In Germany I haven't seen any fast food restaurants other than Burger King, KFC and McDonald's, and in all three fast food restaurants it tastes a lot different than the ones in the USA. Me and my team eat at a nice local restaurant in the city called Schwanen and they usually serve German-based food like spaetzle noodles with meat and gravy and a lot of dishes with schnitzel. The most annoying thing here is that there are no free refills in any establishment I have visited but the food is definitely a lot healthier and fresher than what I've had in USA restaurants. I enjoy a lot of the German dishes that my teammates and the restaurants have prepared!
November 8, 2016 - Today was a light day with the only team obligation being weight lifting from 10-11:30 this morning. We didn’t have practice this afternoon which meant I got to grab a late lunch and then take care of some errands like doing laundry, buying groceries and opening a bank account here in Leeds. Walking home from lunch with a teammate, I bumped into one of our team's co-owner’s in town. He runs a restaurant chain called PizzaWay, and he showed us around his newest location (it’s similar to Blaze Pizza in America). The new location is ideal for the business and convenient for those of us who live in Headingley. Because PizzaWay is a major sponsor of the team, they provide players free pizza – a perk I’m certainly thankful for!
The overall spirit of the team was down after a close loss to Glasgow moved us to 2-5. We have the pieces and talent that we need, but we aren’t executing in practice or games at a high enough rate. Knowing each other’s strengths and weakness takes some time but once we synchronize, I’m confident we’ll be tough to beat. The league emphasizes scoring in transition and fast break situations, yet we’ve had the lowest transition production at ten percent of our offensive coming in transition. That is partly our lack of creating turnovers and turning them into easy baskets. That is also partly due to our style of play. We are a systematic team that emphasizes a half court orientated game. We want to score using our half-court plays and work our sets in order to gain an advantage, extend an advantage, and maintain an advantage.
Off the court, the weekend included three days of travel and site seeing adventure. I channeled my inner tourist by visiting Liverpool with my teammates on Saturday. We went to the Cavern Club where the Beatles found a home and performed regularly. Liverpool had a museum featuring a history of the port city and another museum on slavery. The night concluded with a fireworks show on the water in honor of the holiday “Bonfire Night” and the legendary tale of Guy Fawkes, who tried to burn down the parliament on November 5, 1605.
I'd found out the day before that my brother Matt would be flying to London to spend three days for work. I was able to catch a ride with a generous team manager/photographer. After about four hours and a stop at the Dr. Martens’ factory, we arrived in North London. Next, we walked to the closest tube station to get to the center of the city where my brother’s hotel was located. We spent an hour catching up in his hotel room before going with him on his drone presentation to 500 Apple employees in the world’s most successful Apple shops…no big deal.
It was cool to see behind the scenes of my brother’s job, and we finished the night with fish and chips! The next day, I said goodbye early because my brother had to travel to Stratford to give more presentations, and I met up with Kieron, our team manager. We grabbed a coffee and walked around the city, which was beautiful. We went to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Winston Churchill war rooms, Trafalgar Square, and witnessed a procession leading up to the changing of the guard. Around 12:30 p.m. we took the Tube out of the city to get the car and on our way back to Leeds in time for practice that night.
Aleksandrovac, Bosnia-Herzegovina - These past few weeks have consisted of a lot of down time and practice. Having only one game per week leaves a lot of time for PlayStation, FaceTime, and texting friends and family back home. If anybody thinks they can beat me in Madden '17 add me (J-Rob_0) and we will see!
Basketball-wise, our record stands at 4-4 which is in the middle of the pack in the very competitive Adriatic League (*note: the Adriatic Legaue is a regional league that features teams from many countries, mostly from the former Yugoslavia including Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Montenegro). This past away game we played Zadar, a team based in Croatia. Their city is located along the sea so it made for some great sights. There was also a McDonald's in the city, so I had to take advantage of the opportunity and get some with a few of my teammates. This was the first "American" food I have had since leaving home so you can imagine how good it tasted!
On the court, Ehingen Urspring's Kameron Taylor is having little trouble adjusting to Europe. Through the first five games of Germany's ProA season Taylor is putting up 13.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 2.4 apg. Off the court, however, Taylor is facing several of the same challenges that face many American players around the world, including a very important one: the language barrier.
Today is October 25. I have been Germany just over two months, and I finally ordered from a Chinese place speaking in German all by myself for the first time. The language barrier was tough when I first arrived, just because I've never really even heard German before, so the whole language was a brand-new experience. My teammates were my teachers these past months - it's amazing that all of the German guys can both speak German and English, including the coaches! It made it so much easier to learn and to adapt. They taught me a new word or sentence every day. Even the people of Germany know some English, too. This makes this easier like when, for example, if I'm ordering food (Chinese, maybe?) and I don't get the order completely right, I could just say the name of the food in English and they would understand. I'm expecting to be somewhat fluent when I come back to the States, and I'm excited to show off my new language when I get home.
We are happy to introduce the third Baller Abroad in our player diary series, Jack Isenbarger! Isenbarger is a second-year pro out of Elon University in North Carolina, where he was named to the all-conference team multiple times and finished his career as the school's all-time leader in three pointers made (264). After a season in Spain, Isenbarger signed with Leeds Force of the British Basketball League, the top tier in England. He what his experience has been like so far:
We're back to Bosnia for this player diary to check in with James Robinson. After missing the beginning of the season (as explained below) Robinson's been on fire to start his year, averaging 21.2 ppg, 4.2 apg and 3.5 rpg through his first four games in the Adriatic League. He wrote a short post for us Oct. 12 about the beginning of his season and how he's adjusting to playing in a regional league - a rarity in professional basketball.
October 12 - After missing the first three games of the regular season due to a hand injury, it feels great to be back on the court. I've played in three games since my return (all wins) and the team record now stands at 4-2 overall and 3-1 in the Adriatic League. (note: the team's record is now 3-2 in the Adriatic League as of 10/19).
So far we have traveled to Macedonia and Belgrade, Serbia. The game in Macedonia was filled with nervous energy since it was my first official professional game. Making sure we won was ever so important in order to make the 12-hour bus trip back home more manageable. The other games were also hard-fought wins that came down to the last few possessions but we were able to come out victorious in those games as well.
While in Belgrade playing, I got a chance to see the city a little bit, and it's more modern buildings and infrastructure reminded me somewhat of being back in the States. Even though it was a short stay, we'll return there two more times this year where I hope to see even more of what the capital of Serbia has to offer!
Continuing our new feature of player diaries is Kameron Taylor, a G/F who is in his first season of professional basketball with Ehingen Urspring, a team in Germany's ProA League. Taylor recently graduated from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, playing all four years for the Griffins and leading the team in scoring his senior season. Kam shares a few things with us in his first post including the team's preseason video, taking a cycling class and (at long last) actual basketball competition!
October 4 - It's the day before my birthday. I have been here for about six weeks now and also officially have two professional games under my belt. The game here is a lot more disciplined. It seems like there are no superstars on the teams we have played, just good players in each position who trust in their ability and know their roles.
Taylor is averaging 18.5 ppg and 4.0 rpg during the first two games of the season.
As we introduced last week, we have started doing player diaries here at Ballers Abroad to see first-hand what it's like to play in another country. James Robinson, who debuted our new feature chronicling his first week as a pro, is back to tell us about how his preseason has been going. We hope to have more players as the season progresses.
August 19 - Definitely starting to miss home. Conditioning is starting to get boring and I wish we would just do basketball stuff. To make it worse, I have not had a good night's sleep yet!! However, one positive is that the food is good so I am not completely miserable. I can't wait to get a TV so playing my PS4 can occupy more of my down time rather than just laying in bed. We finally got a car last night so hopefully we can venture out past this city and see if there is more to offer in other cities.
August 22 - I am feeling a bit more "at home" with my teammates/coaches and overall lifestyle. I got a TV today to solve the boredom that happens pretty much whenever I'm not at practice. I can hook my PS4 up and kill hours playing that!
August 25 - We have had two real practices and a scrimmage coming up on Wednesday. Last night, I found a pizza shop not too far from my apartment and it was a relief to taste food that was somewhat like home.
August 31 - Today was our first official scrimmage/"friendly" game versus a local Bosnian team. It was a relief to not have conditioning and actually compete against somebody real. We got off to a really fast start and went on to win by 30 or so points. I felt good about my performance in my first professional game and look forward to what will definitely be a more competitive game on Friday against Cedvita. Looking back at today, it was an experience busing to and from the game all in the same day, but what really caught me off guard was going out to eat with the other team once the game had ended LOL!
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!