Brad Reese’s basketball journey first took him from Laurel Hill to Southeast Louisiana, Gulf Coast Community College and Texas Tech University.
In recent years, that journey for the 2006 Laurel Hill graduate has taken him halfway around the world.
Last season, the 6-foot-7, 200-pound athlete played professionally in Spain. This year, Reese has taken his skills to the Czech Republic League; he plays Usti Nad Labem’s shooting guard.
To say the former Hobo star has made his presence felt on his new team would be an understatement.
Through 20 games, Reese led the team in scoring with 16.9 points per game and minutes played 30, was second in rebounding with 6.5 rebounds per game and blocked shots (.6 per game) and third in steals with 1.8 per game.
His best game of the season was on Nov. 7, when he scored 35 and had 12 rebounds against Decin.
Life as a professional basketball player — and newlywed, as he married last summer — agrees with Reese.
“I’m doing pretty good,” he said during a recent phone interview. “We are struggling as a team right now, but other than that, I’m actually playing pretty well. I’m playing OK, but what’s been tough is we’ve had three different coaches this year.
“I’ve been working trying to keep my career going right and just trying to play good basketball. My whole life, I dreamed of playing ball professionally either in the NBA (National Basketball Association) or overseas. I’ve been trying to get that going and keep getting better each and every day and trying to support my family.”
Reese sees his year in Spain as being a positive experience, even though he didn’t see as much playing time as he would have liked.
“The team in Spain was a veteran club that had been playing together a while and I was one of the younger players,” he said. “I had to earn their respect first and I just never got the right shot to do it. But Spain, overall, is a really good basketball country.
“It is probably the best basketball country in Europe, by far. They just do things good professionally, and the style of basketball is just really good. Coming from Texas Tech to Spain, I could see similarities. It was really good basketball, talent-wise.”
The most difficult thing about his rookie season in Spain was the adjustment of being so far from home for the first time and learning how to play European-style basketball, Reese said.
“They call the travel more so you have to get used to that,” Reese said. “But other than that, it’s just getting comfortable in the situation that you are in. That’s the hardest thing: being away from home and getting used to the new situation and being comfortable in the country you are in.
“You miss your family and the language barrier can be tough. On the court, basketball is basketball. Since I was a young kid, I’ve played basketball and I do not think that’s changed.”
The European game is a little more physical than the one played in the United States, Reese said.
“In Spain, it was real physical,” he said. “Spain was more physical than the Czech Republic, that’s for sure.
“They let you bang in the post and hand check a lot, but you’ve just got to get used to it. Playing and practicing, you get use to it pretty quick.”
Although Reese and his bride, Brooke, honeymooned in Jamaica, he said they are enjoying the opportunity to have an extended honeymoon of sorts in the Czech Republic.
“I’ve got my wife with me and she’s enjoying it. We actually live pretty close to Prague, and it’s one of most beautiful places in Europe with all the old castles and bridges,” he said.
“It’s a different experience for both of us with the different culture and everything. And we are just trying to have fun and experience everything right now.”
The transition to the Czech Republic hasn’t been bad, as far as having to learn the language, Reese said.
He’s near the German border and the German and Czech people in the region speak English as a common language. His coach also speaks English, as do his teammates.
He has still tried to learn the basics so he can ask for directions or thank someone. And while Reese took four years of Spanish in school, he’s not ready to tackle Czech, which is considered one of the hardest European languages to learn.
Reese is embracing the Czech culture, too.
“It’s totally different from Florida and Texas,” he said. “Being here is real cool because everybody’s so down to earth. Everything is so much slower in the Czech Republic.
“Everybody just kind of goes slow and there’s not much really going on. I’m just trying to enjoy it. Playing ball in Europe has been my dream so I try to take the good with the bad and just know that I’m doing what I want to do for a living in playing basketball.
“And it’s just a blessing.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524