When it comes to playing abroad, basketball is just a piece of the puzzle. Playing in foreign countries with different languages, cultures and customs, players must adapt to their surroundings off the court in order to perform well on it. Looking and acting different than the majority of their teammates (and the citizens of the countries in which they play), we wanted to explore what it was like for these players, so we reached out to various players to keep player diaries.
James Robinson is a rookie out of the University of Pittsburgh. The Maryland native has signed to played with Igokea, a team in Bosnia that competes in the Adriatic League, one of the few regional leagues in Europe. Robinson shared his experience with us in his first week as a pro:
August 12 - Today was the day I left the country. My parents, grandparents, Aunt Mona (and her dogs) and Aunt Diane, all came to the airport to see me off to my first professional "job." We all were happy/sad/nervous but knew this was a special time for our entire family. Boarding a packed flight headed to Germany, I was lucky enough to be with good friend and former DeMatha teammate Kam Taylor (*editors note: Taylor is beginning his first season playing for Ehingen Urspring in Germany). After a movie and eight hours of flight time, we landed in Frankfurt. Getting off the plane we both realized,"It's real now." We eventually went our separate ways as Kam headed to baggage claim and I headed to my gate to continue my journey to Zagreb, Croatia.
August 14 - Today will be my first full day in Bosnia. Last night I set my up apartment and got some local food. I did not have Wi-Fi in my apartment so I was really bored until I eventually fell asleep. Today's activities included going to the doctor to get checked out and becoming friends with two teammates, Nikola Pesak and Bojan Lulić. Tomorrow will be my first official practice as a professional basketball player.
August 15 - Day 1 of "practice." After not getting a single hour worth of sleep as my body had yet not adjusted to the time, I walked (halfway knowing my way) to the gym for practice. I quickly learned their definition of practice was way different. We lifted weights for an hour and then ran laps continuously around the soccer field for half an hour. Neither aspect of this practice was overly challenging, but I was hoping to have a more conventional basketball practice. After lift/conditioning we headed to lunch and to rest up before our 7 p.m. "practice." When the time came, I walked into the locker room and saw each player had their practice uniforms laid out so I just knew in my head a real practice was going to take place. My wishes did not come true. Instead, we spent the next two hours doing agility exercises and basic movements without a basketball. My lesson from the day was that in Europe, practice can mean anything!
August 17 - It is now Wednesday and we have the evening off from conditioning. After this morning's conditioning practice, I exchanged some U.S. dollars for Bosnian Marks. I went to the small convenience store by my apartment and found it to basically have anything and everything. The only problem was the brand names of the items were foreign to me, and the description of items were written in Serbian. I went out on a limb and bought different drinks, snacks, and breakfast bars based on what I thought may taste good based off the picture on the labels.
On Monday we'll share Robinson's thoughts on his second week abroad and hopefully find out if he gets to practice with a basketball!