While many in the United States are familiar with the progression a student athlete makes from High School to the College level, not many understand that next step to the pro level; which for me and many of my Santa Clara teammates, happened to be to another country.
From a student athlete's perspective, the ideal path towards becoming a pro athlete is for an agent to contact you after your last collegiate game in hopes that he can represent you and land you your first pro contract. For me, this was a bit different than normal despite an amazing career as a member of the best scout team in the nation, GOLD SQUAD REPRESENT! While my career stats probably won't get my jersey retired in the rafters... one can imagine that it might if they used stats from our practices!
Thankfully, through all sorts of connections, I made contact with a FIBA agent in the Dutch Basketball league in Holland a few months after my last collegiate game. Why Holland? Thanks to my mom, I'm 1/2 Dutch and have Dutch citizenship so I don't count against the pro team's "import" quota. An "import" player (much like an ex-pat) is simply someone who is not a citizen of the country where you are playing in. Each league has rules on how many "imports" each team can sign.
After months of deliberation, I finally got word that a new team (Den Helder Kings) was entering the 1st Division in the Dutch league and was interested in having me over to try-out. So in the middle of my back-packing trip with my sister and a friend I got a phone call from my agent about a try-out for a new team in Den Helder. With my basketball shoes in hand, I jumped on a plane in Salzburg, Austria and headed to Holland for 24 hours for the tryout.
I thought the try-out went smoothly (despite not having touched a basketball for 3 weeks). With my head spinning with thoughts I waited for to hear from my agent to see when or if I would be asked back for another try-out. What I didn't expect was that 2 days later, I would be sitting back in my Hostel in Salzburg opening an email with the subject line: "Contract Offer: Den Helder Kings." ...After several months of arduous email exchanges I had finally landed my dream job and would get my opportunity to play again.
[SIDE NOTE: Specifically my contract was fairly typical in that the team provides you with an apartment, utilities, internet, a car, gear, healthcare insurance, some food allowance and they pay for your taxes. So the magic number (among other things like bonuses) that sits on your contract is your net salary.]
Fast forward three seasons with many great teammates...coaches... experiences...aches and pains...new wardrobes...plenty of 3 pointers....and the one documented dunk of my basketball career...It's time to move on to the next phase of my life.
I am very grateful for these three extra years of basketball that I had in Holland, I will leave Europe with great experiences and stories, a profound appreciation for other cultures and people and a respect for how difficult it can be for a foreigner living abroad for 9 months each year without your closest family and friends with you. Through all the ups and downs that come with professional sports it was a long period of personal growth for me and, of course, a great way to end my basketball career.
You can read a bit more about my experiences during my rookie season on my old blog here.