Hooping on Foreign Hardwoods with Josh Wilson: Part 2

Editor’s Note:  Professional basketball player Josh Wilson checks in with us here at Stepien Rules for part two of his Hooping on Foreign Hardwoods series.  For part one, click here.

First and foremost I hope everyone can forgive me for my absence the last few months. Since my last post I’ve planned a wedding, married my beautiful wife, went on my honeymoon, had my masters finals, found out my wife and I are going to have a baby, and signed a new deal to go to the first division in Hungary.

Between all of this I still had to find the time to try and stay in shape. So, needless to say I’ve been a little busy. Here on out I will do my best to keep everyone up to date, which means I have a lot of catching up to do.

I left you last boarding my flight to Ehingen, Germany. I was completely unsure what would happen next. I hadn’t played basketball in around 7 months because of my broken foot and constant rolled ankles. I was not even close to in shape but knew no matter what I had to try. Ehingen was gracious enough to be patient with me knowing the circumstances that I signed under. Looking back on it, signing with them was the best possible situation for me. This is especially true considering one week before that I was a phone call away from signing in Qatar. With a swollen ankle I boarded my flight to Germany and began my professional basketball career.

I had never been to another country or even experienced another culture (besides going to a Ryan’s Buffett outside of Bowling Green, Kentucky). I was about to experience a series of first’s. My first experience with the German language was with the flight attendants in the crisp white, blue, and yellow Lufthansa uniforms. Being a history major in college I expected the language to be harsh and choppy but I think I just watched too many of Hitler’s video reels. Living in America my whole life was like living in a little comfortable box. Stepping outside of it and hearing the many languages spoken on the flight alone was an eye opening experience. Traveling and experiencing another culture helps you to shape and understand your own. Interacting on the flight was the first real eye opener. For instance I thought that hardly anyone would speak English in Europe, but instead almost everyone did. Even arriving in Germany every single one of my teammates and coaches not only spoke English but spoke well. In school they were required to take 7 years of English, 5 years of French, and I think 3 of another. Ya, I took 2 years of Spanish so no habla espanol besides juego balencesto.

The trip was a long 19 hours of travel, Portland to LA, LA to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Stuttgart, and then drove the hour to Ehingen. I arrived in the afternoon and was dead tired. After arriving I expected to go to the hotel and rest but instead I went straight to the gym for practice. If you have ever traveled on a plane for a long period of time you know the effect it can have on you. Now imagine immediately having to perform at a high level because the first practice is probably the most important. Most people don’t know that often contracts signed in Europe have a tryout period. The majority of times they haven’t seen you play in person and they have a try out period to protect themselves. So if you practice like crap the first practice or the first week you’ll be headed home. With this is in the back of my head I came out and practiced as hard as I could. My worst fear was to get sent home and have to begin a “real life”.

With the current economy many teams don’t have the luxury to pay for you to come to training camp a month early. This means that you practice for a week (if you’re lucky) and are expected to perform rust free. You must have the discipline to prepare on your own and get in shape before your arrival or again you will be sent home. My first game wasn’t the greatest, we lost by one and I had too many turnovers. After not playing for 7 months I was just happy to make it through the 36 minutes I played without rolling my ankle again. I was lucky to be on a team where they understood my situation, most would not be. To me it was still very nerve racking to underperform in my first game. Losing just doesn’t sit well with me period, especially when someone is paying you to win games. The next game we played one of the top teams in our league NBC. It was our first home game and I knew it would be key if I wanted to keep my job. With the pressure on I managed to score 29 points and have 6 assists. We won.

The first part is the hardest. You are doing so many things at the same time. You have to adjust to the culture and your surroundings, get use to leaving everyone you love behind, perform under extreme pressure, learn all the plays, and , try figure out why the heck milk isn’t in the fridge at the grocery stores. These are things that can make it difficult for an American hooper overseas. Most of them have an extremely naïve attitude heading into it. For anyone who may be playing or hopes to play overseas the best way to go into it is to know you’re not going to be a millionaire as a rookie, make sure you’re in shape, try to study the culture before you go, and work as hard as you possibly can. As an American you are an ambassador to our country and it is your responsibility to represent us well. Often when you meet someone it is the first time they have met an American. This means their image of Americans will be developed from how you carry yourself. The least you could do is treat the coaches and management with respect and work hard. After all they are paying you to play the game you love.

Again I apologize for the tardiness but I promise to be more diligent in my blogs. I am currently in the Warsaw airport on my way to Kaposvar, Hungary. I can’t wait to tell you more about the rest of my experiences in Germany, how I got to Hungary, and all the details that will come from my new adventure.

To learn more about Josh Wilson visit his website: www.joshwilsonbasketball.com

You can also check Josh Wilson’s game out here: YouTube – Germany highlight tape 2009-2010

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.

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