Executive Interview: Jake Kelfer, Founder – Professional Basketball Combine

The NBA Playoffs are an exciting time of year for basketball fans around the globe. Will this season be rematch of the past three Finals, or will a new team hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June?

In addition to the Playoffs, the NBA Draft lottery takes place to determine which teams will have their shot at the next wave of talent entering the league. With the NBA Draft itself occurring in July, top prospects are preparing to work out for teams and improve their draft stock. Compared to its counterpart in the NFL, the NBA Draft Combine flies under the radar. Players can improve, and sometimes, hurt their draft stock in this once in a lifetime opportunity. For those who do not receive an invite to the combine, all hope is not lost. Enter he Professional Basketball Combine.

We had the opportunity to speak with Professional Basketball Combine founder Jake Kelfer about his experience and the PBC which is entering its second year of operations. Check out the interview below.

SAB: Where did the idea behind the Professional Basketball Combine (PBC) originate from?

JK: The idea behind the PBC came after watching several pro days and thinking there had to be a way to get more prospects in one location. With two-way contracts being announced and the growth of the G-League, I knew there would be more opportunity to play and stay in America. From there, I spoke and worked with a lot of mentors to discuss the idea and after months of planning and changing plans, the Professional Basketball Combine was created.

How do you determine who will be invited?

The selection process is unique in the sense that we do direct invites as well as open submission. While a lot of our players are not invited to the NBA Combine in Chicago, we have to play a bit of a guessing game early on. Our selection process is a combination of player invites where we reach out directly to players/agents and open submission where we allow players to submit their name for evaluation. We do this because our goal is to give players a platform to compete at the highest level. We are a secondary draft combine and part of the reason we created the PBC was to give well known, but also under the radar prospects a chance to shine.

What sponsorships do you have and how did they come to fruition?

We have several different sponsorships this year which I could not be more excited about. Each company brings something different to the table, but they all believe in the PBC and what we are trying to accomplish.

Our presenting sponsor for the 2018 PBC is HFactor, which is hydrogen infused water. They are an incredible company that is all about helping improve performance through their water and when we were introduced to them, we knew they would be a great fit. Several of our other sponsors include Eastbay, MVMT and Dr. Dish. Eastbay is the official apparel partner of the PBC and will be providing apparel for the players and staff. MVMT is the official timekeeper of the event, and Dr. Dish is the official shooting machine of the PBC.

We also did something new this year called PBC Player Packages that consist of products from about 10 companies who wanted to be a part of the PBC and get their products in front of our players. Every player will receive a package upon arrival at the event.

What does your list of participants for the event look like?

Our updated roster includes the following players:

Lagerald Vick (Kansas), Darius Thompson (Western Kentucky), Johnathan Williams (Gonzaga), Brandon Sampson (LSU), Kaiser Gates (Xavier), Rodney Bullock (Providence), Nate Mason (Minnesota), Junior Robinson (Mount St. Mary’s), LiAngelo Ball, Marcus LoVett (St. John’s) and Kendall Stephens (Nevada).

How does the PBC differentiate itself from the NBA Combine? Are players permitted to attend both?

The PBC is similar to the NBA Combine with a few major differences. Players are more than welcome to attend both, but so far we’ve only hosted players who do not attend the NBA Combine since it occurs the week before.

One of the major differences is we do 3-on-3 scrimmages rather than 5-on-5, and we do this to comply with the NBA pre-draft rules.

Outside of the scrimmages, we offer a bunch of additional programming such as media training to help prepare the players for team and media interviews, an athlete branding workshop to help the players understand the power and influence they have, photoshoot, in house PBC interviews, and more. Not only do we try to provide the players with an incredible on-court experience, but we try to provide them a learning experience off the court to help them throughout their basketball journey.

After a successful first year, what are you looking forward to and expecting in year two and the future?

I am super excited to see who will step up and raise their draft stock! Last year we had several players change how teams viewed them, get on teams’ radars and ultimately, sign contracts due to their performance and the Professional Basketball Combine. The talent pool this year is even better, and I am thrilled for these players to get a chance to perform in front of a ton of scouts and executives. Besides the players, I am really excited to welcome new teams to the event and provide them with 24 draft prospects in one location. Overall, I am really excited to see the continued growth of the event and to have the support from people, teams, agents, players, fans and programs from around the globe!

How can those interested in basketball scouting/representation get involved in this event?

Just as much as we want to help players succeed on the court, we decided it was time to help aspiring sports professionals off the court which is why we created “Basketball 101: Exploring the Jobs In Sports.” This event is part classroom, part hands on experience where participants will have the chance to hear from NBA personnel, media experts, agents and coaches as well as develop their career skills. Everyone who attends will receive VIP access to the PBC, networking opportunities and exclusive access to information to help jumpstart their careers in basketball. This program was created to give people an inside track to understanding the business of basketball and how to begin their journey in sports.

The program is from May 20-23. For more information, reach out to Jake Kelfer directly at [email protected].