A pair of local hoopsters who squared off against each other in high school found professional opportunities overseas this week when former Kokomo standout Brandon Wood and former Tipton standout Derek Elston signed with teams in Europe.
Wood is in his second season in Europe and will play for Affrico Basket Firenze in the Italian second division after leading Hungarian squad Alba Fehérvár to a domestic league championship last season. Elston has signed to play with Floriana Francesco French Greens in the Maltese basketball league.
A strong season capped with an MVP turn in the championship series last June put Wood in a position to move up a rung on the European basketball ladder. After weighing offers with agent Mike Naditch, Wood selected the Firenze squad, located in the city of Florence.
“Oh man, I have to start by saying God is great, just to be blessed in this position to be coming off a successful season and have another job opportunity lined up,” Wood said. “My agent, he’s been negotiating the last couple months and putting offers in front of me and seeing what I think. We’ve been going through them and seeing the positive and possible negatives no matter what the place may be and the possible money may be, just trying to find the right situation for my goals.”
The move to Italy was the most attractive option. Firenze earned promotion to Italy’s second division. Italy is one of the hotbeds of European basketball.
“I have a lot of friends who played in Italy. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the league,” Wood said. “It’s a very competitive league, very well respected. They are real competitive, have a lot of good players, they like to get up and down a lot so that really suits my game.”