Hopefully you guys have read my first blog about the start of my adventure in the US. Now it’s time to move towards the spring of that year when I had my first contact with AAU Basketball.
Once the High School season is over in the US, all the players that are focused on basketball move their attention to AAU basketball. Sort of clubs, AAU has many different levels and lots of tournaments. I initially started playing with the DC Blue Devils. We had a very good team, probably two of the main players that everyone knows to this day are Kevin Durant and Ty Lawson.
I was their teammate for only a short period of time because I did not want to play with their second team and also because the first team was mainly composed of juniors and seniors in high school so my chances were limited. At this time I was a sophomore. Once I realized I had to find a team to play I talked with my high school that helped me with anything and everything I needed throughout my time there. After a good discussion they mentioned to me that one of my teammate’s fathers has an AAU team. And this is how the story started about me and the Koebke family. I initially started practicing with them twice a week and played in games over the weekend. A very nice family from Maryland that took me in on nights when we had practice because the drive home was way too far. Practices were a lot later than 17:30 because of course, Mr. Koebke also had a regular job. The Koebkes have 3 kids so their generosity to bring us in and let us sleep over (sometimes it was not just me but also some of my other teammates) was very much appreciated. I was lucky that, on this team, I had the chance to play with two of my high school teammates in my sophomore year, one of them was Mr. Koebke’s son, Robert. It was great for me because I just had more familiar faces around me and I was not forced into an entirely new situation all over again.
I was very happy with how everything was going in the US so far. One day after talking to my coach and the Koebkes we looked into possibly moving to live with them the following year. I knew it was not an easy decision, especially for them because they had two kids of their own living in the house and one that was going to college. I was very fortunate that they decided to take me in. Coach always trusted me and I could sense that and he was always talking to me and trying to help me out towards becoming a better player. I was fortunate enough to have a high school coach that understands the game of basketball. Some coaches are not very into team basketball, help side defense etc, but we did a lot of drills that were similar to what we later did in college so when I had to make the transition it was not as hard (at least the practice part). He is the one that hired a trainer for us that even to this day has trained me on and off when I am in the DC area. Coach D is the type of coach that just loves the game and coaches mainly because of that reason. He loves pushing kids to get better. He was always with us in the gym, no matter if it was a team practice or if one of us just wanted to get extra shots or put in extra work. Being always available is a characteristic of great coach that wants to help his kids/players get better. I trusted him regarding any problems and he put his faith in me knowing that quick results might not have been exactly easy to come by from a kid that just came across the Atlantic into a new culture, new country, new everything! His trust and the assistant coach’s trust was very important to me.
Because he trusted me so much he asked me if I could find another big man that would like to come play in the US with me. For me it was a no brainer, Mihai Petcu was one of the top players in our Championship for my age and his work ethic recommended him. Deal was done and sealed fairly easy, I think. Now back to the Koebke’s not that they only took one child, but two! So Mihai and I are very thankful and we appreciate the relationship we have with the Koebke’s. They made us feel like at home and also having 4 boys under one roof was fun, well at least for us not sure if Mr Koebke and Mrs Koebke would say the same. I’m sure they would though!
Back to the AAU, since I started my story focused on that.
It was a great experience for me to play with MD Lightning for my sophomore year. We had tournaments all around the DC area and in neighboring states where I had the chance to be seen by college coaches. Unfortunately the hottest period of recruiting is in the summer and because I always chose to play with my Junior National Team in the summers I know I lost some opportunities to showcase myself in front of even more college coaches but I do not regret it.
We will talk about college, recruiting and my offers later on. Now that you sort of have a full picture of my first 9-10 months in the US and what that has been like with regard to living and basketball. I hope you guys will stay tuned for future posts.
Sper ca ati citit ceea ce a aparut in prima instanta a blogului meu, despre inceputul aventurii mele in Statele Unite.
Acum este timpul pentru a duce povestea catre primavara anului cand am avut primul contact cu AAU Basketball.
Odata ce sezonul liceelor este incheiat in Statele Unite, toti jucatorii de baschet isi indreapta atentia catre AAU Basketball. Un fel de competitie a cluburilor, AAU are diferite nivele de organizare si o serie de turnee. Initial am jucat pentru DC Blue Devils. Aveam o echipa foarte buna, probabil doi dintre cei mai remarcabili jucatori ai echipei fiind Kevin Durant si Ty Lawson.
Am fost coechipierul lor numai pentru o scurta perioada de timp, intrucat nu doream sa ajung sa joc pentru echipa a doua, in special datorita faptului ca prima echipa era compusa aproape exclusiv din jucatori de al treilea sau al patrulea an de liceu, asadar oportunitatile mele erau limitate. In acel moment eram in al doilea an de liceu. Odata ce mi-am dat seama ca trebuie sa-mi gasesc o echipa pentru care sa joc, am discutat cu un reprezentant al liceului unde invatam, o persoana care m-a ajutat cu tot ceea ce am avut nevoie pe perioada timpului meu petrecut acolo.
Dupa o discutie in detaliu, acesta mi-a precizat faptul ca tatal unuia dintre colegii mei avea o echipa in AAU. Asadar, asa incepe povestea mea si a familiei Koebke.
Am inceput sa ma antrenez impreuna cu ei de doua ori pe saptamana si jucam in meciuri la sfarsitul saptamanii. O familie foarte frumoasa din Maryland care ma gazduiau in serile in care aveam antrenament deoarece drumul pana acasa era mult prea lung. Antrenamentele erau evident mai tarziu decat ora 17:30 pentru ca domnul Koebke avea si slujba lui dinafara antrenoratului. Familia Koebke are trei copii asadar generozitatea lor de a ne permite sa innoptam (uneori nu eram doar eu ci si alti colegi de la echipa) a fost foarte apreciata. Ma simt norocos ca am avut sansa ca in aceasta echipa, sa pot juca alaturi de inca doi dintre colegii mei din liceu in al doilea an, unul dintre ei fiind fiul domnului Koebke, Robert. A fost binevenit si pentru ca aveam fete familiare in jurul meu si nu am fost aruncat intr-o situatie cu totul noua din nou.
Eram multumit de cum mergea totul in Statele Unite pana la acest moment. Intr-o zi, dupa o discutie cu antrenorul meu si cu familia Koebke, ne-am gandit la posibilitatea de a putea sa locuiesc cu ei in anul urmator. Stiam ca nu este o decizie usoara, in special pentru ca ei mai aveau doi copii ai lor locuind acolo si inca unul care mergea la facultate. M-am simtit norocos cand au ales sa ma primeasca. Domnul antrenor a avut intotdeauna incredere in mine si simteam ca prin toate discutiile cu el incerca sa ma faca un jucator mai bun. M-a incantat faptul ca am avut un antrenor care intelegea jocul de baschet. Unii antrenori nu sunt foarte implicati in jocul de echipa, aparare in lateral, etc. Insa noi am facut foarte multe exercitii similare cu ceea ce aveam sa intalnesc mai tarziu la facultate, asadar cand a venit momentul tranzitiei catre asta, nu a fost atat de dificil pe cat ar fi putut fi (cel putin din punct de vedere al antrenamentelor). El a fost cel care a angajat un preparator fizic pentru noi, care chiar si in prezent ma ajuta sa ma pregatesc de fiecare data cand sunt prin DC.
Domnul antrenor este tipul de persoana care iubeste pur si simplu baschetul si antreneaza aproape exclusiv din acest motiv. Iubeste sa ajute tinerii sa devina mai buni. A fost intotdeauna prezent in sala, indiferent daca era vorba de antrenamentul echipei sau doar ca unii dintre noi vroiam sa facem aruncari in plus. A fi intotdeauna prezent si disponibil este o caracteristica a unui antrenor de exceptie. Am avut incredere in el cu toate problemele mele iar la randul lui el a avut incredere in mine stiind ca rezultatele imediat ar fi fost dificil de acceptat din partea unui pusti care tocmai a venit de peste ocean intr-o cultura noua, o tara noua, totul nou.
Increderea lui a fost atat de mare in mine incat m-a intrebat daca as putea sa recomand pe cineva, un alt jucator inalt care ar dori sa vina in Statele Unite sa joace cu mine. Pentru mine nu a existat niciun dubiu, Mihai Petcu era unul dintre cei mai buni jucatori din campionatul nostru la varsta mea iar etica lui in munca il recomanda. Zis si facut. Ma gandesc acum inapoi ca familia Koebke nu au primit doar un tinar in casa lor ci doi! Asadar eu si Mihai suntem foarte recunoscatori pentru relatia pe care am avuto cu familia Koebke, ne-au facut sa ne simtim ca acasa iar avand patru baieti sub acoperisul lor avea sa fie foarte distractiv, cel putin pentru noi. Cred insa ca daca ar fi sa cerem si parerea lor, ar fi aceeasi.
Pentru a reveni la AAU, din moment ce, de aici a pornit povestea..
A fost o experienta foarte buna pentru mine, sa joc pentru MD Lightning in al doilea an de liceu, am avut turnee prin toata zona DC si in statele invecinate, acolo unde am avut sansa sa fiu vazut de antrenori de la facultati. Din pacate, perioada cea mai buna pentru recrutare era intotdeauna vara, iar datorita faptului ca am ales sa joc alaturi de Nationala de Juniori am pierdut o serie de oportunitati in care as fi putut sa ma prezint in fata mai multor antrenori, insa nu, nu regret modul in care am ales sa-mi petrec timpul.
Voi reveni cu alta ocazie asupra experientei din facultate si ofertele ce au venit mai tarziu. Acum aveti o idee mai clara asupra primelor 9-10 luni petrecute de mine in Statele Unite si cum era viata pentru mine si prin prisma baschetului dar si cea personala.
Sper sa ne revedem si pentru viitoarele povesti.