Basketball players

American basketball players are not uncommon in Slovakia. Some even joined the national team

The first American basketball players came to play in Slovakia in the 90s.

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When Kyle Castlin was approached by Slovakian basketball club BKM Lučenec before the summer to join the team, having missed last season in America due to the pandemic, he didn’t have much to think about.

“I was delighted to have a team that believed in me and gave me the opportunity to come and play,” said the American basketball player. BKM Lučenec was the first club to call on him.

Previously, Castlin had played for college basketball teams and even the G League, the NBA’s minor league, in 2019. The club from south central Slovakia is Castlin’s first overseas stint, and he has no reason to complain. The humble and hard-working man has scored 181 points in nine games and is one of the best players in the Slovak Basketball League. His team, coached by American Daniel Sokolovsky, is also doing well. This is Sokolovsky’s first experience as a head coach.

“I hope we make the fans proud of our performance,” Castlin said, adding that the townspeople are friendly and the team have great chemistry, both on and off the pitch.

The player is hoping BKM Lučenec can win the title and make the city proud, but the team, ranked third in the November standings, still have a long way to go as they are at the start of the season. Moreover, twenty-one American players, in addition to Castlin and his two teammates Desure Buie and Che Bob, who play for seven other Slovak first division basketball clubs, have the same ambition.

American players in Slovakia since 1993

American players have joined Slovak clubs since the establishment of the top league in 1993, and some have even represented the Slovak national team. It is easy for clubs to sign them because the American market offers a lot of players; the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the United States generates thousands of young basketball players, but only a few make it to the NBA or top European leagues.

“The problem is to get a very good American player here within our budgetary limits,” said BKM Lučenec general manager Michal Matala, praising the brilliant work of the American players on the team and, in particular, the coach Sokolovsky.

The majority of American basketball players who come to Slovakia have so far played for universities or lower level leagues around the world. “The competition between American players is enormous,” basketball journalist Tomáš Prokop said. “Those from universities play in Slovakia mainly to build their stats and sell themselves to better leagues.” Therefore, having a bigger role in the squad is often the factor that can convince a player to join a Slovakian club.

However, when American players come to Europe, they must first master a new game. European basketball is different from the American version, not only in the technical details such as the size of the courts and the width of the pitch. painted area. The game in the United States is faster, while in Europe it is more tactical, said Prokop. He also believes teamwork is important on both sides of the Atlantic, although some argue that the NBA is very individualistic.

I try to be the best player I can be. The rest will take care of themselves.

Kyle Castlin, BKM Lučenec

Either way, to be competitive, Matala noted, having foreign players is essential. Ján Drobný, general manager of Eastern Slovakia team Iskra Svit, is also convinced that the American players have helped to improve the quality of the training process and the performance of Slovakian players.

However, speaking about the quality of Slovak basketball, Prokop pointed out a big problem: “Slovak clubs breed very few quality Slovak players, and legionaries have the upper hand on the pitch.” None of the Slovak players, in fact, appear in the ranking of the top 10 players.

Next season in Slovakia? May be

While players from the US and overseas make the nation’s best basketball league more attractive, it doesn’t necessarily translate into success for individual teams. Iskra Svit has four American players, but is struggling to come back from the bottom of the standings.

Tyrant Walker, one of the stars of Iskra Svit, has a lot of basketball experience around the world. He wanted to play basketball again in Europe, so he accepted an offer from the small club in Svit with a long basketball history.

“I really like this league. It’s competitive and it’s well recognized, ”said Walker, one of the league’s most efficient crosses. He doesn’t even mind living in a quiet little town. “The people are nice and really support the team,” said the player, “not to mention they have an amazing view of nature and mountain life. It’s one thing I’ll never forget about from this country.

What the future holds for American players currently playing in Slovakia is difficult to predict, but Castlin and Walker are open to another season in Slovakia. “You never know what tomorrow will bring, let alone next season,” said top BKM player Lučenec.

Marry a slovak woman

When American Andre Jones joined BC Prievidza for a season in 2016, he had no idea his life would change completely.

“I chose to play Prievidza because they were playing the FIBA ​​Europe Cup and the coach told me that I would have a big role in the team,” he said. When choosing a team, Jones also takes into account salary, team competitiveness and location, noting that the best teams he has ever played for were in Hungary and Italy.

Coming from where I grew up, not many people get away with it, let alone around the world to play for a national team.

Ty Walker, Iskra Svit

Although Jones didn’t have much time to explore Slovakia because he practiced a lot, he enjoyed his time in the country. He started drinking slivovica, a Slovakian spirit made from plums, and developed a liking to goulash and dumplings. Sometimes during the weekend he would go to local bars and meet his future Slovak partner in one of them.

“I ended up having a family so I never really felt alone or isolated,” said the GGMT Vienna goalkeeper.

Americans in the Slovakian national team

Additionally, Jones was granted a Slovak passport in 2017. Following in the footsteps of Americans Peter Lisicky and Kyle Kuric, who was named the best Slovakian basketball player in 2018 although he never played for a Slovak club, he also joined the Slovak national team.

“I played for the national team three years in a row honoring the contract I signed to get the passport,” the US-Slovakian player said, noting that he even missed the birth of his daughter for be able to play for the team. “It has been an absolute honor to help represent the country.”

If Walker was invited to join the Slovakian national team, which would be a rare opportunity, he said he would consider him: team. “

Over the years Slovakia has become a home from home for Jones where he discovered he has all the tools in him to be successful. Still, he would like to see the Slovak league grow and the government invest more money in basketball.

“There are a lot of talented young players in the country,” Jones said.

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