It’s been an eventful summer for longtime Dallas Mavericks’ play-by-play television announcer Mark Followill. This week, he’s back to cover the Jr. NBA Global Championships in Orlando with a star-studded lineup of broadcasters. Wednesday night (August 7) on FOX Sports 1, he’ll call the action in a game featuring a Mavs-affiliated youth team – Drive Nation (representing the South Region). We had the chance to catch up with Mark before the broadcast to talk about the action in Orlando, the development of players through the Mavs Basketball Academy, plus his thoughts on the upcoming season.
MAVS.COM: The party never stops for you. Before we talk hoops, fill us in on life. What have you been up to these last few months since the season ended? Any highlights that stick out in your mind?
FOLLOWILL: It has been an exciting summer. From a work standpoint, as many people know I do FC Dallas games and in addition to that, I worked on several games for FOX Sports coverage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer tournament. This week is Jr. NBA World Championships for FOX Sports. I will have a couple of college football games on my schedule too before the Mavs start back up.
From a personal perspective, the highlight of the summer was a trip to Peru. It was a bucket list thing to go to Machu Picchu and I wanted to do it on the hike of the Inca Trail. It’s 26 miles over four days with breathtaking scenery and you learn a lot about the ancient Inca civilization from the 15th and 16th centuries. Needless to say, it met all of my expectations and more. It was an extraordinary adventure that I will cherish the memories of forever.
MAVS.COM: The NBA has poured a ton of money and support into making the Jr. NBA Global Championships a premier gathering of young people from around the world. Can you describe the atmosphere and excitement there; what makes this event so special?
FOLLOWILL: The event is special for many reasons. It’s a first-class event put on by the NBA, as you would expect, as they get involved in grassroots basketball and growth of the game. The games are competitive, and the teams take it very seriously. The best thing about it is the experience for the 13 and 14-year-old kids. For many of them from international teams it is their first time to the United States – and in some cases for the kids – it is the first time to travel out of their own country. What a destination to come to in Disney World!
MAVS.COM: We have a Mavs-affiliated youth basketball team competing this week there. Many of these young men have participated in Mavs Basketball Academy youth development programs and we’ve watched them evolve. How important will this experience be for them?
FOLLOWILL: It’s important for the young men because the experience reinforces a lot of great teaching points about basketball and sports and how they relate to life…the kind of things they learn when they come through Mavs Academy development programs. Maybe the most valuable thing is that the group of kids, parents, coaches, and staff from all of these teams is so diverse and getting the opportunity to meet people from other cultures, talk to them, compete against them, etc., is something that a young man or woman just can’t get enough of in my opinion. Not only that but the NBA does a wonderful job of involving current and former NBA and WNBA players who do life skills seminars and basketball clinics for the young men and women here. Obviously, advice from the stars of our game holds a lot of weight.
MAVS.COM: Coach Carlisle is also back at the Jr. NBA Championships and he’s long supported youth basketball initiatives and serves on the Jr. NBA Leadership Council. Last year, Rick referred to the weeklong event as a “celebratory melting pot” with the goal of teaching kids to learn and love the sports of basketball. Do you get any chance to visit with him during the week and how much does he enjoy working with the coaches and young people?
FOLLOWILL: I watched some of Coach Carlisle’s clinics last year and I can assure you he loves working with kids and their coaches as well. One thing I think I have learned about Rick over the years is I know he takes very seriously that his place in the game means a responsibility to leave the game in a better place than when you came into it. I enjoy asking Rick about historic aspects of the game because he has such a tremendous appreciation for those that came before us and he can put into historical perspective the accomplishments of today’s players, as we saw him do with Dirk for so many years for example. I remember him using that description “celebratory melting pot” last year. I think it’s accurate and it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Rick is the one who said it.
MAVS.COM: Let’s discuss your star-studded broadcast team. Can you share more about your group of colleagues and what’s the experience like?
FOLLOWILL: I work with four great talents on air and a wealth of experienced and dedicated professionals off the air. Some may be aware that Vince Carter is part of the telecast. Based on what I observed of him in his time in Dallas, I knew he had an extraordinary future in broadcasting when his career is over, and he is getting a head start on that already and getting ready for a record-setting 22nd NBA season!
Donny Marshall was a tremendous player at UConn and played in the NBA with the Cavs and Nets in the mid to late 90s and early 2000s and has spent many years working NBA broadcasts for the Nets and now is a Big East game analyst for FOX Sports. We have the immensely talented Sarah Kustok who two seasons ago became the first full-time female analyst for a team’s TV broadcasts in the NBA when she moved into that chair with the Nets after a number of years as a studio host and analyst and game analyst as well. Not only does she do that, but she is a reporter and analyst on FOX Sports college football and basketball as well. And Noah Eagle is our sideline reporter and NBA fans should get used to hearing him, Noah is the new voice of the Los Angeles Clippers radio broadcasts as he comes out of the outstanding Syracuse broadcast program. And I can’t stress enough what a great production crew we have to make it all look and sound as smooth as possible on FS1 and FOX.
MAVS.COM: Any final words for MFFLs before the upcoming season?
FOLLOWILL: My final words are like every one of you I am excited for the season to start. I can’t what to see what Porzinigis looks like in a Mavs uniform and what kind of growth we will see in Luka from Rookie of the Year to his second season. With those two and the improving talent on the roster I believe it will be exciting this season, what that adds up to in wins, losses and a playoff race remains to be seen but fortunately, we’ll start finding out soon.