Szia from Hungary,
After spending 5 months in Istanbul, my career has taken an unexpected turn as I have changed teams and now play for Soproni which is located in Sopron, Hungary.
So far, my first year as a professional basketball player has been a roller coaster, but one I do cherish. Few have played basketball internationally. But for the people who have, my season is typical for a first year player.
As explained through talks with coach Jeff Jones after my senior season about going forward professionally, I learned that my career might not always be smooth sailing from the beginning. My first job, like my stint in Turkey, is one to get my feet wet, so to speak. It is an opportunity to get experience on my resume and to show other teams that I can not only handle myself on the court, but off as well.
With the overall experience, I loved Istanbul. I was given a three bedroom apartment which I shared with my American teammate, Kervin Bristol, who graduated from Fordham University. We not only played against each other during my first year of eligibility in the Cable Car Classic Tournament held by Santa Clara University, in which AU won, but we were also paired to play on the same team for a tryout this past summer for a team in Israel, which was held in Florida.
The two foreigners, Bristol and I, immediately showed a presence on the court and showed what we were brought in to do. Within the first couple of games, I was top five in the league in scoring and Bristol was top three in both rebounds and blocked shots, but our performances on the court were falling short of getting wins. Compared to all the other teams in the league, my team was one of the youngest in the league and it was evident.
In the majority of the games, my team was either winning, tied or within a four-point margin in the fourth quarter. Most of those games we lost. The team’s morale quickly dwindled and the general manager of the team decided it was best to go with a new coach in early December.
Although the new coach began implementing new strategies, those too failed as my team fell to a disappointing 3-14 record. By this time, everyone was frustrated with the results of the games.
Throughout the season I would come in before and stay long after for just about every practice. Often I would envision coach Jones telling me to stop working out during the season and rest my body like he often did during my stay at AU, but the constant losses drove me away from those desires. Still nothing was changing, and my team continued to lose.
It was around early January when I got a call from my agent that a team in Hungary wanted to sign me. He told me that the team was in a race for the top spot of the conference and that the player I would be replacing suffered an injury, and the team needed to fill the role immediately. He told me that if I performed like I did in Turkey, it would look great on my resume because it is against stiffer competition. Being excited for this great news, I was all but ready to pack my bags. But the team in Turkey had to be willing to release me.
After a couple of talks between the team and my agent, I finally got the release, which brings me here to this very moment. The competitive nature in anyone, let alone an athlete, is extremely high as is evident between the changes in mood when you go from a team that is at the bottom of the league to a team that is competing for a top seed in the playoffs. Everyone is much happier and I feel extremely blessed to be put in this scenario and given another chance to win a championship.
Only being in the country for a couple days, I have not seen much. The best way to describe the city is to compare it to an old British town that you would see in the movies.
I was a drastic change. Where the team in Turkey would sometimes not practice, now I have two-a-day practices nearly every day. Although the practices run an hour and 45 minutes at most, I am finally able to get my legs under me and am getting used to the change in routine.
The team initially put me up in a hotel until the house where I would stay was available, and the first morning I woke up breakfast was being served. A sweet scent permeated the air and I sped across the hallway to reach the familiar smell.
For those who do not know, Turkey is a Muslim country, and pork is forbidden. Bacon, sausage, ribs and everything else that my stomach had missed so much is now available in Hungary…
I guess you can say Hungary is serving my appetite quite well.