I was born in Cincinnati, but grew up in Union, Kentucky, just over the Ohio River, where my mother’s from. Living out in a small town, I had a pretty normal childhood.
My father inspired me to start playing basketball. He grew up with it and continued playing through college for the Northern Kentucky University team. He put the ball in my hands, and I’ve been playing ever since.
It was intimidating to move to Europe to pursue a career in basketball. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never been to Europe, but coming out of college, after playing for the university team—the Xavier Musketeers—for four years, my wife and I considered it as an option. We decided to come over here, make a little bit of money and some memories that would really stand out.
Back in 2007, I did the NBA pre-draft camp. Unfortunately, I didn’t get drafted, so instead of giving up on the game, we committed to moving abroad. I have no regrets. Being in new countries, stepping outside my comfort zone, the whole experience has taught me a lot about myself. Plus, learning about different cultures has been fun for both me and my wife.
My professional career started in France. I played there for three years, then bounced around Spain. I was in Alicante and Manresa, and then Valencia for two seasons, before signing with FC Barcelona Lassa as a power forward in July 2014.
Barcelona is the Mecca. It’s the top club in Europe, the cream of the crop. And there are expectations that come along with that. We’re expected to win. Basketball is like every sport in that you will have losses here and there, but at the same time, we have to get better and better as a team and continue to prove ourselves. At the end of the day, hopefully we will have a championship title under our belts.
Playing basketball in the States versus Europe is different when it comes to system and structure. When I played in college, the game was a little more fast-paced—getting up and down the court, pressuring the player with the ball and things like that—whilst in the NBA, it’s a lot of one-on-one, making for a very slow game. Here in Europe, it’s more technical and team-oriented and I think this system, which is not centred around one or two star individuals, fits my game better. But don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I’ll ever rule out the option of playing for the NBA.
I have a nickname that has followed me to Barcelona: Captain America. Back in Manresa years ago, my teammates were giving me a hard time. They wanted me to do something exciting after I dunked. This was around the time the movie Captain America came out. So one game, I went up for a dunk, landed back on the court and turned around to salute the audience. I guess I picked a pretty customary American gesture because they immediately started calling me ‘Captain America’. The name stuck with me through Valencia to here. I still salute after every dunk I make because the fans really seem to enjoy it, along with my teammates.
The city of Barcelona itself is definitely starting to feel like home. We’ve carved out a nice little niche in our community. We’re involved in a local church that’s close to where we live in Eixample. My daughter is going to school, a Catalan school in fact. She already speaks Spanish, and obviously we speak English at home, so now she’ll be learning her third language. During her first week at that school I asked how everything was going, with the teachers speaking Catalan and everything. She brushed it off, saying ‘It’s pretty similar to Spanish. It’s not a problem’. And I think that’s just great. I feel like both my kids are being raised in a truly special way, totally different to what their childhoods would have been like in the States.
Barcelona is also the perfect place to train for my second favourite pursuit: triathlons. The outdoors is one of my passions, and when you combine three sports into one and compete outside, it’s a lot of fun for me. About six years ago, I was watching the World Championships in Hawaii and became fascinated with the sport. The mental strength it takes to get through a race, to reach the finish line, is incredible. One summer, my wife and I decided to try one together. I was definitely one of the biggest guys out there, but it worked out well, and I’ve been hooked ever since. We each have a couple of friends who will join us in a race if they’re available, and that’s when the real competition starts. I admit my competitive nature isn’t confined to the basketball court. There’s a little trash talking that happens and things like that. But it’s all in good humour.
I try to do one or two triathlons each summer, you know, just to stay in shape. Being out on the open road, swimming laps in the open water—the whole regimen to prepare for a triathlon gives my mind a break from basketball. It helps me recharge my batteries and come back fresh for the next season.