I appreciate Ballers Abroad for giving me the platform to speak.
My name is Robert Crawford and I’m a 198cm guard from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Right now I’m signed with the Worcester Wolves in the United Kingdom (the Worcester Wolves play in the British Basketball League).
Like every hooper, my dream has always been to play in the NBA. At 28 years old, that dream for me is still alive. I just always think “why not?” Especially in the days of social media, you never know what can happen and I’ve always been considered a late bloomer.
A late bloomer, I began playing basketball at the age of 15, pretty much just because I was a good bit taller than all my peers. By 18 I stood at 6’8”, and a hobby that began out of ambiguity had grown into a deep-rooted passion for the sport of basketball.
More importantly than a passion, my career had also gained me a scholarship to play at Belmont University, a powerhouse mid-major in Nashville, Tennessee. What ensued was the four best years of my life up to that point. My passion for the game was tested as I no longer was a big fish in the small pond of Arkansas high school basketball, but rather a very small fish in the big pond of Division I college basketball. The lows were so low that at times the question Do I even still want to do this? crossed my mind more than once. On the other hand, the highs were so high that I want to play until my body gives out was a commonplace saying for me. By the end of my college career the highs outweighed the lows. Thus embarked my journey to play professionally overseas. First stop: Frankfurt Germany.
This month, we asked London Lions guard Jack Isenbarger to compare basketball fans in England to the fan experience he's had in the States. As you can imagine, it's a little different across the pond.
The team I currently play with, the London Lions, get crowds of roughly 750-2,000 for home games. In the BBL, crowd attendance varies based on the location of the game, the current position of the team (win-loss record), and how well the game is marketed. The luxury of playing with the London Lions is that we have a great venue in the Copper Box, which was built for the 2012 Olympics. However, the arena often feels empty because the arena has a capacity of 7,000 people.
As the team experiences success, like anywhere, the fan base should grow. The British Basketball League is eager to have a team compete in the transnational FIBA EuroCup Challenge, which would bring much more exposure to the league and allow teams in the BBL to be rewarded for winning the League and gaining promotion into such a league. One qualifying factor for a team to compete in the EuroCup is to have an appropriate size arena. I’ve heard rumors that the three teams vying for what would be the inaugural EuroCup participant are the Newcastle Eagles, Leicester Riders, and the London Lions.
Basketball is much bigger in America than it is in England. Many Londoners don’t know that a professional basketball team exists and there are two primary barriers. First, soccer or ‘football’ dominates the realm of sport in the U.K. – basketball is viewed as a minor sport in England. Basketball is below soccer, rugby, cricket, and ice hockey. Secondly, the London Lions only moved to London in 2013. Before, the team was based in Milton Keynes. Awareness of the sport and the team ought to grow with winning, marketing, and the potential for a FIBA EuroCup entry.
November 29 - This past week I was able to have my mother join me in Germany for the week. I introduced her to all of the new foods that were traditional German foods. Some foods she liked and some...not so much. She met a lot of the fans and they welcomed her to the basketball family with open arms, which I really appreciated from the organization.
I was able to take her to grocery stores and malls and show off my German speech/vocabulary I had learned through my time spent I Germany. She was also able to catch two of games, in which one of the games I was able to win player of the week. It was a great feeling to get two wins and win player of the week with my Mom in attendance. Christmas break is around the corner and my team and I are hoping to go into the break with no losses.
We're back with a new player diary for this season! After starting his professional career with Ehingen Urspring last year, Kameron Taylor is in Germany again, this time with Dragons Rhoendorf. Taylor has been on fire to start the season, averaging 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. We were able to catch up with Kam to see how his second season has been both on and off the court:
My season has really started off well. My team started off 4-0 and I get along with all my teammates. My club was able to help me with my urge to learn German by paying for me to attend one class a week, it's really helpful because then I am able to communicate with young fans and supporters after the games. The main difference between this year and last year is that I am living alone and with my own car car. Last year I had two roommates and shared a car. I'm hoping to keep improving my situation each year.
Taylor hit a game-winner Oct. 28 (via Dragons
Player diaries are back for the 2017/18 season! We caught up with Jack Isenbarger, who is playing for the London Lions of the British Basketball League. Isenbarger was kind enough to blog for us last season, and we're hoping to hear from more from him this year! Interview is below.
What are your goals for the season? Are they the same as last season?
As far as goals for the season, our team wants to win the league and win a championship. More importantly, we want to be healthy and playing our very best basketball of the season in April as we head into the playoffs. The personal goals and motivations for each player are different, and we are still learning about one another.
Personally, my goals this year include improving my individual defense by working with our strength and conditioning staff to build lower body strength and lateral quickness. Another goal is to remain strong and healthy through the entire season. Going into my fourth year out of college and having fought through injuries in the past, I have a greater appreciation for health and the energy I need to spend taking care of my body so I can recover and perform as the season grind endures. One offensive goal of mine is to be a consistent three-point threat and improve my scoring options that come with being a sniper. This includes working on individual moves such as shot fakes into pull up jump shots, step backs, and finishing at the rim. Percentage wise, I would like to finish the season in the 90-50-40 club (90% ft, 50% fg, 40% 3pt).
Another goal of mine is to be intentional about investing into the relationships with my teammates. I believe that the closer our relationships are with teammates and coaches, the more successful we will be on the court. It's been a blast getting to know my teammates thus far as we had a 10 day preseason trip to Poland, which really facilitated team bonding. I think we have a strong foundation and sense of belonging which will help us throughout the season when adversity comes. Another great thing for team bonding our team captain has done is that he created a fantasy NBA league which we all play in, including our GM. It's a great way to connect with guys and feed the competitive and social need of all the players. So far we won the preseason league tournament and are 3-0 heading into a double header weekend against Newcastle and Leeds.
December 15 - It's ten days away from Christmas and I'm not able to go home because our break is only three days, so my teammates have invited me to their homes to spend Christmas with them and their families. My teammates have become more like great friends to me in the past five months that I've been here. I'm also even better in German, I'm able to not only speak, but I also understand them when they speak to me (some of the time). Even though I'm excited to have my first Christmas in Germany, I really do miss home and can't wait to fly home in April!
December 15 - We are exactly at the halfway point of the Adriatic League season and the team stands at 6th place overall. The games and weeks seem to be flying by - it's crazy to think that the Christmas holiday and New Year are right around the corner. Christmas lights and other decorations have been put up around the city and with the increasingly cold weather, it's definitely beginning to feel like Christmas. Much like Thanksgiving, I don't have much planned and will spend most of the day on FaceTime with family, friends, and loved ones. Before getting to the 25th, we will have two league games in which we will look to improve on our 7-6 record.
December 9, 2016 - It's almost been 3 weeks since I got injured and I'm starting to get my strength back after an AC (shoulder) sprain. I was blindsided by an open court screen against the Newcastle Eagles. The injury is common in football and rugby players, and the physio informed me that it would be best to rest from basketball for 3-4 weeks and supplement physical therapy until I am pain free and strength is restored to my shoulder. Fortunately, it was my left shoulder (my non-shooting shoulder). For my job, I am paid primarily to shoot and score the ball among other things. Therefore, it's a relief to know my shooting will not be affected by the injury.
Nonetheless, I am itching to get back on the court. I hate not being able to practice. I hate not being able to play. Yet, I still have been able to help the team in other ways such as working out teammates in positional-oriented drills and doing in-game notetaking to track flow of the game and look for ways to help us improve. It's a way for me to look at the game through my "coaching" lens. As much as I don't like not being on the court, it's been refreshing to see the game through a different perspective.
With Christmas coming up, it means many teams will be making roster changes in hopes of making a spot in the playoffs. We're currently sitting in ninth place of a 12-team league where the top eight teams make the playoffs. We feel that we have a top-eight team when everyone is healthy, and we have proven we can play with the top teams in the league.
Off the court, I'm looking forward to get a little break for the holidays. I'll be spending time with some friends I've made through the basketball club. We're heading to Portsmouth for a proper Christmas dinner and then we'll get to visit London too. It's not ideal being away from family but it's nice to have friends who so generous as to open up their home to me. Last year when I was in Spain, the most difficult day of the year was Christmas. It was my first Christmas spent away from Zionsville, Indiana. This year, I'm hoping it will not be as difficult but I know it won't be easy. Christmas is a time to be home with loved ones and I plan on being home next Christmas.
The differences in rules between college, international and NBA basketball vary greatly, from the length of the quarters to things such as goaltending and the three-point line (for a list of all the rule differences click here). We caught up with James Robinson to ask about those differences in comparison to the American game.
November 28 - We are almost at the halfway point of the Adriatic League and my team is in sixth place in the league with a 6-5 record. Comparing the style of play here to what I am accustom to in the United States, I have found there to be many similarities. However, one of the major differences that I have seen is the strategic use of defensive fouls throughout a quarter. Here, a defensive player is willing to commit a foul as soon as they feel the offensive player has beat them. The terminology my team uses for this tactic is a "small foul." I have seen these types of fouls committed in the States but definitely not at the rate they are used in Europe.
Another aspect of the game that I have noticed to be somewhat different is the amount of "team" basketball that is played here in Europe. There are very few one-on-one isolation plays, and each possession usually consists of four, if not all five offensive players touching the basketball at some point. Other than these two differences, along with a few minor rule changes, basketball is very much the same in Europe as it is in the United States.