Monday, 12 March 2012

Back down unda for 2012!

I can't believe its already been a year since I was last in Bunbury and here I am again back in beautiful Western Australia still playing this great game! A lot has happened this past year now that I think about it, and I'm just super blessed to still be able to continue traveling and seeing the world playing the game of basketball. Its even more funny to think that this is my 3rd season in Australia all starting back in Darwin in 2010. Man time flies by...

It was funny how this whole situation came about because originally I was in japan and contracted to be there until early May, which meant most likely no Australian season for me. I was going to take the whole summer off season to finally get a break and give my body a much needed rest, but things just didn't go quite as planned with my Japanese team and I was released at the half season point. After enduring what I had gone through with that coach and situation I looked at this not as a disappointment but a blessing in disguise as now I was free from contract and able to find another situation/team to play for and move on!

I quickly contacted all my bball connections to see what my options were. It sounded like there were some options in Europe (that weren't great) and also South America, but those leagues down South weren't starting until late March or early April. I had made a few good connections with coaches from this league here in Australia I played in last season and decided to contact them ASAP. At the time most teams had really already done all their import recruiting and didn't have any spots left open. When I heard back from Kalamunda they had already offered two American guys but they needed a few more weeks to come to a final decision. Coach Ash told me he would stay in touch and if these other players didn't accept the offer then he would want to discuss options with me for signing for the 2012 season. Long story short, i heard back from him about 1 1/2 weeks later and he offered me the contract for the season which I took basically right away!

Coach Ash and I had been in contact with each other over the past few years and when I got to play against him last season we were finally able to meet each other and have a chat. He was also a big reason why it was a no brainer to sign with the Suns this season. We've had some really great conversations and i think that he's going to help me grow off the court as a person and a Christian and not just on the court as a ball player. I think the experience I'm going to get here is going to be one that I couldn't of found anywhere else.

I also knew most of the players from the previous year and knew that they were a good group of guys that just barely missed the playoffs, mostly due to injuries the last month or two. They were a very solid team with all the right pieces and a system that I felt like I could fit into perfectly. It wasn't a tough decision to make at all and here I am today already a week in and the season is starting next weekend!

Kalamunda is a country-ish town up in the hills about 30-40 minutes outside the city of Perth which is awesome because I'm a city guy. Last year I was 2 1/2 hours south which made it tough to get to Perth and hang with friends and also just experience what the city had to offer. The only down side is that the beach is 30 Min's or so away, where as last year I was 5 minutes away from my very own personal beach! Perth is an awesome city with lots of fun things to do and I'm happy to be much closer this year.

I'm very excited about this new season and my new team! I think we're gonna be tough! We start this weekend with a double header against 2 top teams from last season.

I'm going to be posting every so often with the usual updates and pictures. I know I'll have a lot of fun stories and experiences to share with everyone as the guys here seem to be a good group so far!

I hope all is well with everyone and life is treating them good. I love and miss all my friends and family and already can't wait to be home for the summer time! Thanks for reading and following me on my bball journey here in beautiful Aussie land. I'll try to make things interesting and fun as always :)

Until tomorrow...
"Make it Happen"

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

2 1/2 months in...

So here we are almost mid- November now and I know it's been a LONG time since my last post, but better late than never!! It has been a quick 2 1/2 months that's for sure, which is a good thing. A lot has happened but at the same time not much has changed lol. Let's just jump right into the bball updates then we'll get to other things...

The season is officially under way and after a slow start we are currently 1-7, but at least we have a win haha! With 2 games every weekend records can change drastically, so the leader board tends to change often. We are still continuing to get better and gel as a team. We should've won another 2-3 games, but had mental lapses and it cost us the game. I think that is just attributed to not knowing each other well enough on the court yet.

It has been a frustrating 2 1/2 months for me personally on the court. After starting off the pre-season liking our coach, it's been an abrupt turn and I've changed my opinion on him being a good fit for the team and especially me. Off the court he's a real cool guy and easy to get along with, but on the court his coaching style and techniques are not the right fit for this team (in my opinion). So in all of this I have lost my "groove" and haven't been having much fun at all while on the court causing for bad play and not much playing time. At this point now we're 8 games in and the season is already flying by. I have just been trying to play hard and get my game back on track, but I am still finding it hard to just play freely as coach is to constrictive over our (imports) game. Not every situation that you get put into as professional basketball player will work, I've just luckily never had that problem. I am going to continue to push through and try to get out of my "funk" and stay positive about coach, but at some point something will have to change, and that might be me leaving this situation to find another one. Time will tell...

Outside of bball all has been great! I'm loving Japan and the people here. My teammates are all real cool and the local guys are funny to be around. We all get along great on and off the court. Now that we've started playing games that doesn't leave much free time to do anything other than hoop. Our typical schedule goes like this....

Mondays- Off day (which is usually spent relaxing and letting the body recover). With no car it makes it hard to get around.
Tuesdays- Conditioning, lifting weights, shooting practice
Wednesday- full practice. 5hrs with travel, stretching, icing etc.
Thursday- Full practice. 5hrs with travel, stretching, icing etc.
Friday- Light practice then possible travel (only if road games)
Saturday- AM shoot around then Game at night
Sunday- Game in afternoon

We have found an Irish pub downtown that serves good mexican food and has numerous import beers. We've been there twice now on off days and had a good time. It's nice to still be able to get some "home food" and atmosphere every now and again!

Shawn, me, Tk, Chris and Tomo (our conditioning coach and translator)

The Irish Pub AKA TexMex AKA Sundance

We've also had a few formal banquets thus far. It's basically a time for people of the community to meet us, the dance team and the staff. The crowd mostly consists of sponsors, boosters and media. We'll have to be in suit & tie attire until we change into our uniforms and parade around to shake hands, take pictures and sign autographs. All part of the job :)!

We've had a few road trips already and they've been fun times, minus the 7-9hr bus rides!! As far as the scenery from the bus on the road trips, I really haven't seem to much other than country side. It's a very agricultural country with lots of farming. Beautiful landscape with lots of mountain ranges everywhere. We were close to Tokyo one weekend but still about 40 minutes away, and unfortunately on road trips there is ZERO time for anything else other than bball. That is the closest we'll get to Tokyo during the season since the team that was in Tokyo last season has dropped out this year.
This is by far the most travel I've done for any team I've played for. It's a lot of fun to bond with all the guys and also see the other arenas and fan support. The best part about traveling though is the fact that it makes the time fly by so that before you know it it's time to come back HOME to the States and real food haha!!!

Our fans are the best!!

So that's about it for now, we really haven't done to much of anything other than basketball, so I really don't have many adventures/stories to tell you quite yet..... sorry, hopefully soon tho!

I hope everyone is doing well and in good spirits! I miss you all very much!

Until next time...
"make it happen"

Monday, 12 September 2011

New gig, new country, new team, new home!

Well that was a quick month of joke! So many things were happening all at once that it seems like I didn't even get to enjoy being home... Now I'm on the road again for another 8 months playing ball, this time in Japan. Hopefully after this season I'll be able to enjoy a FULL 4 month off-season for once!!!

Being home was great! Ad and Ashley got married, the east coast family came to visit for 10 days for the wedding, I got to spend time with Tess and her family and also see/hear her sing in Seattle and also Dallas, I got to play against the best competition in some summer leagues, I got to catch up with a lot of my buddies, I got to see my parents new home, I finally was home for a nice Seattle summer ANDDDDD I got to eat Chipotle/Dick's/DQ/Wendy's and whatever else I wasn't getting in Australia hahaha!

But it all came abruptly to an end when I found out I was going to be heading to Morioka Japan September 1st for 8 months for my next bball adventure! I found out mid to late August that a team was interested in signing me for this season. It took about 1 1/2 weeks of emails and phone calls to get everything figured out before the deal was set. The team name is Iwate Big Bulls, and they are a brand new expansion team in the BJ League (Basketball Japan League). The league has been around for only 8 years but has had much success. There are 19 teams this season alone. I've had a few friends play in this league over the past 2 years and had heard nothing but positive things about it, and so far so good!

When contemplating whether or not I would be interested in the deal I had to research quite a bit about Iwate and Morioka along with my good buddy Charlie Hill. Since the earthquake and sunami had happened only 6 months prior I was a little worried as to how safe it was going to be out here for me to live. I knew earthquakes were common in Japan and theres nothing you can do about those, BUT the radiation from nuclear plants was something that was a big worry for me and my family. I found many websites stating that it was safe to come visit Japan once again, as so much of their income is from tourism. I also found articles online stating that certain foods were not safe to eat and or water might not be safe to drink except for out of bottles. In the end I figured why would they (Iwate Big Bulls management/The BJ league) start a new team in an area that was NOT going to be safe for people??? It didn't make any sense... So after much discussion, I decided to at least come out here and see how things were for myself. If it wasn't safe then I would head home. You only live once, so why not make it an adventure right?

Thus far it's been awesome! I'm about a week and a half in and have nothing bad to say about the situation at all. I am living in an apartment by myself which is quite a change from being in with a host family and 2 kids (which was so fun too!). I like it, but at times it can be quiet and lonesome. At other times it's nice to do what I want when I want, and it's nice to start cooking once again :). I have no car but get rides to and from practice which is everyday from 12-4. Around my apartment there are a couple stores where I can get everything I need, and a big mall is only a 15 minute walk away. Me and Shawn live in the same complex, but the other guys live about 15 min drive away which sucks.

In this league each team can consist of 5 import players (players outside of Japan, usually American). We have 4 including myself, then one Korean player as our other import spot. The other American guys are really cool and I think we'll get along just fine for the eight months. Shawn is 27 and from North Carolina, Thomas is 24 and from Detroit, Sean (AKA Chris) is from Houston and he's 24 also. J.R. is the Korean player and he's a real cool dude too, he's 27. Having 3 other American guys here with me will be a new experience for me as usually there is only one other guy with me as the imports. I think it will help with time passing by as we can all hang out and kick it together, especially on road trips. As far as the rest of the team goes, I like everybody so far. It's been a challenge to try to remember everyones name lol, but I've gotten some nicknames for guys that will be easier to remember! The team isn't super young or old, but I think we'll be ok. For the most part the Japanese guys are all guards 6'1 and under (pretty short). We have one guy that's about 6'5 or 6'6 and that's it for height from the local guys. It's been fun already trying to make conversation with some of the guys on and off the court with the language barrier, but we're both teaching each other new things. Life really is different when your thrown into a new situation.

The coach is a Greek guy and a real funny dude. I'm glad that he's my coach. So far he's been real helpful with letting me know what exactly he wants from me on the court. Like most other European coaches he's really loud and has a funny personality. It's pretty funny to watch him at practice try to explain stuff to the Japanese guys without letting the translator get a word in, then just expect them to "get it" hahaha. I think it's a learning process for him too!

We have 2 pre-season games next weekend then our first official game is October 8th. The season goes until April 30th but could go longer with playoffs. It's a 50 game season roughly with 2 games every weekend, which will also help with time flying by. There are teams all over Japan and we will be doing a lot of traveling, which I'm excited about! It should be a real fun season once the ball gets rolling. As of right now we're practicing hard and trying to get to know each other on the court. We've been doing a lot of conditioning and that's been good, but also sucks haha!

The weather out here so far has been pretty nice. Around 70 degrees and a little humid, but not bad. It will soon change in late Oct/early November with cold weather and lots of snow. I haven't experienced a winter like that in a longggggg time if ever! So it should be quite interesting...

Japan has been quite the interesting country so far. I've noticed a lot of things about their culture and way of life. For instance, the respect everyone gives each other when talking is way different than any other country I've been in. Like with the bowing to each other at the beginning and end of the conversation. I've also noticed how clean it is everywhere! There literally is no liter anywhere... it's crazy! The respect they have not only for each other but also for their country is something that the US has no idea about lol. Another tradition for them is taking off your shoes when entering a house, or even the gym. It's different but definitely a sign of respect for that persons home. It also seems like the people here are sooooo willing to be a servant to you, kind of like when I was in Florida with the Southern Hospitality down there, but WAY more haha. There's a lot of things and I'm going to continue to pay attention so that I can fit in and maybe even bring them back home with me :)

I think that's about it for now. I'm going to try to stay on top of this blog better than I did at times in Bunbury! I hope this reaches everyone in good spirits. I miss everybody at home so much already, but I know the time will fly by as usual and the experience will be one I never forget. I'm always available by email or skype and of course FB lol!

My prayers go out to those families who lost someone in the 9/11 tragedy 10 years ago...

I'll leave you with some pictures I've taken so far-

Until tomorrow...
"Make it Happen"

Here's a pic of Morioka...

Here's a pic from my house and a typical doorway lol...

Here's the mall by our place...

A DELISH rice bowl from the mall! Only 480 YEN baby!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

8 days left to go!

So I realize that its been like 2 or so months since my last post...MY BAD (for those who follow)... I've never gone that long without writing on here while I'm in another country. I can't even tell you why I haven't written anything, it's not like I've been "too busy" or that fun stuff hasn't been happening. I just haven't felt like writing I guess...

Well a lot has happened since my last post in April. I won't be able to share everything so I'll kind've just give everyone a general summary of what's been going on!

To start off, my roommate and the women's import Lavesa, has been gone now for about 8 or 9 weeks. She was unfortunately released by the team, but she played really well and had some awesome stats. But it was actually perfect timing for her as she had just recieved a D.O.B.O. (director of basketball operations) position at a University in Wisconsin. So big congrats to her! We have missed her in the house big time, but will always remember the fun times.

On to basketball now... Our current record is 0-25 as we just lost 2 games this past weekend. I can't tell you how many games we've lost by 10 or less, but we could easily have won around 10 games this season. That would've put us in the playoff race. Unfortunately things didn't go that way for us. We have had the same struggles all season long in game situations. Usually it'll be a 4-6 minute mental "fart" that we have as a team and there goes the game.

We only have one more game left next Saturday then the season is over. We are unfortunately playing Lakeside who are ranked #1 and only lost 2 games all season. So needless to say we're going to have our hands full. Hopefully we can pull it out and end things on a positive note.

I started growing a beard about 8-9 weeks ago because Lavesa wanted to see what I looked like "scruffy". So after about 2 weeks I decided to just not shave it until we won a game. Well I ran into one of the news reporters one night and he asked me if I forgot how to shave lol. So I told him about my reasons for the beard, and he loved it and wanted to do a story on it. So since then I've gotten questions about "the beard" and alllll sorts of comments. The picture below is from the news when they did the first story. They took a picture of me from when I first arrived 6 months ago and added a beard that looks like its 30 years old. They were saying that's what I'll look like if we didn't win soon haha. Funny but almost true.

As far as my next basketball gig goes I've had a few offers from teams in Germany and Denmark, but I haven't officially taken anything yet. I've been a little torn as what to do with playing in Europe or not, just because that means I would be leaving the end of August and only give me 1 month at home with my family, friends and girlfriend (Tess, for those who may not know her name). At the same time I feel very blessed to still be able to play the game I love and get paid for doing it. So I think I need to continue to take advantage of my opportunities and keep on playing, traveling and seeing/experiencing the world. Especially while I'm still young (28, but young at heart!) and have no wife or kids. I'll be sure to keep everyone up to date on what happens with my next adventure.

All of our school clinics ended about 2 weeks ago and it's been really nice to have all that free time back again. Nick and I have been able to start some pre-season workouts in the weight room and gym, since he's heading to Germany to play and I'll most likely end up somewhere in Europe. It's been a great feeling to get those extra workouts in again. The only obligations we have left is a 2 day camp starting tomorrow for about 25 Slammers kids. It should be a fun 2 days filled with competitions, games and some drills.

My under 18's team that I coach has been going ok, but we struggle with only having 8 guys at the most for practices. It's a good group of guys though and we have fun, win or lose. This will be my last week of practice with them and then my final game as coach will be on Sunday. I've had a good time helping the club coaching and I hope the boys were able to take something away from my coaching.

I know that a bunch of fun things have been going on back home and I'm looking forward to being back! My ticket is booked for the 25th and I'll be home the 26th after all the traveling. I've already got so many plans set up for the month of August(just in case I end up leaving for Europe), with weddings, comedy shows, Tess's gigs, trip to Portland to see my buddies Ryan Menten and John Olinger, and of course workouts!! I know August will fly by!

It's crazy to think that 6 months has come and gone so quickly, but that's how life has been going for me the past 2-3 years. I'm now 28 years old and still playing ball and loving life. I am very thankful for my opportunities to be where I am and do the things I get to do.

Overall I've had an awesome time here in Bunbury and the SW of Australia! The team, management, fans and community have been great and the support is very strong for this team to do well. I wish only the best for this club in the future seasons and hope that they can get back on track to winning championships like back in the 90's. I'm bummed out we didn't have a better season, considering having a better team than last year, but we gave it our all and that's all you can ask for in the end. I've had a great time with the guys this season too, I've really made some good friends and will miss them. We had a lot of laughs!

I want to give a big thanks to my host family, the Donnovans, for taking great care of me and setting me up in a beautiful spot! I've had a blast speding time with the kids and getting to watch them grow up. I've really been spoiled here with dinner cooked every night and my laundry done when needed. Russel and Karen have huge servants hearts and have looked after us better than anyone could've! I'm positive my time here wouldn't have been the same if I stayed anywhere else.

One last huge thanks to the Slammers club for being honest, trustworthy and loyal to me as a player. So many times clubs can be very shady and unprofessional, especially when it's not a winning season... So I was very blessed to be in good hands with the Slammers! CHEERS!

THis will be my last post from Bunbury Australia... next stop Seattle, home!!

Until next time...
"Make it Happen"

Friday, 29 April 2011

Another year has come and gone...

Every time I turn around another 2 weeks has gone by in a blink of an eye! So here I am once again sitting in my room on my bed listening to Coldplay trying to re-cap all the FUN STUFF that's been happening out here in beautiful Bunbury!!

Since my last post we've played another 3 games. Unlucky for us we weren't able to win any of the 3. So that takes our record to 0-9 thus far this season. It's been frustrating at times for sure, but that's the whole challenge of playing this game. You're not always going to be on a championship caliber team, so how are you going to not only make yourself BUT also those around you better players throughout the season??? It's a tough task to take on, but you've got to stick with it and just believe in eachother and the system put in place by the coaching staff. We will get the wins rolling in eventually, there's no doubt about that.

Two Saturday's ago we played against East Perth and my good mate Colin Matteson(from Seattle). They are a tough team and had a couple wins already under their belt but we knew we could beat em'. The game was close from the get go although we never had the lead. Down 5 points at half time we knew we were in good position to make a run for the win. They pulled their lead out to 16 or so points through the 3rd and beginning of the 4th quarter, but we made a great run and got the deficit down to 3 points with 5 minutes left in the game!!! (this situation has happened too often haha). At this point in the game it was either WE pull together and make a run to win the game or they make a run to pull the lead away and take the win. Unfortunate for us they decided to make the run and ended up winning by 15points, although it was a much closer than what the final score showed. It was another loss for us, but at the same time it was a positive game because we played so well together and once again had a "chance" to win it. That's what it's all about right now for us, putting ourselves in a position to win. I played well and had 21pts and 11rebs.

I ended up staying in Perth that night with Colin and some of his teammates. It was a good time as we ended up going out to a bar/night club. It was one of the few times I've gotten to hangout with Colin even though we're only 2 hours away from eachother.

Me, Colin, some random friends of his, Big Tommy J

The 2nd game we had over the past 3 weeks was the Thursday before Easter Sunday. It was a home game against the Mandurah Magic, the team in 13th place right ahead of us with a record of 1-6. Definitely a BEATABLE team, especially with one of my good friends Casey (American Import) out with an injury. If there was any game thus far for us to be favored in, it was this one!! Not only was this game against a team that had been struggling as we were but it was also a "rival" team since they are only 40 minutes north of us and the closest team to Bunbury. So that also added to the "drama" of the game as well. Besides all that, our coach absolutely hates Mandurah Magic and hates nothing more than to lose to them. SOOOO with all that said you'd figure we'd be ready to play AT HOME against these guys and get our first win!! Not only did we know this was a big game for us but also the fans that came and packed out our gym!! The perfect scene was set for us to bring down the house!! WELL let's just say it never happened.... We started the game ok, and were tied by the end of the 1st quarter. By halftime I think we were down 8 points or so, so not bad by any means but we knew we were playing bad basketball. Let's just skip to the end because what happened in the 2nd half was just crap. We ended up never having a shot at winning and lost by 16 points...It was a huge dissapoinment for everyone, us, the fans, the sponsors, the management/committee. It was really frustrating because over the past 4 games we'd been playing 100% better with each game. So you would think that that would carry over into a game that was the MOST winnable game so far this season... But it didn't happen... It was a frustrating game for me as well as I was 4-10 from the field (just didn't get enough touches) and finished with 11pts and 10rebs.

Lastly we played this past Saturday night against another country team in Kalgoorlie (about an 11hr drive east into the desert) called the Goldsfield Giants. We were lucky enough to get to fly this year rather than drive haha. So we traveled to Perth, boarded our plane and 1hr later we were there! The Giants are a top 4 team and had won the last 5 of 6 games, so they were playing well to say the least. I guess they had put into their programs the fact that out of the last 17 games we've only beaten them once...That wasn't a statistic that I neccessarily wanted to hear before the game haha. Kal is another country team that usually packs their gym and get a little bit roudy against the opponents. It's a gold mining town with nothing but hotels, bars and brothels. So partying is pretty much the main and only thing to do there. So we knew the enviroment would most likely be a harsh one to play in. The game started off in our favor as we took a quick lead, shooting the ball very well. By halftime we were down 14 points or so but still confident this was our game. We came out strong in the 3rd quarter and actually took the lead by about 10 points! The 4th quarter was a back-and-forth battle where we were leading by 1 point with 5 minutes to go. We came out of a timeout and didn't score 3-4 possessions in a row where they did, that all of a sudden put us down 8 or so points. We were never able to get ahead again and ended up losing by 10points 92-82. I finished with 15pts and 14rebs. It was a hard fought battle that I think they didn't expect from us. Everybody played hard and it would've been great to get that win, especially up there in Kal, but we'll have to re-group for next weekend because we have a double header.

After the game the whole team decided to hit the town for a few hours since this was our last true "road trip" as a team. It was a fun time to get out with all the boys and relax a little bit after a tough fought game. We also kicked it with the other team and they were some really cool guys as well, it was a fun night.

Nick's Mom and step Dad were in town for about 5 days right around Easter time so we were able to do some fun things with them while they were here. We headed down to Margaret River (2 hrs South) one day to do some sight seeing and actually explore a cave or two! Margaret River is a big time tourist spot and has some of the best beaches and surfing in Australia. In fact just 2-3 weeks ago Kelly Slater was down there for a competition, so that's pretty cool. What most people do when going to M.R. is take a "tour bus" from Bunbury down. They do this because there's about 7-10 wineries/breweries along the way, so as they travel down the bus will stop at each one allowing everyone to drink up lol. Then when you get to M.R. you're free to roam the shops, have lunch, see the sights. I think the ideal plan would be to go down one day, stay the night, then do more looking around the next day. We didn't even get to see the beaches, which is what everyone says is the best part! So there will definitely be another trip down South at some point, maybe with the host family next time :)

We didn't exactly have all the time in the world that day so we went down and made it to one of the caves to explore then went and had lunch then we (me and Lavesa) had to take off back to Bunbury as Nick and his parents went further south to Augusta to do more sight seeing. Being down in the cave was probably one of the coolest things I'd ever seen/experienced. It was amazing to see how things had developed over hundreds of years under the ground in complete darkness. There were parts of the trail where we basically had to kneel and slide along for 15 or so yards, it was crazy! We were supplied with some goofy looking helmets and a mini flashlight and were told NOT to touch anything haha. It was a ton of fun and I know I probably wouldn't of ever experienced anything like it if it wasn't for me being here in Bunbury! Definitely blessed and very thankful.

Nick, his mom, his step dad Tom, Lavesa and me

The cave was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen!

After our game on last Thursday we had a week off until our next practice which was last night. So with so much time off one of my teammates Jason Smith asked me and Nick if we'd be interested in going fishin'. We of course were more than excited to jump on board for that plan! Jason is a big time fisher, scuba diver, off-roader, camper, pretty much anything to do with nature and being outdoors he's all about it! So this fishing we were to be doing isn't just off a dock or bridge, this was out in the ocean, like miles and miles out in the ocean hahaha. I'd never done anything like that before so I was anxious to see what it's all about, I was mostly worried about getting sea sick haha. We woke up at 5:45am to get out on the water early and let me tell you, I was already tired! We ended up out on the water until 3pm!!! It was a LONGGGGGG day, but a lot of fun even though there weren't many fish being caught haha. We ended up catching 4 fish, 1 of which was used for bait, 2 of the others we threw back and 1 that we kept. I never got too sea sick but it was definitely tough to stand up at times without getting a little bit lightheaded.

The coolest part of the day was when we were headed back and entering the harbor. We ran into like 3 dolphins that came up next to the boat. So we stopped for a few minutes and actually fed them some of the bait we had. It was a really cool experience and I never realized how big dolphins actually are! Jason was feeding them hand and they were so gentile to take the food from him, it was wild.

Before I wrap this post up I wanted to post a picture from an article in the South West Magazine that was written about me recently. I was interviewed about being a professional basketball player and my experiences traveling the world doing what I love to do. They also tied in the fact that I'm a Christian believer and associated wit AIA (athletes in action, a christian based organization). It was fun getting to share how believing in my faith has helped me both on and off the court, and that my success isn't neccessarily just from hitting the gym and getting shots up. It's from God! It was a fun thing to be a part of and something I'll never forget.

I just recently turned 28 years old on April 26th and let me just say its been a QUICK year! I have pretty much been on the road except for 4 months out of the year playing ball and I can't believe just how quick time has come and gone. I've had a blast along the whole way, meeting new people, traveling to new places and experiencing new cultures! I'd like to thank my moms and pops for having me and supporting me through all these 28 years! Much love to my whole fam :). Most of all I have to thank God for being with me the whole way, through the ups and the downs, the goods and the bads. It's been quite the rollercoaster so far and I'm looking forward to the rest of the ride :)

That's about it for now. We have a double header this weekend and are looking forward to big things! Life is still rolling right along as usual. Big shout out to my cousin Betsy for recently getting married! My family is loving the new home! All is good! I hope everyone is doing well and life is treating them fair :) God Bless!

Until tomorrow...
"make it happen"

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Almost 28 years old.....

Well it's been just about two weeks since my last post and we've had 4 games since then so bare with me as I catch you guys up on hoops!

Our third game was up in Geraldton against the Bucs, which is another country team, except they are 4 hours NORTH of Perth and we are 2 hours SOUTH of Perth haha. So we knew it was going to be a longgggggggggggg road trip, but at least we had a 52 passenger travel bus to spread out and get some rest on the way up. The whole trip took about 7 hours and we got in around noon time. We went to our hotel/condo to set up shop and chillax for a little while before hitting the gym. The Bucs were a team that had been struggling as well and they weren't at full strength quite yet, BUT not on that night... They had all their guys on the court and healthy and they are tough when at full strength. We ended up losing the game and having our worst game of the season, losing by 33points. I had an off night shooting and finished with 13points and 11rebounds.

Our next game was against the Willeton Tigers at home in Bunbury. This was last years Championship club. They also at the moment like most teams were not at full strength and had only won 2 games, that were both close. It was by far the most physical game so far and by the end I was absolutely beat up haha. We dug ourselves a hole and got down 28 points by halftime hahaha. BUT with 3 minutes left in the 4th quarter we were within 4 points and the crowd was going nuts. I missed some CRUCIAL free throws down the stretch and we never got over that hump to get the win and lost by 11 points or so. I finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds, definitely not my best game but still somehow won MVP honors for the game and another $50 certificate to the Eaton Tavern.

That next day we had to travel up to Perth to play the Perry Lake Hawks. They were another team that had only won 2-3 games and was a VERY beatable team. Just from the looks of them as a team you would look at us and say "slammers should win this one", but just as in any sport you can't judge by looks. We started off great and it was tied at the end of the 1st quarter. Then we had a "brain fart" that we've often had and they outscored us 34-14 in the 2nd and we were down 20pts and halftime once again... We fought back in the 2nd half at times but still finished losing by 19points. It was a tough loss as that team wasn't super tall, talented, big or anything special but they played hard and together and that does the job a lot of the time. I played better and finished with 15points and 7 rebounds.

Just last night we had another home game against the Perth Redbacks who as of last night were in 2nd place at 4-1. A tough team that has some tough local NBL (national basketball league, top league) guys, who are basically just like import American players because they are that good as locals. We came out tough and ready to play from the get go and were down 4 or 5 points at halftime, right where we wanted to be. The second half was hard fought and the lead was back and forth at times, with them never leading by more that 11pts. We got it down to 4 or so points in the last 5 minutes as we usually do, but we once again couldn't pull it out in the end and lost by 11 or so points. It was frustrating because we were playing well and scoring when needed but we just couldn't get stops at the other end to take the lead in crunch time. We are almost there as a team and we can all taste our first win coming soon, we just have to stick together and continue to get better each day. I played well and finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists. It was enough to get me the MVP of the game honors again and yet my 3rd $50 Eaton Tavern certificate! I'm thinking I'll just take the whole team out to eat one night and use the money then, although out here in Australia $150 doesn't really go that far in a restaurant, especially for 10-11 big guys hahaha!

So after those 6 games up to this point we are 0-6 and in last place on the ladder. Fortunately for us if we can get just 2-3 wins over the next few weeks that will take us up to around 9th or 10th place. There are still about 3-4 teams who have only won 2 or so games, so we are still in the hunt!

We actually have another game tonight in Perth against the East Perth Eagles and my good buddy from Seattle Colin Matteson. He's the same friend that played up in Darwin with me as well. It's been awesome to have someone I know in the same league over the past 7 months, it really helps to talk about home and friends and family when you're feeling home sick. We are looking for a big win tonight as they are only 2-5 and have lost 3-4 straight games! This would be an ideal time to start off the "Win Train"!!! CHOOO CHOOOO!

Well enough about basketball hahaha! Everything outside of hoops has been great! The weather is absolutely amazing. It's been beautiful during the days, we're still getting to the beach about 3-4 days a week to soak in some rays :). And at night it's actually starting to get chilly, which is perfect!! I've been in my hoodie and sweats a few times now and it's awesome. It's kind of like a perfect Seattle summer honestly, hot and nice during the day and cooler at night. And this is our WINTER out here hahahaha! I really couldn't be in a better place to play ball. Definitely blessed.

The school clinics have been put on pause for the next 2-3 weeks because of the break, so that just means that there's more free time for us to hit the gym and beach :) which is fine by us of course. I am currently looking to get a job here shortly and it's pretty much up to me where I want to work. My work visa runs until around June 20th or so, so that leaves me about roughly 2 months to have a job (which is nothing) and I'm cool with that. I think I'm going to look into working at this sports store on the main strip downtown called Sports First, where my teammate Cory works right now. It'd be easy selling sports apparell and what not, definitely stuff i've done before.

Last weekend when we played up in Perth we (Nick, Lavesa and myself) ended up staying that Saturday night at my buddy Ben Beran's place. Nick was entered into a dunk contest for the league on Sunday at the Perth Wildcat's game (top league team) and we were there to support him and watch the game. It was awesome first of all because my really good buddy and AIA alum Jason Faulknor was in town on his way home from Taiwan!! I hadn't seen that guy since our last AIA tour in 07' but we've kept in really good contact while we're both overseas and it was great to finally get to catch up! He'll be in Seattle for our mutual friend Austin Yuen's wedding August 7th so I'm hoping to be home for that, but depending on how far our playoff run goes out here I may miss that... That's the business though... It was another great weekend to see Ben and Jason and a few other buddies in Perth. It always makes me feel like I'm not that far from home when I have so many good friends here!

Sunday morning Ben and I went to church early at Lakeside (the church that sponsors his team the Lakeside Lightning). I really enjoy spending time with Ben because he is really deep in his faith and has a good understanding of the Bible. He's always a good person I can go to to ask questions about my faith and also for advice on how to improve my relationship with God. He has challenged me to get into the Bible more recently and to really take notes on what I'm reading so that things will stick with me. I've started with the Gospels, just reading one chapter a day and things are going well. I'm feeling like the more I get into the word each day the better day I have and more focused I am as well. It's always a never ending walk with faith but it's about growing along the way and not being content with where you're at. I try to give thanks for everything in my life and tend to forget quickly how blessed we all are. Life can be taken away at a blink of an eye.

After Church we headed to the stadium for the game. We had to be there early as the 1st round of the Dunk contest was prior to the game even starting. There were 5 guys from different teams in the league including Nick. He ended up easily being one of the two finalists pretty easy. He then continued to totally dominate the championship round and easily took home 1st place and a reward of $1,000 of And 1 hoop gear (which has yet to come...). The dude can flat out fly and didn't even really get to show what he can do, but it was a fun time as the finals was at the end of the 1st quarter and the house was packed out!

My family back home was moving out of our house and into the new one in Lynnwood this weekend!!! I can't believe it's actually happening after 16 years... That was our 2nd house that we'd lived in since I was born and most of my memories are from that house. I am excited for a new change though, and my parents both deserve a new place. They have both worked hard to have a nice brand new place to start another chapter of their life in, I just can't wait to get home and check it out for myself!

My Bday is coming up on April 26th and it's crazy how time is flying by. I really can't believe it's already been another year! I swear time goes faster the older you get hahah. I'm going to be 28, but I still feel 21 haha! Definitely in my prime BABYYYYY!! I gotta say it's been a great year though. I've spent time in England, Malaysia, Darwin and now Bunbury all over this past year and it's been because of basketball. I've met and am dating an amazing girl that I love and am SOOO thankful for! My family and friends are always supportive and loving. My faith has grown and continues to grow. God has really shown me that the more you pursue him and let him guide your life, that he takes care of you and puts you in the right situation at the right time. They say timing is everything, I think I agree with that one...

Well I think that's about it for now. We have our game tonight and are getting ready to leave here soon. I'm going to be staying up in Perth for the night with my buddy Colin Matteson, so that should be fun times! I hope all is well with everyone back home. I love and miss you all! Thanks so much for following my blog and taking the time to share my experiences with me. Life is good, but God is great.

Until tomorrow...
"make it happen"

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Settling right in...

It's been about 2 weeks since my last post and I must say that quite a bit has been going on. So much stuff in fact that I lose track of how much time it's been in-between blogs, then I end up forgetting some funny things that have happened to share with ya'll. From training 2-3 days a week to school sessions 2-3 days a week to games now every weekend (home and away) there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of time to sit down and write, BUT I'm going to try my best to get a new post out every 2 weeks or so. Just a little side note as well, it's almost been 2 months already since I left on Feb 8th... Absolutely crazy how the time has been flying by!

I'll start off with bball news since that's what I'm here for haha!

On March 18th we had our first game of the season against the Rockingham Flames on the road. We had to travel to Perth to play because their gym wasn't ready to play in quite yet and that wasn't really a problem since the gym in Perth was much nicer than their's. BUT we ended up running into traffic on the way and that made the trip 3 1/2hrs rather than the usual 2hrs. So because of that the game started about 20 mins late, not a great start to the night. We only had 8 guys suited up that night as 4 of our players had something going on (like work or were hurt with an injury) that prevented them from playing. So we weren't at full strength at all but knew that we could still win this game. Nick our other import had just shown up a couple days prior and wasn't cleared from Basketball Australia yet to play, so that hurt us as well. The game was tight from the get go and we were down 8pts at halftime. We slowly started to lose momentum at the end of the 3rd quarter and even though we pulled to within 4 pts they ended up pulling away for a 19 point victory. We just didn't have enough legs to keep up for the whole 48 minutes. It was a tough loss when we know we are definitely beating that team at full strength. It would've been nice to get a win right off the bat to start the season, but we'll just keep gelling and working hard. I personally played well and had 23pts and 11rebs, but I had to play a blistering 47 minutes and was completely gassed after the game! When our full team is back in effect I won't have to play hopefully more than 40 minutes, anything more can be killer on your body (especially on double header weekends).

Here's a pic from the Rockingham game:

This past Saturday we had our first home game of the season against the Kalamunda Eastern Suns. They have an AIA import by the name of Dean Hadley. I'd never met him until I got out here (in Perth at the Blitz weekend of games) but he's a really cool dude and another guy to touch base with over the season and chop it up about life and the Christian faith/walk. I also got to talk with their coach (Ash) after the game, he's a guy that I was in contact with over emails during the whole recruiting process and also a Christian guy. Things never worked out because it was right when I was signing with the Slammers, but he was always a really nice guy to talk to and showed interest in me playing for them. This game we had almost our full squad together (just missing one kid that was in the States), finally! Our home venue is pretty sweet and I bet one of the better ones in the league. One of Russell's older girls that is part of the acrobatic dance group in town had a performance at halftime which was crazy. The flips, spins and twists that they were doing were pretty insane, but the crowd loved the entertainment! The gym was pretty packed with around 450 people and a ton of the kids from the schools showed up too, so that was fun. It was the best crowd they've had in a while and we're hoping they continue to support. The game was close from the get go and we were down 5pts after the first quarter. We had only had a week or 2 of trainings together to try and gel with Nick now playing so we were working things out on the court as we went. At halftime we were down 11pts I think but the game was always tight. We got the lead down to 1pt in the end of the 3rd quarter and the crowd was starting to go nuts!! They had a few runs in the 4th quarter where we didn't answer with a score and next thing you know they ended up winning by 13pts. It was a great game for us though and I think the fans and sponsors had a great time. We executed our game plan pretty well and did the things we wanted to but they shot the ball great and that was pretty much the deciding factor. I played well and had 24pts, 12rebs and 4 assists. That earned me MVP honors for the game and a $50gift card to the Eaton Tavern (which I heard has great food! So you know I'm pumped for that lol). One thing that is different here than anywhere I've played before is after each game both teams and all the sponsors get together in one of the meeting rooms for food and drinks to give out awards and also "shoot the breeze" with eachother. It's a way to mingle with guys from the opposing team and to get to know the sponors as well. It's a pretty cool deal.

Here's some pics from our local newspaper before our home opener against Kalamunda:

Here's our commercial for the first game as well, enjoy!

Now that the bball is all caught up with I'll move on to other things...

Last Friday was my last school session at Cowanarup Primary School, which is about an hr. South of Bunbury. It's an extremely small country town and there's only 220 kids in the school, but they are awesome. SOOOOO right out of the gates at the very first session (4 weeks ago) I was there each class that I had one after another during the course of the day asked me the usual question, "can you dunk?" and I answer with a "yes I can" then they proceed with "Can you do it now?". So to avoid having to do a gazillion dunks over the next 4 weeks I told each class that I would do a dunk on the last day! It was a brilliant idea :), especially if they were to forget over time hahaha, BUT they didn't. SOOOO of course as soon as I step on campus last Friday the kids are all going nuts about this dunk haha. I guess the principal even put it in the school paper. So as the day went on I decided instead of doing a dunk per class that I would just do one at the end of the day before I leave while all the kids are outside eating their lunch (this would save more energy for me too lol, I'm getting old now :) ). So at 1:10pm the bell rang and all 200 kids ran out to the court to take a seat enjoy their lunch and also "the dunk" that they'd been waiting for. It was a ton of fun getting them all pumped up and cheering before I threw one down to a bunch of ohhhhhhh's and ahhhhhhhh's followed by some clapping. The kids enjoyed it and the teachers had some fun too. It was a great way to end a good 4 week session!

This past Sunday I decided to check out a local Christian church and wait to check out the new Cathedral at a later date. I did some research online and came across Grace Christian Church and it looked like a young/fun place to go so I headed there. To my luck that weekend there was a men's retreat going on in Busselton (40mins south) and for the most part the church was full of women hahaha. Talk about feeling a littttttle bit out of place haha, but it was cool and the service was great. It's definitely a young church with some good worship music and solid leadership. The woman who was speaking that day focused on this passage from Mark 4:13-20 and she summorized the passage like this, "Hear the word, believe the word, act on the word, bear great fruit". It's quite the passage to think on because how many of us hear something but never quite believe it. Or even if we do believe it how many of us actually act on it to see if what will come from our good actions will be fruitful? It definitely struck home for me personally as there are always day to day challenges where I fall short by not acting on my beliefs. Knowing what's right but almost being to lazy (faith wise) to act on it. God wants us to not only pursue his word but also act it out and share it with others. Bear great fruit. I enjoyed the service and will most likely return there again next week although I do want to check some other places out just to see what's out there.

After church finished I decided to drive up to Mandurah to meet up with Big Ben to watch Casey Crevelone and the Magic play against the Willeton Tigers (who we have on the 7th or 8th). I figured I'd go up there to watch the game and also hang out for the night, maybe even stay over. It was a great game and the Tigers ended up winning in the end. Casey played really well and was upset they didn't get the W. It was nice to get to scout both teams for our future match ups!

After the game we decided to grab some meat and condiments from the store for a "barby" aka barbeque at Casey's teammates place (which was RIGHT on the beach!). Casey's GF (Jocelyn) just got out to Mandurah a few weeks ago and is going to be staying the whole season or as long as her work visa allows, so she is actually living at that house with Casey's mate and his wife. It's a pretty sweet situation for Casey to have someone out here to experience everything with him and grow together. It's probably THE BEST situation for a professional basketball player to have while being overseas if they are in a serious relationship (which a lot of guys aren't or don't want to be). Unfortunately it doesn't always work out for someone to just drop everything they are doing in their life in the States to come out and be with you while you continue to live your dream in whatever country your contract is in. Would I love to have my special someone with me? YES. Is it going to happen for me anytime soon? Nah :( . But that's just another one of the many sacrifices you get for playing ball overseas and being away from everyone you love...

Sorry about that I just went off track there a little bit haha!

ANYWAYS, we ended up going for a quick swim before then endulging on our feast of a barby. It was a lot of fun to meet some new people and chat it up over some good food. After that the three of us went back to Casey's host families place for the night. We watched a couple interesting documentary type movies called "Life" (similar to the series on the National Geographic channel) about animals, mammals, insects, bugs, etc. I gotta say, on the projection screen it was pretty amazing stuff! It was great as always to be able to catch up with some AIA guys, especially Ben and Casey as I've grown really close to those guys! I can't wait for our next weekend of fun.

As far as things back home go... The Smith fam has finally found a house and all is official! It's a beautiful house up in the Alderwood area, just minutes from the mall. It's on a quiet cultisack in a nice neighborhood. My mom was extactic about the whole deal and I think a huge weight was lifted off both her and my dad's shoulders (as the moving out date was closing in). I can't wait to come home to a new crib! Big shout out to my sister for finding the listing the day it opened!!

I think that's it for now. Life is really moving pretty fast especially since the season has started up. We play every weekend which is nice and time starts to fly by. Our next game is Saturday up in Geraldton against the Bucaneers which is another country team up north about 7 hours from us. So it will be a long bus ride, but a fun one! I've heard some stories from past seasons and it sounds like good times. Pictures to come soon! We're still looking for our first win and I think we can get it this time! Prayers would be greatly appreciated!

I hope everyone is loving life and enjoying every minute of it! I miss everyone a ton and think about home all the time. It's a crazy world but it's meant to be that way, otherwise it wouldn't be life. Thanks to everyone for following my blog, I enjoy being able to share these amazing experiences with all of you. Prayers, Blessings and much Love!

Until tomorrow...
"make it happen"