Friday 9/19

First of all, Thank God I made it to Lithuania safely, we flew on one of those tiny 50 people planes and the last 20 minutes of the flight was so sketch, but like they say in Hawaii between islands, “Alllllllllllriiiiiiiiiggggggggggggggtttttttttttt we made it”. I could not believe how beautiful Lithuania was! As we flew in I was looking out the window at big buildings that looked like they were very old, but in beautiful condition, it kind of reminded me of South Carolina. Then out the other window was huge trees and pretty flat land, but the deepest forest green color you could imagine. When we drove from the airport to the hotel you could tell that Lithuania was much more Americanized than Ukraine. The hotel I am staying in is very tiny and pretty bad, but it is in a beautiful location. There is either or a lake or river, not sure that looks like pure glass, unreal for wakeboarding or skiing, but they use it for rowing. I am staying in Trakai which is 20 minutes from the capital (Vilnos) of Lithuania. It is known for its rowing I guess because there are people training at our hotel and rowing really early every morning.
We got a new player this week, he is a point guard from Slovenia. He speaks English , is 28, and is a smart point guard. He has played around Europe for a long time and was telling me that I would probably love playing in Portugal. He played there for a little and loved it because it was like 80 degrees year round. That is what I like to hear!!! It’s nice to have another guy on the team who speaks good English. Its funny though in about 1 month of being around some of the Ukrainian guys, they are already speaking much better English. In our first scrimmage this week in Lithuania, I played pretty well. I was able to start the game on an ally-oop layup and then hit a 3 to start the game with a quick 5 points. We were able to jump out to a big lead and keep it the entire game, never letting the other team get within 8 points. I finished up with 14 points and 10 or 11 rebounds, so a double-double! I was 3 of 6 from 2 point range, getting my points off left hand layups and ally-oop and was 1 for 2 from 3 point range. I was able to get to the free throw line and shoot 5 of 6 from there…probably even should have gone at least 2 more times, but since we were up a lot they didn’t give me some calls at the end. We ended up winning by 13 points and our coach still said their were to many mistakes, but we were able to take care of the ball and that was the biggest difference this game.
Our second scrimmage this week we played a Euro League team called Zalgiris, which means they are top level competition in all over Europe, and they won the Euro League championship in 2001. Their facility was beautiful when we walked in, brand spanking new. You could tell how professional this team was and they are owned by former Euro legend and NBA big man Arvydas Sabonis from the Portland trailblazers.
The game went pretty well for our team, we were able to stay close the entire game and ended up losing by 6, but we also didn’t have two players due to injury. However, this game was not a good one for me. I was not seeing eye to eye with my coach and therefore didn’t get to play that much because he blamed our defensive mistakes on me. I ended up with only 4 points and 4 rebounds in about 20 minutes of play, but felt very frustrated most of the game because I feel like our coach holds me and the other Americans to a much higher standard than everyone else. That was not my problem, but during halftime the way he singled me and the other American out for the same mistakes everyone had been making, I felt it was uncalled for. We were working hard and trying our best to understand what he wants us to do, but its like a trainer giving a young puppy a leash and letting the puppy run until he does something wrong and then pulling the leash. Well today I felt like my leash was 3 feet long, and I wasn’t able to run. Whether I was confused on a defensive assignment for a big man on a screen and roll, or I was confused on help and recover, or I was confused on how we were supposed to front the post when we get no help from a guard on a backpack because they had good shooters, or how if there was an offensive rebound that wasn’t my man, it was put on me. It was frustrating sitting and watching our team play pretty well, but not being able to get past a 6 or 7 point barrier. I guess I am just going to try to take this as a learning process, go back to work, keep my confidence high, and keep grinding.
The next scrimmage did not go much better. We lost to a team that was not that good. However, it was very weird because our coach was not yelling and screaming and did not seem to care that much. We had 3 guys sitting out and we also played a lot of our younger guys or are on the second team, but we still should have beaten this pretty weak opponent. I didn’t even get much of a chance to play this game. I tried to make the most of my opportunities and I got in the last 2 minutes of the first quarter and got to the free throw line twice and shot 3 for 4 and grabbed 2 rebounds. After that though I didn’t get much action, only played the last 2 or 3 minutes of every period and never got into the rhythm of the game. It was one of the slowest games I have ever played in though because the lights keep shutting off on the court, and the scoreboard kept going out, so it was more like a practice than even a scrimmage. I have been super frustrated that last two days with how things have been going on basketball wise and also the ticket for Jake to come out has been taking forever, and we still haven’t heard the exact date and I am getting so bored because I am in this tiny hotel that I have been at for 8 days and it’s the same thing over and over every day and there is lots of downtime where I have watched so many movies and football games. I just can’t wait to get back to the big U aka Ukraine! The one nice thing was that we got to play in this beautiful arena that probably holds 7 to 8 thousand people and it reminded me a college arena, except that it was empty and it was very odd playing with absolutely no noise. One positive out of this trip as well is we got to stay at a unbelievable hotel. The food was amazing, I finally got a steak! It was a 4 or 5 star hotel and it was about 1,000 times better than the one we stayed at the entire 10 days. The bad news was it was only for one dinner, one night, and one breakfast, so it was the biggest tease ever!
Our next scrimmage all the guys who played a lot of minutes yesterday, like 6 or 7 guys, sat out and we played some young team from Lithuania, like 17 and 18 year olds. He made me play for whatever reason and I kind of took that as disrespect, none the less I went out and had like 25 and 15 or whatever, I lost count after 20 and 10 but it was frustrating that he made me play in that game, but the good news is that I took it out on the young kids, I had probably the best tip dunk of my life, I got fouled and made the tip dunk and jumped onto a 6’3” guy and as I hung on the rim my legs wrapped around his neck. I definitely poster-ized the poor dude and even his teammates were laughing at him.
When I got finished playing the game I came back to my room to find my teammate Jerel in a ton of pain. He had been out for about 8 or 9 days with what was diagnosed as a Charlie horse or deep bruise. He had been getting shots and all kinds of medication and was saying he was only a day away from getting back to full practice. However, after 20 minutes of getting his last shot, his leg began to swell instantly and you could actually see his quad expanding and getting bigger by the second. He went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a torn muscle and will be out 2 months now. It is unreal how what was thought to be a simple bruise turned into a 2 month injury. Luckily, he will stay here and rehab and try to get back as fast as possible and not sent home for good. Supposedly, we are going to have a replacement come in for 2 months to fill his spot. We are just praying for a speedy because we need him badly.
We had our last scrimmage versus another Euro league powerhouse called Lieutuvos Rytas. They have also won the Euro league championship and have had players like former Laker, Kareem Rush play for them 2 years ago. They even had fellow pac-10 player Aron Baynes on the team now, for those who don’t know who that is, he is a huge Australian center from Washington State. I started this game, played about 2 minutes and then subbed out for the rest of the game. I am not quite sure what the coach is trying to do now because Kevin didn’t play that much either. A little more than me, but he literally had a 13 second stretch in the 2nd half and then was pulled. We couldn’t really do anything but laugh about it on the bus. We got smoked by a very good team, but we didn’t play that well and its tough watching your team struggle from the sidelines. Just waiting to see next week at practice what the lesson from all this was.
I am so ready to get back to Ukraine! I didn’t think that sentence would ever come out of my mouth, but after being in this tiny hotel room for the last 9 days, eating and doing the same thing, it is time to get out of here! I have been extremely bored the last couple of days and have watched almost too much TV and too many movies. I have been watching this new season of Nitro Circus (Travis Pastrana is a wild man and has the biggest wavos of any man ever and lives life to the edge more than anyone who has ever lived. Back flipping a motorcycle across two building structures over 10 stories high is insane) and Fantasy Factory (It is sad to see Rob without Big, but he still is hilarious and lives the most ridiculous/fun life ever. If I could spend a day with anybody in the entire world, he would definitely be up there because he lives the life, always doing something so fun). I was lucky enough to meet the Nitro Circus and Fantasy Factory crew and go to the final episode shoot of season 1 because of my boy Mike McNamara who records with the girl Chanel who is the receptionist on Fantasy Factory. Check him out on MySpace, you heard it hear first, Mike Mac is going to be the next big time producer, my dude is on his grind and putting in mad work, if you don’t believe me, check it out.
Another thing that has been interesting is that the food has been much better here! Everything is pretty normal and I have actually really enjoyed the food. The only problem is we eat 3 times a day 8:30 am, 1:00pm, and 8:00pm and it is not buffet. So if you know me I am starving all day long!!! I eat like a wild beast who you think has been starving and only getting one plate of food 3 times a day for someone as big as me and who is working as much as I am, not even close to enough.
Also, on Sunday night everyone thought something bad happened to me as I was jumping around screaming like a mad man in my room. I was watching the Broncos game on my Slingbox in my hotel room and as I saw Carson drive the Bengals down to the goal and score with 20 seconds left I was so mad because the Denver Broncos are the only Pro franchise in any sport I actually really care about. I don’t know if it is because I was born in Denver, or because John Elway is my hero, or because my dream job is being the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, but I literally get more nervous watching Broncos games than doing anything else because I feel like I am a part of the team and I have no control when I am sitting back watching. But, as I was just about to slam my laptop with frustration because I didn’t want to watch the last painful 20 seconds of the game of the desperation act of trying to drive 87 yards with no timeouts I laid back in my bed and rolled my eyes. Then I saw a ball thrown to Brandon Marshall who was tripled covered get tipped and somehow land into Brandon Stokely’s hands with no one between him and the goaline. I literally thought I was daydreaming, until they played the replay, and I rubbed my eyes and watched closely to make sure I was not imaging this miracle ending and once I realized it had actually happened I started yelling and screaming like I had won the lottery. A win is a win and I will take it for week 1 baby!
I was able to watch so many movies as well because I had so much free time in Lithuania and watched The Goods, thanks for free movies online, and then It’s A Sure Thing, Dan In Real Life, and hands down the best Keanu Reeves movie ever, Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure, it was so bodacious. I literally think the movie is so bad that you can not laugh the entire time, kind of like Surfer Dude with Mathew McConaughey…you would think it’s a joke or parody because of how bad the acting is, but none the less I find it so entertaining!
Finally, I was able to return home Thursday night really late and again Thank God I made it because we flew on the oldest plane ever back. It had no air conditioning or lights or oxygen masks above the seats. It was a model I have never heard of in my entire life and the plane shook the entire time, not from turbulence, but from the propeller on the wing looking like it was not attached tight enough! I am just glad to be back in Ukraine and out of the boring hotel!

Sunday 9/6

This week I have gotten a dose of reality and how professional basketball is a business. There are no scholarships, it’s not a 4 year free ride like college anymore, it is perform or we will find someone who will. One of my teammates was released because they didn’t think he cut it and they are looking for someone else to fill his position. He is a 25 year old guy who is from Ukraine and played the 3. He is married and has a 14 month old baby girl. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to go home to his wife and tell her that they have to move already and find a new place to play. He had moved up from the 2nd division last year from a city in West Ukraine, and this was his first year in the Superleague. He was here no longer than 1 month and probably collected one months pay and now has to start the process all over of finding a new team, learning the system, getting to know his teammates, and moving his family, or give up basketball. It makes me thankful for everything that I have and motivates me to work that much harder because I know one day when I have a wife and kids, one thing I want to never do, or do as little as possible is to tell them I lost my job.
On a lighter note, this week has gone by fast. I am starting to get more and more comfortable and the days are getting shorter and shorter. I am on the same routine so I am starting to feel very settled and comfortable. I am able to watch a lot of television and movies between practices because I have about 5 hours where I want to do nothing but kick my feet up and relax. I have been able to watch Ray, an unbelievably good movie and great performance by Jamie Fox, that man is talented! He can sing, act, dance, and is a hilarious stand up comedian. The movie is great because it goes through all the ups and downs of a courageous mans life. It’s wild how we take things like our vision or hearing for granted daily, but this movie really makes you appreciate what God has blessed each of us with. It also gave me a great appreciation for Ray Charles was able to accomplish with his never give up, don’t let anything stand in his way, no matter how many obstacles there may be attitude. I have also watched Season 1 and 2 of the OC. The show is so bad, but so good at the same time. There is way too much drama and it is so fake just like most of the acting, Marissa and Johnny are terrible, but it’s so addicting. I love Seth and Summer’s relationship too, its classic, and they use every dynamic which makes it fun to watch the rollercoaster ride of an oddly great relationship. Although the show the OC is nothing like the real OC, it is hilarious to watch and reminds me of the good old days of high school! That was 8 years ago that I was starting my freshman year, time goes by way too fast!
We had our first scrimmage versus another team today that is in our league. We left at 1:30 took a 3 hour bus ride, again bumpy as hell; I am already way over the roads here in Ukraine. We ending up losing by 3 to a team we are better than, but we started the game horribly and we were all just trying to feel one another out and coach was playing different lineups to see who played well with one another. We played much better in the second half and even had a chance to win it, however free throws were missed. It was great to finally play a real opponent and not our second team, because we were able to see the areas we need to work on and that is taking care of the ball. Way too many wild and careless passes led to what must have been at least 25 or more turnovers. The game seemed very long though, because 4 quarters, 10 minutes in length and a stopping clock is much longer than college.
Personally, I played pretty well for my first scrimmage and real look at the Euro game. I had 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 0 assists in around 25-28 minutes of play. It could have been much better if I was able to hit some open threes that I had. I was 2-2 from the free throw line and 6-11 from the field 0 for 3 from 3 point range, 6-8 from 2 point range. Most of my points came off of layups in transition or drive and dishes. I had two face up jumpers in the post as well. Overall, I have a ton of room for improvement, just learning what I can and cant get away with, I was called for a travel which I definitely disagreed with, but they call it tighter over here and they don’t call fouls when you jump into someone, instead on tacky reaching or bump fouls. Also, our team has a ton of room to grow, we have most of the components, and just need to learn how to play together, but that will come with time. Going to Lithuania and playing 7 or 8 games in 10 days will be very beneficial to our growth as a team. I am excited I get to see another country because of basketball so that will make it 5 different countries in exactly a month that I have been here, not bad!
I’m about to jump on the bus and head to Lithuania, peace!

Monday 8/31

Had a really good meeting with the President of the club a few days ago, talked about everything, made sure I felt comfortable, liked the team, the coach, the apartment, etc. He told me that we are going to Lithuania to play 7 or 8 preseason games at the beginning of September. Sasha translated the whole thing for us and it was funny not being able to directly speak with him about things, however, it was nice to know that my boss really cares a lot about me and the team.
Jerel and I went to pizza place, close to our houses, probably like a 5 minute walk from my house for lunch and six drop dead gorgeous girls work there so we will be swinging in the pizza place and eating a lot of pizza the next couple of months. I even walked into a few stores that are across the street from my place to find a market that sells all kinds of meat except steak, bummer. A movie rental store that has no American movies and a small food store that sells the essentials like fruits, vegetables, juices, ice cream, beer and candy!
My other lifesaver here in Ukraine is what is called a Slingbox. I am able to watch my home television in Orange County on my computer here in Ukraine. The picture is pretty clear and its amazing because I am able to stay up to date with Sportscenter, That 70’s Show, Monday Night Football, SC Basketball, CMT, Fantasy Factory, Lost, and all my shows that I love. Somehow its streams the video through the internet and I just control my television at home and DVR all of my favorite shows and watch them a day later. I am pissed at how bad my Broncos looked last night and how we let Jay Cutler go! But other than that, Slingbox has been huge for me staying connected back home as well. I also had satellite T.V. put in this weekend and I have all kinds of crazy Ukrainian channels and Eastern Europe channels and a few American channels that play old movies which is pretty cool. However, I just can’t wait for my PS3 to come out with Jake so I can play some new football and basketball games.
Friday night I went out to my first Ukrainian club and I was blown away. The amount of beautiful girls in this club hands down was the best place I have ever seen. Around 40 to 50 of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen. Age range was 21-30 and they were all dancing to pretty bad music, but still the sheer gorgeousness didn’t even let my mind focus on the terrible music. The other amazing thing about this club is that drinks are extremely cheap and there were only about 10 guys in there. I don’t know if it was ladies night or what, but the odds 5 to 1 girls to guys is a dream.
Saturday we had our first scrimmage. We played out second team and ended up blowing them out 103 to 35. Our style of play is very fun though because we press the entire game and then we fast break a lot. The opens it up for lots of three’s and open driving lanes for me. The competition level was not fair playing our second team, because Kevin and Jerel were able to pressure the younger guards and get steals all game long and lock up so the team had trouble even getting into offense, but to be able to execute plays and learn other players games a nice warm up before we go to Lithuania to play. We played 5 quarters of 6 minutes and I started and played the 4th quarter and finished the game with 8 points, 3 or 4 boards, and 2 assists. I was able to hit a 3, almost dunk on someone, I got fouled and went to the line and almost had it, then get a nice left hand layup finish and a right handed finish at the whole. I am still amazed at how easy it is to get to the rack here and get a high percentage shot. The one extreme change from playing in the states however though is that every single person is wet. Open jumper for even 7 footers and its going down. 1-5 can all shoot and if they get an open jumper, it is going down with great consistency.
Later that night we went out to another club, club element. It is a younger crowd compared to Tropics, but it was much bigger, around 300 to 400 people. The club set up is awesome, they have a dance floor, and booths all around the floor with a bar in the back, then 4 hallways that lead to different places inside the club. For example, one hallway leads to a hookah lounge and bar, the other is a jazz bar, the other is an upscale bar and lounge area, and the last one is a dark room with tons of couches and couples together. It is fun because you are able to get into a club and experience all kinds off different things all throughout the night and it stays open until 5 am so you have plenty of time to do so. Then there is an upstairs with another bar and chairs to lounge in and look down on the dance floor below. At about 1 am though something happened that made my jaw drop to the ground all night long. The music stopped the dance floor was then completely cleared and then (ear muffs for young kids), such a sexy woman came out and started dancing on some guy and then started ripping his clothes off and all of a sudden he was ripping her clothes off and all of a sudden they were both in tiny thongs dancing on each other. He then put her on the ground, started putting oil all over her basically naked body, (thong so small I could floss my teeth with it haha) and started emulating all kinds of crazy sex positions. It was the craziest 10 minutes of anything I have ever seen in a normal dance club, then it got even wilder. The DJ of the club called out 3 girls from the crowd to come participate in a contest too win money, mind you I am sitting just watching because I can not understand anything they are saying. 3 girls come out to the middle of the dance floor and then they get to choose 1 guy from the crowd for their partner. 3 guys and 3 girls are now standing out in the middle of the dance floor and the DJ brings out 3 bottles of whip cream. The guys then begin to undress the girls and put whip cream all over their body. So the girls are standing their completely naked with only whip cream covering them. The DJ then plays a song and the guys begin liking the whip cream off the girls and in about 45 seconds, there are 3 girls standing completely naked on the dance floor, and mean completely naked, showing all! The funniest part about it is they are not even covering themselves up; they are just standing their laughing and posing. People begin to run out on the dance floor and drop money in front of each couple and then they DJ ask for the crowd to make noise for their favorite and the middle couple who won got 500 Ukrainian dollars and tips that people threw in front of them, which equals about 75 dollars. It was unbelievable though because after the girls cleaned up they came back out and were dancing and drinking at the bar like nothing had happened. I was just laughing to myself so much because at how open Eastern Europeans are. Unbelievable!
Finally, Sunday we were able to have a full day off. It was so nice because after 2 practices everyday having one day off a week is so nice. But I still have no complaints because the 2 practices combined are easier than 1 practice at SC. My jump shot is looking so good too because I am putting up about 500 shots a day easy. Having a full day off was crucial to learning my surroundings a little more as well because I was able to find a place called City Pub where I am amble to have soup, salad, chicken, and fries for 5 dollars and its very tasty. Also, I was able to find my favorite, an Asian place that has teriyaki chicken, steak, and tempura shrimp. I was so stoked to be able to find that place because I now know 4 places, pizza, close to American, Asian, and an Italian place to eat at that are all walking distance and so cheap for what you get. I can eat out 2 full course meals a day for under 15 dollars, such a steal.
It’s August 31st and I have almost been away for a full month, definitely the longest I have ever gone from my family. It’s been surprisingly easier than I thought; again I contribute most to Skype because I am able to see my parents, dog, and friends almost everyday. I am sorry I was not able to get pictures in the club because you are not allowed to have a camera in there, so bear with me for the photo shoot. I had grown my beard out for a full month, all of August, and finally shaved, but rocked a dirty mustache for a night! Enjoy the disgustingness.

Thursday 8/27


Today was the best day I had in Ukraine by far! I got the night practice off, got my internet working, which has been huge after not having it for nearly a week, hung out with Sasha, went out on the town for a while, had a good beer, ate some McDonald’s and caught up with everyone at home. It started by finding out that we were only going to have a morning practice, and the night off. It was a quick two hours and done for the day.
My schedule looks like this…
Wake up 9:00am
Make Breakfast 9:15am
Get picked up for practice 9:45am
Lift 10:15am-11:00am
Practice 11:00am-12:30pm
Make Lunch 1:00pm
Nap, Movie, Internet, Etc 1:30pm-5:00pm
Get picked up for practice 5:25pm
Practice 6:00pm-8:00pm
Make or Go Out For Dinner 8:30pm
Café, Club, Movie, Internet, Walk Around Etc…
So my days tend to go by very fast and I can not believe I have already been in Ukraine for almost a week. It has flown bye. Still don’t know if we get full days off yet, we have still yet to have an actual entire day off, but we will see, keeping my fingers crossed. The thing that’s so wild about our club is that there are always 30 or 40 swoll dudes just walking around the place. There is also a boxing gym so guys are training right next door all the time and they are walking in and out of the gym all the time. However, there are about 40-50 people that work at the club as well, like bodyguards, cleaners, security, drivers, secretaries, and hit men. Everybody works for the President of our team and he is a big 6’3 of 6’4 buff ass 37 year old who runs all of Ukraine, and he looks like he could tear your head off in one second. Whenever he goes out to eat he is accompanied by like 3 or 4 bodyguards. He does it so big, its unreal, and he has us taken care of and at a snap of a finger he could have guys wherever we need them to pick us up, help us with something, or take care of someone haha, but seriously.
Then Sasha came over and helped me set everything up. We had tea and coffee, some bread, and kicked it for a while talking about Ukraine and home and showing pictures of our friends and family. It was so different than what happens back in the states because we sat and just talked for two hours! No cell phones, no T.V., the internet and computer for about 20 or 30 minutes, but for the most part just good conversation and some food and drink.
After that I went out on the town with Kevin and Jerel and we walked around for a long time in two different parts of the town. It was cool getting to see the other guy’s places as well. They live in really awesome set ups as well. All of us have similar apartments but they are unique in their own way, making it good to kick it at all places. It was wild though because we went out to eat at McDonald’s and it is very expensive for Ukraine. Its actually more expensive in dollars here than back at home, but it’s a huge hit. There was a line for about 5 minutes and it was packed to capacity! After that we took a taxi to a café where we tried a Ukrainian beer which turned out to be very good. There were lots of pretty ladies at the café and it is amazing how fast I am picking up words just because of the fact that most people don’t speak hardly any English and in order to communicate with these beautiful young ladies you must speak some Russian. I would say I learn about 5 words a day and I am up to about 25 words now, which helps me to at least be able to pretend like a know a few things. Walking around the two different parts of the city was amazing though because we were able to get more and more comfortable with our surroundings. Each day we go a little farther and learn a little more. I am beginning to feel even more settled knowing where nice restaurants are to eat at, or cafes to drink at, or stores to buy things like groceries, appliances, etc.
Tonight it felt so good to connect with everyone back home and I Skyped for literally 4 hours with family and friends. Felt so good to see familiar faces. It makes it a whole lot easier being away and I contribute Skype about 90 percent of why I have not been home sick at all yet. Thank You Skype!

Tuesday 8/25


Today was my first day on the job and the club was much different than I expected. We have an amazing team bus and pretty good facility. From the outside however it does not look like anything special. The gym is pretty nice, along with a good weight room. It is a big facility though with tons of showers, lockers, weight rooms, offices and even a boxing club as well. We practiced twice today and they were both pretty hard, but still very offensive which is awesome! Another thing which has been a pleasant surprise is, knowing that you are getting paid for 4 hours of work is pretty awesome. The toll on the body is definitely tough, but working half the time as a normal person and maintaining top physical condition is awesome.
I am making all of my meals which is a definite change for me. I wake up and have either cereal or eggs and bacon and a banana. Then come back make some ham or turkey sandwiches. I am even making full fledged dinners with pasta, some type of meat, vegetables, rice, salad and bread. It is wild how much time making 3 meals of day takes up your time. I can not even stress how much I miss my mom’s amazing cooking! Such a blessing I had for my entire life. I will be able fend for myself in the kitchen after this 10 months for sure. I have already begun playing with flavors and mixtures and things like that. I do everything in the oven or on the stove because they do not have microwaves or toasters in my apartment. It definitely has been entertaining while I wait for my internet and cable TV to get set up!
Another obstacle I have run into is figuring out my washing machine and dish washer because all the buttons and instructions are in Russian. I have been playing around the last two days trying to figure it out. I finally got my washing machine to work and they do not have dryers here so I go straight old school and hang everything up.Finally, I have been moving things around and getting my apartment just the way I like it and making it as homie as possible. I can’t believe how comfortable I feel only after two days in Ukraine.

Monday 8/24


Today was an extremely long morning! I woke up Sunday morning at 7 am to leave Zlatibor, Serbia then took a 4 hour bus ride to Belgrade to fly to Frankfurt, Germany which was a quick 1:45 flight. We arrived at 4:30pm and were not leaving for Ukraine until 11:30, so we had plenty of time to fill with no internet and no cell phones. Kevin, Jerel, and I kicked it at McDonald’s for about 4 hours. McDonald’s is so different in Germany and actually good. We played all kind of different trivia games and told stories and were cracking up all throughout the day, it was a super long wait, but time went bye fairly quickly. Finally we jumped on a plane for 2 hours to Kiev, Ukraine. We jumped an hour ahead so now I am officially 10 hours ahead of California, which put me at 2:45 am. After getting through customs I was glad to see that this time I had all my bags, Thank God. We jumped onto our team bus and drove another 5 hours from Kiev to my new home Kryvyy Rhi, Ukraine. The roads in Ukraine are terrible so while I was trying to get some sleep, I felt like I was on an off roading excursion in Jakes old beater truck. There are potholes all throughout the streets and it was the worst 5 hours of sleep I have ever had. All my tiredness and crankiness suddenly disappeared, and the biggest adrenaline rush of excitement and anticipation for my new apartment took over as I looked up at my apartment complex and it looked super sketch when I walked up to my apartment which looked terrible from the outside. I remember thinking, please God let this be halfway decent. Then after 2 security pass codes to get into the apartment complex, a wet and damp smelling stairwell and to the fifth floor where there is another locked gate just to get to my apartment I crack open the double locked door…to a penthouse sweet which is totally pimped out for me. Full kitchen, master bedroom, big living room, a guest room, bathroom, and washing room along with a nice hallway. I immediately dropped my bags and jumped all around the apartment like a crazy man. So much better than I could ever imagine or even picture, especially when you see what the outside looks like. It comes fully furnished as well which makes it an unbelievable set up, I am living like a boss. A MTV cribs video of my place will be uploaded once Jake and I get everything situated.
I then was taking to get my international phone which is a cool little LG flip phone, so holla at me! Having a phone is so nice because I don’t feel so naked when I am walking around. I am able to call my teammates for free on this phone and its way cheaper for me to call home to the states. It’s unbelievable how cheap it is over here. The dollar bill is 1 to 8.45 Hryvnia. After I got my phone I was off to go shopping for some groceries. The food looks different and Russian is different letters so you can’t even read things so I am fortunate enough to have a translator Sasha Babenko, who is a young woman, very nice, and she speaks very good English and helps us with everything such as setting up our phones, shopping, and showing us around. I have a personal driver Krihl, who looks like he is a hitman, but is an awesome dude and takes us everywhere and says if anyone messes with us to call him and he will handle it. I am getting taken care of so well and it’s only the first day!
For an idea of how far the dollar goes here are some examples:
Loaf of Sourdough Bread 25 cents
40 Oz Beer 1 dollar
Liter Water Bottle 50 cents
12 Eggs 2 dollars
Taxi ride for 10 minutes 3 dollars
I love it because we get paid in American dollars; therefore it’s like making 8 times more money out here!

Sunday 8/23


Just finished my two week training camp in Serbia! I am about an hour away on getting onto the bus and driving to the airport and flying to Ukraine. There I will get to see where I will be living, the gym we will be playing our games in and basically the surroundings of my life for the next 9 months. I am very excited and can’t wait to just get settled and make my place as homey as possible. Knowing that Jake is less than a month away of coming out is also awesome to look forward too.
Each day of the training camp gradually got harder and harder, but it was very nice because I was able to ease into what turned out to be a tough last couple of days. I am amazed how fast the practices go by though because they only are about and hour and 45 minutes or 2 hours and that is nothing compared to coach Floyd’s 3 hour practices!!! I got my shot right on the last couple a days and was shooting really well, and able to get to the rim pretty easily, which has made it much tougher to guard me. It is really nice be able to get to the rim when I want, if only I could finish like Lebron James haha. Playing with a bunch of unselfish guys is very nice too, the ball movement, floor spacing, and overall game just fits my style very well. Lastly, my mom and her hold side of the family (Father was a dentist and her brother had front teeth knocked out playing pick up ball) will be so proud to know I have worn a mouth guard every workout, and actually have gotten used to it!
I am also stoked to be getting a little change in pace of food. I have no idea what they will serve us in Ukraine, but going to the grocery store and picking out what I want will be awesome because I am tired of the same thing almost everyday here! I can’t complain too much though because I have not had to pay for one thing over these two weeks and already collected my first month’s check, definitely the best job I have ever had. Getting paid to play basketball, workout, travel the world, watch movies and talk with friends on the internet via Skype or Facebook is as awesome as it sounds.
Last week I knocked out season 5 of Entourage and this week I watched season 1,2,& 3 of Wildboyz from MTV. I can’t get over how funny that show is, I have probably watched it like 10 times, but it still gets me laughing out loud and rolling around at how dumb, idiotic, and funny Pontius and Steve-O are. The show has the perfect combination of wild stunts, funny jokes, and outrageous amounts of nakedness haha. I only watched 1 movie this week, Fired Up, a lower class Wedding Crashers like movie, and I think it’s hilarious as well and the girl, Sarah Roemer, from it is so fine (same girl from Disturbia). I was able to meet a group of girls that are staying at the hotel who are pretty nice, don’t speak much English, but we play Uno the card game and it is really funny because there is a lot of smiling, laughing, and awkward staring because the communication is a little lacking to say the least. However, it is a really good time and we play about an hour a night.
Last night I went to a club, Verdona, in Zlatibor and it’s unbelievable. Not much dancing like in the states, but tons of drinking and smoking cigarettes. The girls are amazingly beautiful, it definitely competes with Incahoots, only difference is girls smoke all the time and that’s a huge turn off to me. However, their eyes continue to amaze me, its like a greenish-blue I have never seen before.
Another random thing about Serbia is they have a ton of stray dogs and cats. There are packs of about 12-15 stray dogs that just run around the mountain and woods, all different breeds and mixes. They stick together, but just run around wild and wake us up every morning barking and fighting right on time at 7am. Made me think, how sweet would it be to have a dog in Ukraine, technically I could too in my apartment. Jake would be around to take care of it as well. A lot of work I know, more of a sweet idea now than actuality, but I am going to have a discussion with Jake about it for sure.
Also, the swimming attire in Serbia is hilarious, they where the Daniel Hackett specials (Italian PG on former SC team) or tight booty shorts for swim trunks, such a no homo thing. I stick out like a sore thumb at the indoor pool with my boardshorts on!
It has been was cool being a pro athlete over here as well because they have a heavyweights camp, just like the movie with Ben Stiller, where we are staying. The hotel is packed with kids 10-18 years old running around and going up to all the basketball players asking to take pictures with them and signing autographs and asking for their MySpace page name haha!
Finally, my beard is at an all time dirtiness for me. I have been growing it for a full month now and it definitely has some hangtime to it. We will see how much longer I can let it go along with my hair, trying to come back in December and look like Tom Hanks from Cast Away LOL!

Monday 8/17

What up!?!? It has been a week of training camp and its Monday afternoon and everything is still pretty much the same. The same routine, the same food, the same types of practices and conditioning. We practice 3 days in a row 2 times a day and then on the 4th day we get half a day off. Last week we got the afternoon running off and today we got the morning practice off. That has been huge and keep my legs rested and plenty of time to write some blogs and catch up with people from home and be on Facebook way to much J! I still don’t have a phone and won’t get one till I go to Ukraine, which is next week, so it has been so weird for me not to text constantly. One thing I do when I am home is text or bbm all day long and not having a phone has been a big change of pace and a definite adjustment for me.
I have watched even more movies, and the main girl in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Rachel (Mila Kunis) is from Ukraine, so best believe if I find her twin in Ukraine I am coming home married (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 3:10 to Yuma, Zoolander, Step Brothers, and Win A Date With Tad Hamilton). It’s crazy how fast I am going through the movies I brought, because although I have a lot of stuff throughout the day I have periods of like 2 hours where I cant really go anywhere and need to rest, so I have time to watch a lot of movies. Also, the T.V. in our room gets 3 American stations and its Fox, Discovery, and a Movie channel. I have been watching Sex in the City, thought I would never have to say that, but it’s the only thing on Fox in English over here and is kind of annoying, not a Jessica Sarah Parker fan at all, but love Samantha haha. I have also been watching Mythbusters, How To, Top Trumps, Destroyed In Seconds, lots of discovery channels that are very interesting and I have learned quite a bit about random things from watching this channel. Lastly, I have been watching a movie channel they have with movies that go straight to DVD at home and are terrible, but so funny to watch because I see actors like Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez in horrible roles!
I have been playing great basketball this last week as well, shooting the rock very well and even blocking some shots and getting a tip dunk on a 7 footer. Its unbelievable how at USC I was one of the least athletic, but here I am one of the most athletic. I love it! I would say the competition level is a little less than at SC, but the discipline and attention to detail is unreal. The foreigner’s they bring in are very good though, one team in our league signed Khalid El Amin (short, stocky point guard from UCONN national championship team like 10 years ago) to 1.3 million dollar contract for a year. We got our last foreigner this Friday, from Croatia, his name is Jurica Zuza and he is 31 and has played in the best Euro leagues when he was younger, still is very good, but looks like he is a lot older than 31. So we have 5 foreigners on our team PG Kevin Bridgewater, SG Jerel Allen, SF Jovan Koprivica, PF ME, and C Jurica Zuza and the rest are all from Ukraine.
I have had a lot of fun introducing Jovan to country and he actually kind of likes it. He calls me a redneck. It has been funny going through my iPod and seeing the songs that he recognizes though like some oldies, Michael Jackson, 2pac, and 50 cent.
I tell him about Incahoots and claim it’s one of the best places for girls in the world and he still claims that Belgrade, Serbia is the best in the whole world. Last night (Sunday), I was able to go out for the first time with the Kevin, Jerel, Jovan and Zuzu (all the forefingers) but we were in Serbia so Jovan could translate for us. I walked around their center or kind of like outdoor market. It reminded me of an older version of the Irvine spectrum. They have a lot of food vendors and tons of places with sweets that look so good! At 10pm at night its wild to see how many people are walking around and sitting in café’s all throughout the center drinking coffee or beer, smoking cigarettes and just hanging out. It’s very laid back and mellow, literally people being loafy (another word for lazy) all night. I tried a Serbian beer called LAV, it was pretty good. Tasted kind of like a normal American beer. Saw lots of cute girls out, but didn’t have a chance to really meet any because we had to be back by 12pm and the clubs don’t start getting wild till like 1, people just pregame in the café’s all night. I will have a chance my last night to show them the American rage cage, but it will be different without my dude Jake, cant wait for him to get out here, but still loving the experience and feel like I am getting better and growing everyday on and off the court.

Wednesday 8/12


My bags arrived today! It was disgusting going Monday and Tuesday without washing my face or taking out my contacts and wearing the same clothes since Saturday morning on the plane. Today was my first day of practice, it was kind of nice to be able to miss two days of the training camp because I was able to try to get my sleeping pattern right and also get a feel for everything by watching. Practices at training camp have been lot like an Anthony Katz practice, my JV coach in high school and my favorite coach, lots of shooting, learning offense and that’s it! I actually am surprised how easy it has been first couple of days. I expected it to be like a rocky movie, crazy training, all day, and crazy hard practices, but so far it was been a pleasant surprise, its actually easier than USC was.

My schedule usually looks like this...
Breakfast 8:45 am

Basketball Practice 10:15am-12pm

Weights 12pm- 12:30pm

Lunch 2:45pm

Conditioning 5:45pm-7pm

Dinner 8pm

In Room 11:30pm
After weights I come to my hotel room and watch movies or Entourage. I finished season 5 in one day because that series is the best show of all time. It’s so funny I can’t get enough of it. I can watch it over and over again; it never gets old to me.
Then after lunch I come to the room and take a nap before conditioning. I feel so rested and healthy because of the sleep I am getting and the food I am eating and the schedule I am on. This is the first time I have been in bed at 12pm since high school!

My eating usually consist of this with basically no variations…
Breakfast- Scrambled eggs, Sausage, Bread rolls covered with chocolate and
chocolate filling and fake orange juice and pineapple juice

Lunch- Soup, Bread, Meat (Pork or Chicken), Rice, Potatoes, and Carrots
Dinner-Bread, Meat (Deer, Chicken, Pork, Steak), Potatoes, Rice, Apples, Peaches, Grits and Carrots.
The food doesn’t have much flavor; there are many other options but things that I don’t like such as fish, tomatoes, coleslaw, peas, and all types of weird cheeses. They have soup and bread at every meal except breakfast its crazy and when they get the soup first they put head down and literally power it down without even looking up, it’s pretty funny. Also, they have chi tea with every meal as well. There milk is always warm, so I can’t have cereal because cereal with warm milk is so nasty to me. They don’t like drinking anything really cold either, so their water and drinks are all room temperature, its very different.
The guys speak barely any English at all, I mean like Hi and Good Job is about it, but they are getting more and more friendly as we are just getting to be around each other more often. The athleticism of the guys is seriously like high school but the attention to detail is unreal. The head coach speaks pretty good English is a very smart guy. I think he will be really good for me; he has me setting lots of pick and pops and also coming off a down screen for 3's and trailing for 3’s. The assistants and trainer speak basically speak no English as well, but we are getting more comfortable and it’s a lot showing and doing, not much talking. The head coach shouts directions, but again its in English and Russian so it takes longer to do things and it gives you an extra second to catch your breathe. My two American teammates Kevin Bridgewater and Jerel Allen, I feel like I know them so well because we are always together and talk about everything with each other because we obviously understand each other and its only been 2 days but I feel like I know them better than some teammates from SC because of the extraordinary situation.
My roommate is Jovan Kopravica, he is older brother of Nikola Kopravica the euro that plays on Washington State #4. He is 27 and has played professionally since he was 15, he is a Serbian and speaks very good English and is an extremely nice guy. He is really funny and he is kind of like Abdoulaye (Upperclassmen at SC when I came in to SC as a freshman) and he has taken me under his wing and been extremely helpful with everything and mostly translating things for me. Its crazy how much I have learned about Europe and Serbia from him in just 2 days and how things are so different all over the world...really has opened my eyes already.
The girls here are gorgeous, they are so natural here and they have pure beauty, not much makeup and they still look amazing and the color of their eyes are unreal! Blue, green with dark hair is a killer. I haven’t talked to any or gone out at all, but just seen them walking around and there has been a treat.
Zlatibor reminds me a lot of Oregon in the summertime. It is very green and has lots of big green trees and smells so fresh. The weather has been about 80 and very nice and sunny. It is raining tonight and a little bit of thunder, but it will be gone by the morning.Best time for me to Skype is 12pm-2pm at home in California because I have basically from 9pm till 11 30pm my time to be on internet and its weird because I am 9 hours ahead here in Serbia. It has been wild though going on Skype and Facebook chat these last couple of days because I have been able to see my parents and friends faces and talk instantly, literally half way around the world. It has been amazing and thank god for technology because it has made this transition much easier for me. I am surprised I have not been homesick at all yet, maybe because I am super busy or having a good time, but I think about home a lot but have not gotten homesick yet. I have looked through my pictures and video my friends made me before I left about 20 times and just laughed and definitely missed certain things like my yellow lab Sumo, food and the beach but I am loving this new experience so I haven’t dwelled on any of that stuff.

Sunday 8/9


First of all saying goodbye to my mom and dad at the airport was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, hands down. There was lots of crying, hugging, and waiving until I could not see them anymore. They are not only my parents, but my best friends, because I am an only child and we are super close. I think its rare today to have the bond that I have with my parents at 22, but I think its because of the way they raised me and always having time to talk at dinner time at least for one hour pretty much everyday of my life. And although sometimes I did not want to have to be home and would rather hang out with my friends, how could I complain when my mothers cooking is 2nd to none. If I could be half the father my Dad has been to me, I would consider it a job well done and if I am fortunate enough to marry a woman a who could even hold a candle to what my mother has been for our family I would be the luckiest man in the world. However, I was also excited for my new adventure so I am sure it was much easier on me.
My first flight was from Los Angeles (LAX) to Atlanta, Georgia and I had woken up at 4:30am to get to the airport for a 7:30am flight. I was able to charm my way into the exit row at the front gate which was huge for me because I had enough leg room to be comfortable for the near 5 hour flight. Sleeping on the plane is one of the hardest things for me to do, but I was able to knock out the entire flight because I was so tired from the night before staying up until about 2:30am talking and saying goodbye to my friends.
Saying goodbye to my friends was also one of the hardest things I have ever had to do as well because I have a unique bond with so many of my friends because of God and Jesus being the center of it. It is an unbelievable blessing to be able to have such a strong core group of friends that continues to grow despite being in different states and now in different countries. Plus the last 3 weeks of my life once I signed the contract have been like a scene out of a movie or music video. I was able to sneak up to Oregon to say goodbye to family and then I think I had about 4 or 5 going away parties, which involved an all day rager at my best friend Dana’s place in Glendora where I was able to have Orange County friends and SC friends meet and we were able to party 12pm to 2am with around 100 people drinking over 500 beers, 6 handles of hard alcohol, and 12 bottles of wine completely polished off by 12am. Not to mention all the other wild antics of the day which included a huge pool, with side of house to jump off into, burgers, dancing, some random guy singing, 3 tables of beer pong going, games of flip-cup and 7/11 doubles being played and most of my closest friends there ! Also, followed by like 2 or 3 last Incahoots nights where we would caravan from my house 20-30 people to a dance club/bar which is about 30 minutes away in Fullerton. Incahoots is a country line dancing bar where it is the most target rich environment I have ever seen in my entire life, and I have been traveling throughout the states playing basketball in lots of different states and even a few countries, but nothing compares I can promise that. Finally, we ended it with what was supposed to be a few leftover beers from my graduation party (I had at my house with most of my families, family friends that also have been a huge blessing in my life with unbelievable guidance, prayer and support) that turned into another rage cage because my right hand man Jake and my two hoop buddies Sean and Josh showed up with a keg, much to my surprise and even more my mothers shock. It turned into another wild party at my house with about 40-50 of my friends who came for one last real goodbye and day of eating, pool volleyball, flip-cup, keg stands and all around great company. I truly love all of my friends to death because of all the amazing times we have shared and great experiences we have already had at only 22 years old. I feel like if I were to pass away today I would have more great times and unbelievable adventures than a 100 year old man. But, back to my adventure.
In Atlanta I had a layover and was able to meet one of my American teammates, Kevin Bridgewater, who is from Kentucky and played basketball at Chattanooga. He is an extremely nice dude and it was nice knowing that I would have another American who could speak English traveling international with me so I wouldn’t have to be in a foreign airport alone. The flight from Atlanta to Paris, France was so long, but again I was so fortunate to have the exit row so I was able to stretch out and fit comfortable. I was blown away by the size of this unreal piece of machinery that Air France had created; it was the biggest plane I have ever been on, hands down. I watched four movies (Lords of Dogtown, I Love You Man, Miley Cirus Movie, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) on the plane on a little flip screen they have on each seat and they had a pretty big collection of movies to choose from, and I love comedies, but I am a sucker for romantic comedies, no homo. I barely slept on this flight because if you know me, one thing I can do is watch movies like crazy. Every time I go to the theater I almost always sneak into a second movie because movie prices are ridiculously expensive so I figure if you pay 12 bucks for a movie, might as well see two so it’s like 6 bucks a pop. When I landed in Paris I was extremely tired though because 9 hours on a plane it’s an extremely long time. Once we arrived Kevin and I hopped onto a tram that went to 4 different terminals before it went to ours, the airport is huge! Because our flight was a little late arriving and it took forever to get to our other terminal we missed our flight from Paris to Belgrade, Serbia. We went to check on the next available flight and how we were going to get to Belgrade and at the desk we ran into our other teammate Jerel Allen who was actually on our flight from Atlanta to Paris as well. He is from Michigan and played at Florida State but played in Ukraine last year on a different team and Kevin and I used this 3 hour wait we had for our next flight to pick his brain about the upcoming season and what his experiences were like. Something about being halfway around the world really makes you bond with fellow Americans extremely fast because after 2 hours of the layover we were already sharing old school experiences, lifestyles, and stories, cracking up about how different the West Coast, Midwest, South, and East Coast are. When I told them I was craving an In & Out Burger (best fast food burgers in the world) and they stared at me with blank faces, I hurt for them, and told them that reason alone is enough for them to come visit after our season is over!
We hoped on the next flight to Belgrade and it was completely full, and since I was the last passenger to board I got to sit first class because it was the only seat left. Haha, Thank you Lord! I lucked out again and was able to fly in style for the shortest leg of this trip, about 2 hours, but it still was amazing. Once we landed we patiently waited for our bags to find out that all 3 of us did not have one of our bags and they were still in Paris. So we left the airport with only the clothes on our back and our backpacks and were greeted by two of the assistant coaches. They barely speak any English and walked us out to a charter bus that was full with the rest of our team. We drove 4 hours to a mountain part of the country called Zlatibor and checked into Cigota, the healthiness and well being hotel.
I then had a meeting with the team and the head coach and it takes twice as long to say everything because he has to say it in Russian and then English for us. The guys on the team speak barely to any English. You communicate through hand signals, it’s pretty funny. I then had a private meeting with the coach, and he is a very intimidating looking guy, but is very honest and straight forward, reminds me a little of coach Floyd, but he sounds like he pays so much attention to detail and runs things like clockwork, everyone has to be on the same page. He told me he wants me to be able to shoot lots of threes from the top of the key and I was excited to hear that. He expects big things from me and that’s great to hear.
Immediately after that we went to eat. The food was a trip! I had to force it down and the only thing that was decent was the chicken. They just have some very odd looking meals, things I could not even explain. The hope for me liking the food is very dim, but I am hoping it will get better.
After dinner, I went to my hotel room and its very small, two twin beds and a bathroom and that is it. One thing that is so wild though is the water pressure in the shower is amazing; it shoots out so fast and can get extremely hot or cold within a second. I love it.