The Overseas Grind
David Weaver is entering his 7th season playing professional. His journey has taken him to many countries throughout Europe, including Greece, Lithuania, Germany and Turkey. Currently, he is playing in Japan’s new B League, where he will share his journey as he goes to a new league in a new country.
As a kid growing up a question you are often asked is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. Many kids that grew up similar to me, watching SportsCenter religiously, trying to copy your favorite player’s go-to move or playing basketball until the street lights come on, would most likely say, “I want to play in the NBA”. Little do they know, the small percentage of people that actually get to put on that NBA jersey or even get a taste of professional basketball. Better yet, even a smaller number know about basketball outside of the NBA and around the world. For those that know about the option to play professionally overseas, a lot still do not know the ‘real deal’ about the every day ups and downs of the profession. I’m here to help take a closer look into the life of an overseas hooper.
My name is David Weaver from North Carolina. I played my college ball at Wake Forest University and have been playing professionally 7 seasons. My journey has taken me to many countries throughout Europe, including Greece, Lithuania, Germany and Turkey. Currently, I am playing in Japan’s new B League. Let me start by saying that playing professional basketball at any level is a blessing and I would not trade my experiences while playing for anything. Not saying everything has been amazing. There have been several negative situations I have encountered that were almost unbearable and even made me question why am I doing this.
A common phrase you may hear from veterans overseas is “This overseas grind ain’t for everybody”. This couldn’t be more true. You have to have a certain mindset, possess a high level of patience, focus and dedication to last in this business. Yes, business. We play because we love and care for this game passionately, but in reality, this is how we provide for our families and make a living, Decisions are rarely made out of compassion; things can be pretty ugly out there. Hopefully, by sharing my experiences with you I can help educate and shed light on some questions you may have about this overseas basketball journey.
Let’s start with the process of getting ready for training camp. First off, for those who think the summer months are like ‘summer break’, full of chilling and kicking back, waiting for your agent to call with your next big deal, you are wrong. Yes, use your time off to enjoy your family and friends. Relax and take advantage of being home, because it will be time to get back to work before you know it. Many use the summer months or off-season to recover their bodies from the long 10 month season prior, try to stay in shape or refine/add something to their game. In the summer you don’t have a coach setting a practice/weights/conditioning schedule for you and some make the huge mistake of doing little to nothing at home. Mostly it’s all up to you. Some may have the luxury of showing up for training camp a little out of shape but for many that’s a quick way to get sent home. Another mistake is using training camp to get in shape. Of course, there is a difference between being in shape and being in ‘game shape’, but out of shape is not taken lightly. Coaches often signed you based off our your film right? Your highlight mixes of dunks and great moves. They expect to see these things in person when you arrive. Is it practical to expect mid-season form/performance in August, somewhat no, but some do and you must give them what they want. Teams/coaches only have a few weeks to get the team ready for the season so a lot of focus is put into putting in a system, building chemistry and practice (friendly) games while identifying players’ roles. In the world of non-guaranteed contracts, high expectations, extreme pressure from sponsors or executives, clubs don’t have much patience. Word of advice, stay on top of your game; your body is your money maker, treat it as such.
Training camps vary from team to team. I feel like I’ve seen or heard it all when it comes to camp. Camp will be always be a combination of practice/weight lifting/friendly matches and everybody’s favorite, conditioning. Some teams have great facilities or are centrally located close to other teams so you may stay in your city for the preseason. A few clubs will even pack up the team, drive/fly to another city or country in the middle of nowhere and train. I’ve heard of putting players in a hotel, in their own city, and limiting outside visitors or giving curfews. Some players with their family traveling with them are cut off from seeing them during camp. Harsh huh? At this point, nothing surprises me.
For rookies, realize you are not under NCAA rules anymore, where you have limits on practice length, how many times you can go, or what kind of drills you can do. Everything is fair game overseas. Coach wants to have 2-a-days for 2 weeks straight, yep, you will be there. Media day for 7hrs then practice…all you did was take pictures, you should be fresh right? Double 2.5hr practices with ‘optional’ weights in-between; been there, done that. 8 preseason games in 12 days…yep, lace them up. Plus losing those ‘practice’ games aren’t okay. You play to win, even in August. Oh, and on some teams, you can forget out a cold tub/sauna or post practice treatment to keep you fresh. Most likely, it’s just ice and your foam roller (if you remembered it, or it didn’t way down your bag with the < 23kg limit). Good luck having fresh legs for the next day.
One of the funniest things is talking to a friend before a friendly game and the first thing you ask is “How you holding up bruh?”. “Man, lemme tell you what they had us doing the other day…”, hearing this, we already know what that means. Preseason has been ‘fun’. Its always a pleasure to join a team with a staff that is professional, educated and has a structure to how the preseason should be used. Such as drills with a purpose, conditioning sessions to promote basketball related movements and adequate rest to allow for recovery so you can focus on getting better instead of praying for the final whistle. It’s fair to say not all players get the luxury of enjoying these conditions. Preseason is supposed to be difficult and your body will most likely break down before building up. It’s part of the game. Approach training camp with a goal of what you want to get out of it, the rest is simply out of your control or luck of the draw.
One element people forget to mention is that while in the midst of the hardest part of the season, you must find time to adjust to the new culture, city, food and time change. Try 2 conditioning sessions after a 18hr travel day from the US. Not fun, but normal. Or this, you have to eat McDonalds the night before because it was the only thing your know is open in your city after practice, fan sees you, tells the management they saw the new star player eating a Big Mac, you get fined or labled as a fast food lover. Yes, it happens. If you are lucky, you will have a chance to resign in your current team or league so already know your surroundings. For me, I have moved countries almost every season so each preseason is a new adjustment process. Here’s a common situation: You find yourself tired after practice, trying to grab something quick to eat, but you have no idea where to go or how to ask for help, your local teammates have left for home, you are cabbing it (bc you don’t have your car yet), refrigerator is empty because you haven’t figured out the grocery store yet and you need a nap; all while having 3hrs before your next practice. The struggle.
It may seem that I am mentioning all negative things but they are all things I’ve been through personally or seen happen before. Hopefully you will not endure these things. There are many positives that come with preseason as well. You are in a new place, the weather is still decent and you have a chance to explore and take in your new environment before the rigors and added pressure of the regular season. Preseason and training camp is a great time to build relationships with your teammates, coaches and become comfortable in your new home for the next 9-10 months. The bonds you make within the the first few weeks are key, as they will help you through the many ups/downs of the season. Before you know it, the season is there and a whole new grind starts. But we’ll leave that for another day.
Until next time, stay blessed