By Ellie Lieberman
Drew Gordon has played for professional basketball teams in Serbia, Italy, Turkey, France, Lithuania, Russia and Poland, not to mention in the NBA and G-League. He’s seen the Eiffel Tower and Milan, and carved out a niche himself in the VTB United League in Russia, in which he’s played here for three years on four different teams. He’s averaging 15.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this year in the league, and is here to explain just the grittiness of play overseas.
“There are a lot of respectable teams… it’s just more challenging to play here,” Gordon said of life in the VTB League. “You don’t play the same amount of games as in the NBA so every game is a bit more crucial.”
Of the current talents in the VTB League, they include Nigel Williams-Goss, Errick McCollum, Kevin Pangos and formerly Andrei Kirilenko.
“It’s fun to see everyone is still pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional basketball player,” Gordon said.
The physicality and ruggedness of the game in Europe is something that Gordon says has helped improve his game. In particular, he feels his decision making “has taken leaps and bounds” and also credits the competitive pay for giving an edge to his court vision as a whole.
Intensity of the league and greater EuroCup landscape aside, Gordon is the first to admit that playing overseas can be challenging especially without family and friends, and in sub-zero weather.
“Make sure you love what you do. The grind over here especially in the dead of winter and you’re away from your family and friends for a significant amount of time, unless you love what you do and know basketball is what you want to do, buckle up. It’s definitely rewarding if you can get your mindset right and appreciate the different places you’re going because you’re literally getting paid to travel which is a huge perk. I saw a lot of parts of the world that I likely wouldn’t have been to,” Gordon said.
Playing overseas has the duality of giving way to amazing travel experiences like Gordon describes when he speaks about going from Moscow to the Eiffel Tower in a matter of hours. With that said, it doesn’t mean it’s not lonely at times. Most teams are structured with a practice in the morning and evening and free time in the day, if it’s not a game day, and that means staying busy in other ways. Gordon is currently working on getting his real estate license.
Though Gordon has no questions asked, made the most of his time overseas and adapted to each new landscape, he doesn’t sugar-coat the experience. Instead he urges players to think about what motivates them when times get tough.
“There’s a reason why you’re over here. You’re playing for the love of basketball but you’re also playing for your family and trying to set your kids up for good things later in life. If you’re having a bad day and reflecting on your “why” and why you’re over here helps a lot.”
Perspective has taken Gordon to great heights while playing overseas and his steady mindset will not only propel him but many others who follow in his footsteps.
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