Friday, September 24, 2010

Tour De Germany

               So here I am over in Germany doing what I have been dreaming about since I was a little kid, playing professional basketball. It is just now hitting me that my only job is to play basketball and people are paying me to do it! Pretty wild. But with that comes a lot of responsibility. If I play bad, have a bad game, go in a shooting slump, it’s not just “oh well, I will get them next time” its “step up or we will fire you”. That puts a little more pressure on you to perform and I have a feeling may make playing basketball a little different then what I am used to. If I have a good game and we win will I get the same joy I used to have with my teammates celebrating everything that we have done together, or will it just be part of the job, a job well done, but still part of the job? I guess I will soon find out. I will get more into that later but right now I want to give a brief intro to the journal and some catch-up on my first week here.

Yesterday I was walking around Herten trying to get my bearings and figure out what exactly I was doing with my life. Here I am walking around some small random town in the middle of Germany with no friends, no real plan, and not a whole lot to do. I decided that I needed to take advantage of this opportunity, no matter how obscure, to learn something about the world and about myself. I feel very blessed to be where I am at right now, I will probably never do anything like this again so I decided to write a journal to document my journey. I think the closest thing I have ever produced to a journal was the caloric in-take log we had to do for Biology of Exercise and Nutrition, and because I basically eat the same thing everyday, this wasn’t a very riveting or thought-provoking piece of work. Needless to say this will be an interesting and challenging process for me. While my journal will definitely include some recounting of my day to day activities, I want it to be more than that. I want to include observations about the culture and people here, things I’m thinking about and how I am feeling, differences between here and America and reflections on any and every topic. I can’t promise that it will be cohesive, grammatically correct, or helpful in anyway, but I just want to give it a shot and see where it goes. I don’t want to look back on my time here and think about how many hours I wasted on facebook or, I want to learn something and do things. Even before I sat down to write, just having the idea of writing a journal about my time here has made me more observant, hopefully this continues and hopefully I stay diligent about entries. I hope  to write at least once a week so please check in regularly and give me some feedback! Here goes nothing.

Friday September 17.

So a few weeks ago I was at home stressing out about a whole lot of things in my life: I had just done very poorly on my first try at the MCAT, my body wasn’t feeling great, and I didn’t have anything working out with bball. Thankfully things started looking up on all accounts the next week when I retook the MCAT, got an email from Boris Kaminski about a potential job in Germany and booked a flight out to Albany to visit school.  I received Boris’s email from Brian in May and I had sent a pretty generic note to him with some of my stats, my basketball resume, and a link to some online film I had. He replied saying that he had worked with a lot of D3 players including Brian and Fletcher Walters from Amherst and that I was “an interesting player” and we should keep in contact. I didn’t think a whole lot of it  and didn’t even realize that he was a coach, but we emailed a few times over the summer (basically just as part of me spam emailing all my contacts telling them I was still available). I hadn’t talked to him for a couple weeks but got an email from him 2 or 3 days before I retook the MCAT saying that they were thinking about getting rid of one of their Americans and were considering me and two other players. I was very happy to hear some good news at this point but was very hesitant to get my hopes up. It wasn’t certain they were going to get rid of the other guy, I didn’t know if I was their top choice, and there is so much uncertainty with the European leagues. I didn’t want to jinx it so I didn’t even tell my agent or my parents for a few days.

            I took the MCAT and packed my bags for Williamstown, not knowing if I would be headed home in two weeks or off to somewhere in Europe. It was great to see everyone at school, but I wouldn’t recommend walking around Williamstown during first days the year after you graduate. Everyone seemed happy to see me but I can’t even begin to say how many, “What the heck is this guy doing here? Doesn’t he have anything better to do?” looks. This is especially bad when you don’t have a response to the “So what are you doing with your life now?” question. I ended up just saying I was visiting some friends and left it at that.

 Things started to look better and better with Boris when he told me they had decided to let Norris go and he started giving me information about how much money they were offering and logistics on flights. I was still very paranoid about counting my chickens before they hatched and didn’t even tell anyone what was going on.

It wasn’t until I got a copy of the contract that I finally relaxed. Of all the possible scenarios I had played through my head, finding out that I was going to be a professional basketball player in paresky (I got the email while having lunch with nicole) and signing my contract in Schow, never crossed my mind, but hey, ill take it.

I signed the contract on Tuesday and Boris wanted me to come out on Thursday but that was a little too quick, so I pushed it back until Monday Sept 13. With the contract I am sharing an apartment with the other American. We have the whole third floor, a.k.a the penthouse suite.

My address is 69 Schulstrabe, Herten, Germany 45699 if anyone wants to send me something.

We also share a car:

Just kidding, they gave us a little white Volvo. I had an interesting time learning stick with the impatient German drivers.

Coach also told me that if I played well (whatever that means) they will help out with my flights home for Christmas. I’m already starting to feel the differences between school and pro ball. Another big difference is the try-out period. At school I worried about playing time and all of that, but I was never concerned that I wouldn’t even make the team. I have 4 weeks to prove myself or I’ll be packing my bags and coming home. A blog about sitting around my house in California probably won’t be nearly as insightful, so for this reason only I will try to make the team.

I was very excited to get going but saying goodbye was very hard. Didn’t sleep much the night before which didn’t help with the ride to the train station, the 2.5 hour train to Penn Station, the 45 min cab to JFK and then the 8 hour flight to Dusseldorf. There wasn’t a lot of time between when I found out about the deal and when I left, so I was really flying in blind. I had no idea where Dusseldorf was, how Herten was or what I was getting myself into. While information from wikipedia has helped me through many school assignments, I wasn’t too comfortable basing the next year of my life on the three sentence blurb it offered on Herten, Germany. I often get myself in trouble by not asking enough questions, but I was diving in head first and just going for it. I landed at the airport and was met by Kiki, the back-up point guard and Stefano, a guy on the second team. I was surprised at how well they both spoke English and even more surprised as Emininen’s new song Cinderella Man started blasting on the radio as we all crammed into Kiki’s small European car. 

They didn’t waste anytime showing me what Germany was all about as we jumped straight onto the Autobahn and were being passed on all sides by fancy Audi’s and BMW as KiKi’s little car puckered down the road. I got to my apartment at about 8:30 AM and had to wake Marcus up to let us in.  It was pretty obvious that 8:30 wasn’t Marcus’s usual wake up time and the initial introduction wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I was worn out and just wanted a little sleep.  I was trying to plug my computer in so I could email my parents to let them know I was safe when I heard a girl’s voice. Apparently Marcus’s girlfriend was living with us too, this could get interesting.  I finally laid down in my new bed, not even bothering to change the sheets, for a badly needed power nap.

That night I went to my first practice on 3 hours sleep in the last two days, but it went better than I expected. They had given me a list of plays to memorize before I got there and I actually did pretty well with them. Marcus was sick so he and I shot a lot while the others went through drills. Overall, my first professional practice was less exciting then I imagined. The weirdest part was the first five minutes while everyone was planning travel arrangements for our upcoming trip. The guys were going back and forth in German for about 5 minutes while Marcus and I just stood there watching. They all speak English, but I guess it is still easier for them to communicate in German. Besides when Coach Maker first tried to introduce his offense to us, I haven’t had to worry about a language barrier on the basketball court, this could be a little different. The most entertaining thing about practice was the list of potential fines we have. Check out the last 4.

When we got back from practice Amber had some delicious tacos ready for us. I had just started thinking that I could get used to this when I found out she was actually leaving to go back to the US for an interview the next day. Shoot, looks like it might be a lot of pasta and peanut butter for me, if I can find that here…

Random observations from the first day:

Germans love to swear in English. I don’t know why but when someone makes a mistake or a bad play they will say something in German then immediately drop the F-bomb or some other four letter word in English. Not sure if it is for emphasis or what but it’s pretty entertaining.

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