My Unconventional Path to Basketball Stardom … in Europe

My Unconventional Path to Basketball Stardom … in Europe

Why you should care

Because hoop dreams are multilingual. 

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Darryl “Truck” Bryant
Morgantown, West Virginia

It’s a beautiful start to Thursday in Morgantown, man. I got in a workout at the WVU practice facility this morning — got that out of the way. The university treats their former players well — it’s an open-door policy when I’m in town. The day is young. Now I get to hang with my daughter and some friends, then back to the gym before dinner.

Darryl

Truck Bryant (25) eyes up the opposition while playing for PAOK Thessoliniki of the Greek Basket League in 2016.

Source Truck Bryant

When Coach [Bob] Huggins recruited me, I didn’t know what to expect from West Virginia. Growing up in New York City, you learn to adapt to any situation. There were already a couple of guys from New Jersey on the team, so the transition was smooth. After I signed on, that’s when Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones decided to come too. Huggins made it tough for us — he’s crazy as hell on the court but an amazing man off it — and we were better for it. In 2010, we won the most games [31] in school history and made the Final Four. Now we’re pros, but we all get back to train in the summer. I host a camp for kids down here, so the old teammates help with that too.

New York City really made me who I am today. Every day, every night, every court was a challenge. I had to be a bully on the court, hence the name. But honestly, something on the New York scene has changed. I can’t tell you why, but hardcore talent is few and far between these days. There are still some talented young kids popping up — Isaiah Washington just broke my all-time scoring record at St. Raymond in the Bronx — but the numbers seem to be thinner.

Even after my four years at WVU, I didn’t get picked in the 2012 NBA draft. That process is tough because I know I can play in the league. I had five workouts for NBA teams, but, at a certain point, I have a family to provide for. My daughter is 4, and my mother and brother depend on me. Once I saw that the NBA wasn’t happening, the next step was Europe. It was time to make my way. And the offers overseas blew away what the D-League was paying.

Let me just say, Austria is a little different than West Virginia. There was a major adjustment period when I got over there. Lots of Google Translate and attempted questions to strangers. I didn’t know what I was doing. But like I said, I can adapt. I take pride in that. Now? I’m a vet. I love Europe and I’m fine being a professional basketball player overseas. If I didn’t have a daughter I would probably stay year-round, maybe come home for a couple of visits. It’s a great life. There were definitely some hiccups, though.

The tiny southeast Austrian town of Fürstenfeld was my first stop. After 2012, my first year, I had to keep it moving. Since then, I’ve played in Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Finland. This game has taken me some amazing places, man. The best basketball experience was this past season with my Finnish club, Kataja. We just won the top division championship. Greece was incredible — beautiful country, delicious food and the American dollar carries so much weight. But talk about a double-edged sword. Good luck getting paid over there. PAOK Thessaloniki, my Greek club, still owes me a check. I’m told that it should finally be coming soon. Hey, it’s only been a year and change.

The key to being a pro in Europe is finding a club to play long-term. Almost every league in Europe has limits on the number of Americans each team can have on the roster. Usually, the lower division leagues have the smallest limits, and it increases from there. We had four ex-pats on my Finnish team this year, but the top teams in Germany, for instance, can sign eight Americans. Obviously, American players increase the overall athleticism and diversify the competition but, as Euro leagues continue to grow, they try to keep strong local ties and provide jobs for the homegrown players. That’s why I’m working on dual citizenship.

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Truck with Morgantown, West Virginia’s finest youth ballers at his basketball camp in June 2017.

Source Truck Bryant

Having a second passport is huge for Americans. Huge. Your negotiating power skyrockets if you can be signed as a European. I don’t care what country it is, if I can find somewhere to establish myself and stay for a while, I’m in. Bouncing from country to country makes bringing family over impossible. My daughter lived with me in Austria, but she hasn’t been back since. This season, she’s coming to stay for a while, which will help my mindset.

My agents say it looks like Germany, Turkey or Belgium. All great leagues and hopefully somewhere I can be long-term. Whatever’s next, I’ll keep having fun. I love this game — as long as it loves me back, I’m going to keep hooping.

OZYThe Huddle

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