January 5, 2017 - One of the toughest things of playing professional basketball abroad has been missing my family and friends from back home. It’s even more difficult to be away from family during Christmas and celebrating the new year away from loved ones. Last year, in Spain, I learned this the hard way. I remember feeling a deep sense of loneliness and sadness whilst in my apartment on Christmas. This year was difficult again, however a generous family affiliated with Leeds Force invited me to spend five days in Portsmouth where we enjoyed traditional British Christmas food which included duck, scones, bubbles-and-squeak, and Christmas pudding. We had a fun time as we played cribbage, splat face, scrabble, yahtzee, trivial pursuit, and monopoly.
The board games and competitions gave me a taste of what things are like back in the States and made the holiday season a nice getaway from basketball. Nonetheless, I was able to spend some time shooting hoops with Anna Nevison, the family’s 13-year-old daughter who is a passionate young basketballer. It’s a privilege to play pro basketball and it comes with responsibilities. One responsibility includes being a role model for younger players who may look up to us. It’s important to use our influence on kids in a positive way through the way we treat others and behave off the court. As an athlete, other people are constantly watching our actions. The way we speak and conduct ourselves off the court has a larger impact than we can tell.
A great book I’ve been reading this season is called Burn Your Goals by Joshua Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert. One piece from the book has struck me as powerful and simple. It teaches to focus on controlling the controllables. Specifically, the book has challenged me to do three things every day which I’ve been applying to the best of my ability. The focus is on having a great attitude, giving your very very best, and treating people really well. Although the results on the basketball court have not been great so far this season, it’s refreshing that I can grow by focusing on the things that are in my control. When times are getting tough, it’s important not to go through it but to grow through it. My sense of love for my family has grown and being away from them has helped me to realize how precious those relationships are to me. I’ve learned a lot playing basketball this season. At the end of the day, I don’t want be known as a basketball player but someone who loves God and loves others well. I am thankful for the opportunity I have to keep chasing my dreams and I hope I can inspire others along the way too!