Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

January 24, 2013

Wood enjoying European experience

Former Wildkat playing professionally in Hungary.

When Brandon Wood embarked on the journey to begin his professional basketball in July, he thought he would be adding an extra element to an already established club in Macedonia.

While it didn’t quite turn out that way, it did turn about as well as Wood could have asked for. Now, he’s the go-to player on a division-leading squad in Hungary that appears primed to win a league championship.

He originally signed with Macedonia’s KK MZT Skopje of the Adriatic League over the summer, but left the team after the preseason after he and management mutually agreed that his skill set would better fit a team elsewhere.

“My time spent in Macedonia was great,” Wood explained. “Following a very productive training camp and preseason where I found myself in the best shape of my life, the head coach and management from [KK MZT Skopje] decided that they wanted to go in a different direction and didn’t want a scoring guard, but more of a pass-first guard, so they released me and I became a free agent.

“Just by talking to different people such as my agent and other professional basketball players who took the European route, I knew that American players being released and moved around is very common until you find the perfect fit,” Wood continued. “About a week of down time passed where I continued to workout and condition before my agent text [messaged] me and told me he had a new job for me and to be at the airport the following morning to head to Hungary.”

From there, Wood headed to Szekesfehervar, the ninth-largest city in Hungary situated 40 miles southwest of the capital, Budapest, where he would begin his pro career with Albacomp of the Hungary First League.

Wood began to turn heads immediately.

Albacomp leads Hungary First League’s A Division with a 14-3 record as of Wednesday, with Wood at the forefront.

The Kokomo High School product leads the team in scoring at 19.9 points per game, which ranks eighth in the league. His average of 3.4 assists per game is second on the team, giving Albacomp, which is looking for its first Hungary League championship since 2000, a huge boost.

The Hungary League playoffs begin in April.

“For pretty much my entire career I’ve been the go-to guy on several different teams,” Wood said. “So for me to develop and continue to grow into the player that I have here for Albacomp was exactly what I expected of myself, and [it’s] a credit to my teammates who accepted me and my role from my first day here, and a dedicated agent and trainers who invested several hours into me to be fully prepared for my rookie season.”

Although he’s had to deal with overcoming the language barrier, Wood, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University and master’s degree from Michigan State University, says his time in Europe has allowed him to broaden his horizons and experience a new culture.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I am a well-rounded person who enjoys experiencing different and new things,” he said. “Before I came to Europe I told myself that along with getting the chance to experience European basketball I also wanted to experience just as much off the court. Seeing historical places, trying traditional foods, learning different languages, and growing a bond with people of all ages from a different part of the world are some the things I would say I’m doing to continue my growth as a person.

“Starting my career by traveling and experiencing another culture while playing the game that I love for a living is an amazing feeling and I can now truly see all the hard work I’ve put in is finally paying off,” he added.

Wood hopes his performance in Europe will land him a chance to play in the NBA’s summer league once he returns to the United States in May.

Either way, Wood plans to start the Brandon Wood Elite Basketball camp early this summer in Kokomo, where high school teammate and former Butler University player Alex Anglin will help Wood coordinate the specifics of the event.

Giving back to the community of Kokomo, a community he says made him who is he today, is high on Wood’s priority list.

“We always need more people who are doing positive things in life to give people someone to look up to so I feel honored to be in the position I’m in to give back,” he said. The best feeling is putting a smile on someone’s face and knowing that you may have just made their day by something as simple as saying ‘hello.’

“Throughout my life I have been through plenty of ups an downs in my basketball career, as well as life in general. To the people who have supported my journey before it even started and on through the good times and the bad, I would like to say I appreciate you. And, without your steady words of encouragement and prayers, my family and I wouldn’t be where we have made it to today, so thank you all so very much. If I [can] help any of you all out in any way I definitely will.”

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