The National Basketball Association is the mecca of professional basketball. It’s where a vast majority of basketball players hope to end up.Feb 6, 2014; Provo, UT, USA; Santa Clara Broncos forward Jerry Brown (0) dunks the ball into the basket while Brigham Young Cougars guard Matt Carlino (2) goes for the block during the first half at Marriott Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Although the NBA features the best collection of basketball players in the world, only a microcosm of people will end up on a roster by the time their careers are exhausted. Despite the nature of NBA, which is reserved for the elite basketball players – many people, fans and players alike – look at professional basketball as ‘NBA or bust.’ Other leagues, such as the D-League and the European Leagues are vastly overlooked, although the players compete at an extremely high level.
In a niche conference such as the West Coast Conference, NBA players are few and far between. Sure, players like Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills and Kelly Olynyk are carving out decent niches for themselves since joining, but they are rare cases.
Take Omar Samhan, for example. Samhan was a dominant center for Saint Mary’s in his college career, leading the Gaels to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2010. SMC’s former star has since played in Lithuania, Egypt, Germany and the Phillipines since his illustrious collegiate career came to an end.
Several former WCC players have taken a similar path to Samhan, including former Santa Clara forward Jerry Brown, who currently plays for Basket Club Gries Oberhoffen (BCGO), a team based out of Gries, France.
Brown competed for the Broncos in the 2013-2014 season, leading the team in rebounding with 5.5 per contest. The Richmond, California native played for the Broncos for only one season, as he transferred to SCU after exhausting three years of eligibility and completing his bachelor’s degree at Fresno State.
Although many people associate transfer players as being disgruntled at their previous schools, that was far from the case for Brown. Instead, he had academic interests that fueled his transition from a Bulldog to a Bronco.
“You have the opportunity to go to a school like Santa Clara and I kind of was thinking beyond basketball when I made that decision,” Brown said. “It was a school that I felt like could offer me a lot academically and athletically. I had the opportunity to go to school, get my master’s and do a lot of things a lot of people really wish they could do… I maximized my last year of college basketball.”
Brown wasn’t the star of the team, but he proved to be a nice complement to an already potent backcourt consisting of Brandon Clark and Jared Brownridge. However, Brown was the team’s go-to-scorer in the post with 7.6 points per game and an efficient one at that, as he connected on 58.0 percent of his shots in his lone season at Santa Clara.
When Brown’s college eligibility was finished, professional basketball appeared to be the next step. The 6-foot-7 forward participated at the Scorer’s 1st classic, a showcase for profession coaches and scouts across the globe, and generated interested. Ultimately, Brown was signed by BCGO, a team in France’s fourth division, the Nationale Masculine 2 (NM2).
BGCO is one of the better teams in its league, as it has finished no worse than fourth in group D of the NM2 (the league is split up into four groups) in the past six seasons. Currently, BCGO is fourth in group D with a 14-7 record, with four games remaining.
Brown said his experience with his new club has been enjoyable so far, although it is much different from what he is accustomed to.
“I really like it out here,” Brown said. “It’s a lot different than college and it’s a lot different from Santa Clara and Fresno state, but it’s been a good experience. I’m really enjoying myself.”
One of the most prominent challenges that Brown has been faced with since his arrival is the language barrier, especially from a communication standpoint.
“At first that was a tough adjustment for me,” Brown said. “When you don’t quite understand people, your coaches in particular, you are a step slow.”
However, Brown has been working with a translator and is picking up the language slowly but surely.
“I had a translator who helped me through the whole process,” Brown said. “I’ve been here eight months and I pretty much have all the basketball language down pact. I can communicate and understand what’s happening on the court.”
Culture shock is just one of the components of Brown’s move to France that has been a challenge in the early stages. The style of basketball played in the NM2, according to Brown, is vastly different from that played in other parts of the world.
“It’s very different from other European style of basketball because it’s really up and down,” Brown said. “There are a lot of athletes in our league and it’s a lot of transition and a lot of pressure defense.”
In addition to the overall style of play, Brown has had to take on a completely new role with his new team.
“When were on offense, I’m forced to make a lot of different decisions with the ball,” Brown said. “At Santa Clara, that wasn’t really my role on the team. We had guys that could do that, that wasn’t my job. But here, I’m making a lot different decisions with the ball, driving and kicking.”
However, Brown has not lost sight of the attribute that made his game work in the collegiate level at Santa Clara: his tenacity, something that he has integrated into his new role in France.
“I’m still the aggressive player I’ve always been, I always will continue to be, but now it’s my job to read the offense and play the point forward position,” Brown said. “It’s something that I have embraced and I have thrived in so far this season. My coaches trust me with the ball, my teammates trust me with the ball and they trust me to make plays. It means a lot to me.”
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According to Brown, the experience transferring from FSU to SCU helped him greatly in his transition to his current club overseas.
“I really learned how to play under different circumstances, which is something you have to do here, you have to be able to adapt here,” Brown said.
In regards to the NBA, that dream is not completely dead for Brown. However, Brown isn’t fixated on making it there. Rather, he is looking to make the most of the opportunities that are presented in front of him.
“My ultimate goal is to play at the highest level of basketball period,” Brown said. “As a basketball player you always have this dream to play at the highest level and you always believe in yourself that with the right situation you can put yourself there… I’m looking forward to the rest of my career and I think that I have a bright future ahead of me.”
No matter what the future holds for Brown, one thing is for sure; he is happy and grateful in France, and for the SCU graduate that’s all that he can ask for.