289) subscriptions available. If a player finds a contract through the OBC app, OBC funds their flight to their new home.
“When a team signs a player on our platform, we pay for the flight for that player to reach the club and get there safely,” DePina said.
This doesn’t mean OBC aims to eliminate agents from the industry. In fact, FIBA agents for men’s and women’s players can be found in a database on the Overseas Basketball Connection app. But it intends to become a main source for connecting players and teams and making contracts happen.
“Uber never got rid of taxis, but Uber is a main source for rides,” DePina said. “I’m not saying we’re going to get rid of the agents, but I want our app and the platform to be the main source for players to go overseas.”
Once that’s achieved, DePina said it should solve another problem facing overseas pros: getting paid.
DePina experienced issues in Portugal, and it was a headache for him to get the money he was owed. It’s a story many other foreign overseas players have, too. While many overseas teams treat their foreign players properly, some don’t. If Overseas Basketball Connection were the main source connecting players and teams, testimonials could get malicious clubs booted, only linking players to reputable teams. Not only would this help players avoid dodgy teams, it would also create a new incentive for contracts to be followed through.
“If we get every team, or almost every team, signed up on the app, and we find out they’re not paying their players, they get blacklisted from the app. That will hurt the team,” DePina said.
“Teams normally honor the contract, but there’s almost no way to safeguard yourself from that,” DePina continued. “You can go to FIBA, but what can they really do? If we get every team, or almost every team, signed up on the app, and the find out they’re not paying their players, then they get blacklisted from the app. That will hurt the team. That’s the only way you can really make teams pay their players on time and do the due diligence.”
Teams can use the platform for free, and with OBC covering players’ flights and saving them money on agents, there are plenty of reasons for clubs to join the platform.
There are more opportunities to play professional basketball now than ever as the sport has spread wide across the world. With the Overseas Basketball Connection app, DePina is hoping to help continue that growth, then bring the idea to other sports.
“This is going to make the sport grow even bigger,” he explained. “I feel like every sport needs a platform like this. It’s 2020. We need a one-stop shop for every sport to connect with professional teams worldwide.”