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Q&A: Basketball trainer Tremaine Dalton talks working overseas, his uncle Campy Russell and more

Dalton is working with Maccabi Rannannas, who the Cavs play on Monday night.

When SB Nation/Fear the Sword caught up with Tremaine Dalton on the phone, he was en route to Cleveland. Along the way, he made a few stops at Nike outlets, looking for rare finds (he says he’s found some unreleased Kyrie models, among other shoes, at outlets) that he can’t as easily find living in Europe.

“I’m a sneakerhead,” he says. “Every time I make a trip, I’m stopping at the Nike outlet.”

Dalton is the founded of The Process Basketball, a training organization based in Europe that also has a philanthropic component to it. Dalton, originally from Michigan, has trained players in Europe and in the Middle East. That includes Maccabi Rannannas, the Israeli team the Cavs are playing Monday night. Dalton says he broke into Europe by playing in the King of the Rock one-on-one tournament.

“Because I played in Europe,” he says, “I’m one of the few coaches that know how combine [European and American] styles.”

Dalton is also the nephew of Cavs legend and broadcaster Campy Russell. The following interview has been edited for style and clarity.

Tell me about your career and what you do.

The Process Basketball is considered one of the best training organizations in the world - not in the U.S., but everywhere else. I’ve trained with French National Team players, Swedish national team players, Estonian national team players. [I think] basically that my portfolio and progress in basketball has had a lot of impact in the way Europeans come to the U.S. and play basketball.

I played in Israel back in the day — long, long time ago, I’m an old man [laughs]. I played in Australia as well. ... A big part of what I do connects with philanthropy. To give an example, with what’s going with Ukraine and Russia, I’ve been doing peace talks with the United States government for the last three years through basketball camps and stuff like that. [The U.S. government] flew me to Estonia to talk to Russian communities and stuff like that. And at the same time, I trained the Estonian national team. What put this over the edge for me was combining philanthropy with basketball training.

What is it like having this very international career despite being from the States?

For me, it’s been a wonderful experience because you learn different things. You get to meet different people, see different cultures and see different styles of basketball. Australians play totally different than Europeans and Europeans play totally different from Americans. So I’ve been in a situation where I’ve been able to combine all the styles and implement it in to the way I train players and also be able to communicate with these players and make them feel comfortable and familiar with the kind of basketball I’m trying to give them. ...

Now starting to come back to the state and implement what I’ve learned here. Man, it’s been a journey.

Specifically with the Israel and Middle East component, what has it been like working in that region?

First and foremost, my son is Israeli. With this conflict that’s going on, he’s in the middle of it. I’m actually working on trying to get him out. But going to Israel, every time I’m there, my son gets to experience exactly what I do.

One of my clients was Roman Sorkin — he plays for the Israeli national team. And James Young — he was drafted by Boston — he is one of my clients. I was responsible for him leading the Israeli league in scoring because he was with Roc Nation, they brought me out there and keep him right and get him used to the European game. And just having that experience in Israel, and seeing that culture, it was a beautiful experience.

It’s an experience for my son too, to see what his father does. We go to basketball games, he gets to see me train players and it’s just a monumental experience.

On the women’s side, I’ve worked with Shahd Abboud. She’s the first Arab national team captain for the Israeli team. She’s the Jackie Robinson of Israeli basketball. So it also creates a cultural experience, to see how different people can come together to push basketball for peace.

What is the basketball culture like in that region of the world?

It’s intense. It’s intense. And it’s one of the top in the world. You’ve got teams like Maccabi Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Hapoel Tel Aviv get NBA players all the time that play on those teams. ... The crowd’s are crazy. It’s high-level.

I would remiss to not ask about Campy [Russell]. Do you have a favorite uncle Campy story?

[laughs] He took me to the University of Michigan basketball camp when I was a kid. And I never thought in a million years [I would attend that]. He’s a University of Michigan all-time great and at the time, I was deep into And 1. So I’m out there doing And1 tricks and throwing the ball off the backboards and stuff. And he grabbed me and pulled me off to the side and was like ‘man, what the hell is you doing?’. And it put me in place and I started played regular basketball. Right in that moment, though, it was the And1 days — Skip 2 My Lou and all that. I was thinking that was the right way to play basketball. And I believe that moment was the moment that pushed me into later on having a pretty good career and all that.

That’s one of my best Campy memories. He’s a silly guy, he’s a Capricorn.

With Europe, in your opinion, have we even seen the best of what Europe is going to export to America and the NBA?

That’s a great question. I think [America is] way ahead. I gotta be totally honest. I think Americans are way ahead, but it’s not because of skills. They have the size. They have the skills. The incentive is just different. In Europe, you have multiple sports and the top sport is soccer, so it’s not the same pressure as there is in America with basketball. That type of mindset can push a player to be so much better than anyone around the world.

I believe Europe is catching up in a lot of different ways, especially when you’ve got Giannis and [Jokic] and people like that. But I think, in order for Europe to really get over that hump, it needs to be more development, more of a commitment to the sport of basketball. Not to say it’s not there, but it’s happening. Europe embraced me in a way I could have even imagined. I would not be in this position without France specifically. And I think [Europeans] need to embrace more cultures to come over there develop to make it an even playing field.

To me with basketball, the biggest reason I work in Europe is because I want it to be a worldwide game and an even playing field because that helps everybody.