Husky legend Jon Brockman was nice enough to spend a few minutes with me over the weekend. We talked about all things hoops including his experience playing in Europe, thoughts on his UW career and the all-important decision to play on my spring rec league team.
Paul Somerstein: First of all, really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me – let’s start with what you’re up to now. How did it all come about?
Jon Brockman: It’s my pleasure – I’ve actually been in France since November. The rest of the guys on my team got here in August and started playing in October. But do you want to hear about the eye injury? That’s how it started.
PS: Sure. We got some coverage of it in Seattle, but I don’t know if they really touched on the severity of it.
JB: Yeah – it was bad. I got traded to Houston over the summer. The first day I was there, we were stretching for a big man workout. It was a stretch I’ve done pretty much every day since I was in middle school; we did it before every game at UW, with the elastic bands. As I was stretching, the band rolled off my foot and hit both of my eyes. Lights out immediately. I couldn’t see anything. They rushed me to the hospital, and the doctors honestly didn’t know if I was going to recover. The left one actually got better in a few days, but the right one took the brunt of the blow. I couldn’t see out of it for three weeks. Eventually the vision started coming back. I spent a week in the hospital in Houston, and then had to go to Los Angeles to see a specialist at UCLA. After they sent me home, I still had to go to LA once a week for checkups with the doctors.
PS: Wow. That’s brutal.
JB: It was the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me. I was by myself in Houston, no friends or family. I couldn’t see to use a phone to call or text anybody. Finally the trainers got a hold of my parents and they came to Houston, but it took two or three days for them to get in to town. It was pretty rough for a little while.
PS: I can’t imagine. So then how did the French opportunity develop?
JB: Well, the doctors cleared me in November, and by that time Houston had waived me. I hadn’t gone through training camp with them, so that’s how that happened. I could have waited around for a bit to see if other NBA teams called, but they had just finalized their rosters and I was tired of waiting around. The first offer that came was from France.
PS: How long was it between getting the offer and going to Europe?
JB: It happened fast, I think four days between hearing about it and getting to France. My agent, Greg Lawrence, called me and said you have an offer from a French team and sent me all the info about the team and city. He also told me I had one day to make a decision. I thought it over and talked about it with my family – it helped that my dad played professionally for a year in France in 1977 after he graduated from SPU. He loved it over there, and I always remember him talking about the culture and how if I ever got an opportunity to play in Europe, he hoped it would be in France. I also knew of a few of the Americans on the roster, so it seemed like a good fit.
PS: How is the European game different from the NBA? We hear that the bigs in Europe love to float on the perimeter and don’t like to bang down low.
JB: Honestly, all of the four-men in the NBA can stretch the perimeter and shoot it pretty well. The biggest thing here is the spacing. There is no defensive three seconds in Europe and the key is so compact. There is not nearly as much space to work with. The French league is also known for being fast paced and up-tempo – teams love to get up and down. That really fit with what I was used to doing in college.
PS: And what about you? How is your role different here than when you were in the NBA?
JB: I am mostly playing like I did in college. In the NBA, I was a role player. I came in, gave a guy a break, and then came back out; here, I’m playing 30 minutes a game. I get into the flow of the game. If I make a mistake, it’s ok, because I know I am getting more minutes and more possessions. It really just allows me to go play like always have.
PS: Since you’ve been there, have you heard from any other NBA teams?
JB: I haven’t heard from the NBA or other teams in Europe. My team hasn’t even discussed next year. It’s ok though – I am looking forward to getting home, doing some fishing and relaxing before I start training again. Then I’ll worry about next year.
PS: Makes sense. What has the hardest transition been for you in Europe?
JB: Hardest part has been the distance. Being away from what you know. It’s really hard to communicate with friends and family, just dealing with the time difference – even in setting up this interview, we had to coordinate, “Ok, 8:00 p.m. my time is 11:00 a.m. your time…” I think that is where most guys who come to Europe are going to struggle with. You’re so displaced from what you’re used to at home.
PS: What’s helped you overcome that?
JB: The American’s on the team are awesome. They are great teammates and great people. Kyle McAlarney (Notre Dame), Teddy Gibson (Arkansas) and Brad Wannamaker (Pitt) are all on my team, and they have been really welcoming. For instance, today we all went and played golf. It makes it a lot easier when you can be with guys you enjoy. We have a lot of free time on our hands, we only practice four hours a day and then we have the rest of the day to ourselves.
That does it for part one of the sit-down with Jon, we will have part two up in the coming days. It focuses more on looking back and looking forward!