‘EuroLeague Rooks’ Docuseries Shines Light on Little-Seen Adversity

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EuroLeague Rooks Kyle Hines
Photo Courtesy Kyle Hines

For nine years, Kyle Hines was constantly asked about playing basketball professionally in Europe.

Last year, during his 10th Euroleague season, Hines made a YouTube docuseries while playing for CSKA Moscow called “Just a Kid from Sicklerville” to tell the story of his life and his experiences on- and off-the-court in Europe. Next week, his second docuseries, “EuroLeague Rooks,” will explore the lives of six first-year players making their adjustment to basketball and life in Europe.

“Every summer, I’d get these questions, so rather than constantly answer them, why not show people?” Hines said. “I went through so many experiences, and any overseas player goes through so many and has so many great stories, but people from the States don’t really get to see them.”

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Hines said he’s inspired by the numerous professional athletes making their mark while playing, such as LeBron James’ work with Uninterrupted. He created the self-funded, self-shot series with his best friend, Mike Martin. Martin’s sister helps edit the show. The first series aired on YouTube, and the “EuroLeague Rooks” will also debut on the platform before being distributed through IMG and Euroleague channels and partners.

The barebones production staff is a carryover from the first series and was intended to help Hines and Martin find their way with a docuseries niche they believe can help them find success. Hines believes there are enough curious Americans to warrant these docuseries and make them a success. But he also feels the players, many of whom become stars in their cities and win championships, deserve to be highlighted. And who better to do it, he reasoned, than himself, a three-time EuroLeague champion who is currently preparing for a date with Real Madrid in the Final Four on May 17.

“Rather than give someone else access to my idea and using myself, we wanted to see what works and doesn’t work,” Hines said. “But we had more success than we thought we would, and that led to the inspiration for ‘Euroleague Rooks.’”

Hines is well-adjust to life within Europe, so he and Martin believed the best strategy heading into the season would be to highlight the adjustments of first-year players in Europe as they learn everything from on-court differences to off-the-court culture. Logistically, the project did pose a problem for Hines as he tried to balance the show with his own playing career. To that end, much of the film work was done by Martin, who traveled to various European cities in Europe for multiple weeks at a time.

Ultimately, Hines and Martin selected Alec Peters of CSKA Moscow; Zach LeDay and Nigel Williams-Goss of Olympiacos B.C.; Goga Bitadze of Budućnost VOLI; Johnny O’Bryant of Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C.; and Thomas Walkup of BC Žalgiris as their subjects. Hines believes the six featured players will offer an array of unique backgrounds and personal stories while they adjust to their different European surroundings.

“There’s a lot of natural drama,” Hines said. “The adjustment to the sport in itself, but then living somewhere you can’t just go to the grocery store. Figuring out what’s beef and what’s veal. Making those adjustments in a place [where] you might be the only one who speaks English.”

“EuroLeague Rooks” builds on Hines’ basketball career experiences and his brand manager, elite8 mktg co-founder Tiffany Scott, said she hopes this series can help inspire others as it helps develop Hines’ post-playing career.

“He has a real passion for content creating and storytelling, specifically around his experiences playing overseas and how that has impacted his growth on and off the court,” Scott said. “My hope is the series presents another option for young players who may not have been drafted to the NBA.

“Kyle and the ‘EuroLeague Rooks’ are proof that you can have a tremendously successful career playing abroad.”

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Hines believes now is the right time to attempt storytelling like this. The world is simply smaller between the proliferation of sports streaming options, athletes having further reach with social media and international sports being more accessible outside their home regions.

“In the beginning, we wanted to learn and keep it small, so when we do take on bigger projects, we know what we’re doing,” he said.

Now that time is here. Already, the duo is discussing whether or not to remain independent or take on partners for even more ambitious goals. Just like the roving basketball players they profile, they’ve learned it’s always nice to have options.