By PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — Brandon Wood doesn’t know where he’ll be playing basketball this fall. He’s not worried about it at all.
The former Kokomo Wildkat standout spent last season getting his feet wet in Europe with Alba Fehérvár in Hungary’s top division.
“To be honest, I couldn’t have asked for a better rookie season, as an individual and as a team,” Wood said.
Wood led Alba Fehérvár to the title in the Hungarian cup competition, and followed that with the biggest prize, the league championship. Wood was the finals MVP. It was the first time since 2000 that the franchise had won either — also taking both titles in 2000.
Wood led the team in scoring at 18.7 points per game while adjusting to a role as a full-time point guard.
“I was putting up numbers all year,” he said. “I did my job all year to the best of my ability. That’s thanks to the work I put in and the trust my coaches instilled in me. My coaches and teammates put me in position to be successful. Everyone who knows me knows I’m a scorer and I’m going to try to make plays. That’s just what I do and it worked. We won a championship. I’m anxious to see what’s next.”
What’s next is likely a move up in the ranks in Europe. His next move is still to be decided but he’s put himself in a spot where teams are calling his agent, Mike Naditch.
“His prospects sure have improved, certainly from when he was a rookie,” Naditch said. “Right now he’s a pretty hot item in Europe, mainly in Germany.
“It’s one of those things where he has won a championship and everyone knows it and it makes him more attractive. Hard to say if [a move will be for] a higher-level team, or a higher salary.”
While he still doesn’t know where he’ll end up next season, the unknown is filled with good options.
“[Naditch] is still negotiating with different teams in different countries,” Wood said, “but he’s let me know that I don’t have anything to worry about because I have a lot of options coming into this season, just with the success of my team last season and me as an individual.
“Having my rookie season in Europe under my belt, I know what to expect going into next year. I just feel good with the position I’m in, to be coming off a championship and have a chance to move up in the European ranks and continue to make my name over in Europe, and God-willing, I’ll still get my chance to play in the NBA. I’ll be ready for that ultimate goal whenever it comes.”
Wood is spending time with family in Arizona. He is working on his skills and waiting to see what happens. He got plenty of experience last season to build on.
“I showed I can play the point guard game, be a point guard, and play the pick and roll,” Wood said. “I know I still have work to put in, but I’m someone who is self-motivated and willing to put in that work.”
Wood joined Alba Fehérvár mid season after a stint with Macedonian squad MZT Skopje fizzled out. He rebounded quickly, latching on with the Hungarian squad and playing 43 games. Alba Fehérvár went 32-11 with Wood in the lineup, finishing with a victory over Szolnok in the best-of-five championship series in June. Wood scored 17 points in the clincher and added seven rebounds.
Alba Fehérvár is located in Székesfehérvár, Hungary, about 40 minutes southwest of the capital, Budapest. Playing there was a rich life experience.
“The fans are so involved,” Wood said. “I don’t know what they’re yelling, but they’re yelling at the refs the whole game, yelling at the players the whole game. You see how much they care — it fuels your fire. For somebody like me, being an American, only being there one year and seeing how much they care about me and how they accepted me, it made me want to bring the championship to their city even more.”
While at Alba Fehérvár, Wood had to adjust to European rules — including tighter calls on traveling — and live in a culture where only some people spoke English. He’s well versed in handling adjustments.
After finishing at Kokomo, Wood ended up playing for four colleges. He started at Southern Illinois and when that situation didn’t fit well, transferred to Highland Community College for a season. That led him to two seasons at Valparaiso, followed by a senior campaign at Michigan State. It’s not every player’s idea path, but Naditch said Wood’s ability to adapt helped him succeed this past season after his first opportunity didn’t work out.
“He makes it seem really easy but for other people, it might not have been so easy,” Naditch said. “He started out playing for another team, playing in the Adriatic League. He bounced. It wasn’t like he had this job handed to him. He had the courage to stick it out even though the first team didn’t work. Brandon’s really proud of his ability to integrate, to play in different situations.
“Maybe [his college journey] is a blessing in disguise. It’s a lesson to other kids if someone puts a wall in front of you, you can run through it. That’s what Brandon did.”