07 December 2011
Hey, this is Jasonn Hannibal -- baller form Toronto, Canada and now playing professionally in Polzela, Slovenia, in the UPC Telemach League. I’m a recent University of Portland graduate trying to realize the dream of playing ball in the big leagues.
I arrived in Slovenia in August and started practice fresh off the flight. As you can guess that wasn’t one of my best practices. Our training, strength and conditioning were a little different than I was used to but I started off doing alright, except for all of the body weight exercises we did.
Anyone can tell you that doing body weight stuff when you are 6-foot-10 and about 260 pounds isn’t easy, but I managed. Our team did well in preseason, only losing 2 games the whole time. Each day and every practice had its challenges as I tried to fit in on the team, play my game, and earn the respect from my teammates. The last time I had been on a brand new team was at the beginning of my college career and this time I wanted to take a different approach.
Some games I played really well, others not so much.
It wasn’t that our plays were hard or anything like that. I just had to adjust to how the game was played over here -- the tendencies of players and the speed and flow of the game. Coach would tell me when I improved as well as what needed more work. That constant reminder helped me to focus on what to try to get better at every day. It was a rough preseason for me because I felt as if I was always kind of hanging in the balance. My game didn’t have enough consistency. I think I was thinking too much and trying too hard to adjust to things instead of letting the game come to me.
Finally the season came around and I was feeling confident in my play, but little did I know things weren’t going to go exactly as I expected.
We won our first game against Maribor -- which was most important -- but I only had 3 points and 5 rebounds, which doesn’t look good for any import player playing anywhere. Then we played Elektra at their place and lost. I had no points in that game and 4 rebounds, so the pressure was building and I needed to do something quick because I could feel my teammates questioning my skill as a player. I only averaged 3 points and 1 rebound my senior year in Portland. I had something to prove and so far I wasn’t doing it.
We lost the next game to Rogaska at home. It was a close game but one we were supposed to win. They just came out with the heat that night. I had 6 points and 5 rebounds in that contest. I was getting better every game little by little so things were looking up, although we needed to start winning. The next game we got a good win against Mercator. They hadn’t won a game yet, so that was good for our record and confidence -- another game with 6 points and 4 rebounds but I played a better game in general. Our next game was the toughest that far. Number one ranked Helios, who was undefeated, at home. I came in ready to ball crazy out the game and give them their first loss, but we got blown out sadly enough. Again, I posted 6 points and 5 rebounds. The following home game against Sentjur was a winnable game against a very good team. I had the mindset that I was going to do what I could to help out team win. With my confidence on the rise I wasn’t going let anyone stop me. Within the second quarter I already had 9 points in 10 minutes, four dunks and one free throw, and I got fouled trying to dunk – finished with 10 points in 13 minutes, but we lost that game too.
I was playing well and being aggressive so things could only get better. Even though our record didn’t show how good of a team we were, I knew it was just a matter of time before we all got on the same page and started stacking dubs.
An easy win against Parklji was my best game to that point -- 13 points and 7 rebounds. I had finally adjusted to how things were over here and it couldn’t happen at a better time. We had to face Lasko at home -- another top team in our league. At this point in the season we were 3-4 and they were 4-3. A win would put us in a very good position to move up in the rankings, so I was hyped and came out shooting fire. In 31 minutes played, I finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, in a tough loss.
I was so upset. I thought we should have won. It was close the whole game but it got away from us at the end. I came out of that game viewed in a new light. My team respected my skills and I was accepted with a days before we play again on Saturday and try to get our win count up.
Jasonn Hannibal is in his rookie season playing professional basketball in Polzela, Slovenia, which competes in the UPC Telemach League. A 2011 graduate of the University of Portland, Hannibal helped the Pilots reach the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals in 2010 and 2011. His “Live From Slovenia” column is featured with Beyond the Beat, and you can also find Jasonn on YouTube ("Its Jasonn...) and follow him on Twitter at @featuringBigJay.
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