My days are winding down here in Italy; it’s been a strenuous 8½ months in a different country that’s for sure. At times, I seriously didn’t think I wasn’t going to make it to the very end. But since I did pulled it off, now its time to go home where I can relax and retrieve some of that absent familiarly I so desperately miss/need right now. While being in Italy, I had to face so much adversity on all different levels and dealt with every emotional trait achievable. And with that, I will be concluding my time here by doing a 2-part “Italy closure entry” by giving a final perspective on things on and off the court compared to what I wrote or thought before or once I arrived here. This entry will focus more of the basketball portion, while next week will pertain more on things I been through with transitioning as an American in a foreign country. Surprisingly, on some topics my opinions have altered, whereas some definitely stayed the same like figured it would. Oh yea, bypass any grammar errors you may encounter too. :-)
After just about completing my first year of playing ball overseas in Italy. I have learned plenty of things to take back with me to inform people that were curious about the whole overseas atmosphere. For one, not just anybody can play overseas; it’s just a totally different kind of basketball. When I use the phrase “can’t play overseas”, I’m not referring to the skill level aspect but more of the extra facets that it carries along with it. I heard many stories of Americans coming over here (from the NBA, college and even high school) and leaving soon afterwards (not completing the season) because they couldn’t adjust to the style for one reason or another. To look back to when the season first started, there were around 10 first time Americans that came to play in our league this year like I did and now for whatever reason they’re only 3 or so left. I’m pretty sure this is a normal thing for newcomers coming across the water trying to transition and not doing so, it’s a revolving door for most. In regards Americans getting a good contract overseas out the gate, it’s not what you think, well at least not anymore. European teams aren’t just giving away that kind of money to any American just coming over for the first time. A player might be lucky enough to get a much more lucrative contract before playing a single game in another country, usually that isn’t the case. Most European teams want to see if an American can adjust to this style first before they offered a bigger contract to him, so pretty much your dealing with a brand new hierarchy all over again. I still haven’t fully adjusted (and probably never will for that matter) to the way they play and the ref’s officiate here. It’s been going on before I got here and it will definitely continue when I’m long and gone. It’s just how it here, either you get used to it or keep it moving.
When it comes to the officiating here, what I thought after the first couple games here is exactly what I’m still believing now. There are some referees who are just horrible and then there are those who purposely make certain calls on purpose on specific players to mess with them or the team. Then if you’re really lucky enough, you might just get a combination of both (and I mean that in the nicest way possible too :-*). I even had people tell me that first year players don’t get calls so get used to it. But over the course of the season I have seen players (on my team or watching a local game on television) who have been playing over here for some time still get treated like this too, so that doesn’t matter I realized. So I would have instances where I could handle it and ignore their bad calls. But then again, a person can only bottle in so much before it explodes and I certainly did that too. I am stunned that I didn’t receive any technical foul all season compared to some teammates, so that was good from my end. Besides that, what really disturbs me is that they give the offensive player entirely too much flexibility to play dirtier and do more to the defender to get open. Over half of the down screens or picks they set overseas would be called illegal in America and for good reasons, you can injured the opposing player. So with defense being my strongest strength of my game, it’s even harder not to let that piss me off and frustrate me. Makes playing basketball kind of not fun having to always worry about that more than you normally should. Once again I repeat, it’s just how it here either you get used to it or keep it moving. There were plenty of other things as well that was hard to handle basketball wise, but I’m not going to air all my dirty laundry because they are some things better off not said.
I do give a lot credit to the Americans that have been playing overseas for years. I just can’t see how they can do it for that long. I miss America, my family and friends way too much to keep being away for this long every single year. I did soon realized after a couple of weeks moving here that you have to have somebody living you (at least have people visit you every month or so) to help you make the time pass faster and more enjoyable. I noticed, the majority of players that stay overseas to play for their careers have their families here and that’s probably the only way you will make it for that long I would think.
Can I do this again for another year? That’s a question I’m going have to think long and hard once I get home. For 8½ months you’re training twice a day for 3 or 4 days a week (I heard some teams are worse than that), that’s longer than a NBA and college season and your playing possibly 2 games a week if you’re fortunate enough. That takes a toll on you’re body after awhile and you’re more acceptable to injuries this way too. It took me so many months to get accustomed to the coaches constantly yelling, “forza, forza”, “score, score” and other one word Italian phrases about 50 times in practice everyday. It drove me crazy! I can look back now and smile because it was still a extraordinarily experience. In the distance future, I will look back once I’m done playing and reminisce and wish I could still be there. See ya next week for part 2. Ciao!