Today we continue with our blog posts from our men and women playing overseas in our series of From Long Distance. This time we have Kyle Johnson joining us to give us his look into the pro life that we Canadian basketball fans rarely get to see and what's it's been like for this first year pro ...
What's up y'all!!
First of all, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, and best wishes for 2012. Second, I would like to thank Ray for the blog and the opportunity to share with others my experience.
My name is Kyle Johnson. I'm from Toronto, Ontario and attended West Hill CI. When talking about my basketball career, all I can say is it has been a grind! And many sacrifices had to be made.
After finishing high school, I received a basketball scholarship to play at Long Island University. I literally signed there two weeks before school started because I was not cleared due to the NCAA messing up my paperwork. I stayed there all four years and my school was great. It was right in the heart of Brooklyn, downtown Flatbush and Dekalb. (Editor's note - BK in the house!!!)
I chose to go to school in New York for many reasons but one of the main reasons were that I have a lot of family in New York City. My cousin Shaun Johnson was a Track and Field star who broke records at my school and I had a chance to play alongside my big bro Tyrone Mattison a.k.a. Turk. Big shout out to him. He showed me the ropes from day one and made things very comfortable for me as a freshman.
Within my four years, I was fortunate to play a lot and gain valuable experience. In my time at school, I can honestly say our teams were very close. I came in as a freshman when my school was in their rebuilding process. We ended up having a very good season that year, but more importantly we got stronger as the years went on.
In my senior year, we ended up winning our conference and making it to the NCAA tournament. We were 27-5 to finish off the season and ended up a 15 seed playing number 2 seed North Carolina in their hometown. We felt we deserved better then a 15 seed but that was up to the NCAA Committee to decide. It was one of the best experiences of my life to win a conference championship (first time in 14 years) and make it to the NCAA tournament for my senior year. (Editor's Note - Johnson is in the LIU Brooklyn record books for career points (11th) and rebounds (10th) among others.)
My senior year was capped off by another special moment, and that was the fact that I graduated on time with a Bachelors of Science in Business Management and Marketing with a minor in Sociology. Once again, the Blackbirds are very strong this year, and I pick them to win the NEC again this year!
College was great but it was definitely time to move on after four great years. I forgot to mention I am a dual citizen - I have Canadian as well as British Citizenship. I would like to give a special shout out to all my family and friends in the UK. Last summer was the best summer of my basketball career. I played with the Great Britain National Team alongside Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng and participated in Euro Basket 2011. We had the toughest group in the tournament and were not able to make it past our group as we finished 2-3. We beat Poland and Portugal but lost to Spain, Lithuania, and Turkey. Spain won the tournament and were highlighted by NBA guys Pau and Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, and Rudy Fernandez. Turkey was also very good as their team had Hedu Turkalou and Enes Kanter along with other NBA players. Overall, it was a great experience for me personally as one of the younger guys on the squad. In September as it was going on I was just living in the moment and trying to play my best basketball regardless of the competition and focusing on getting better each day. Now looking back at whom we played against and how confident I feel in my game now, that valuable experience helped a lot and I used it as I signed my first pro job in Greece.
After Euro basket, I took a couple weeks off to recover from a very long summer, which began with me playing with the Great Britain under 23 squad in early June and earning my way into the men's team by summer's end in September. I finally signed my first contract with Ilysiakos in Greece's top league. My team was located in Athens but my time there was short; it was only a month and a couple of weeks before we parted ways. I ended up signing right away with APOEL in Cyprus and I am here as we speak. (Editor's Note - stats were a little tough to find for the team but still jealous that he has sun.)
We are in the mix competing for a championship out here and have some very key games coming up over the next three weeks. I am really looking forward to that. I am learning that as a pro you have to manage your time well. You have a lot more free time compared to college because there are no classes. We practice twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. I go hard in practice; therefore, rest is key for me. No one can get in the way of my mid day naps lol....but I also started stretching a lot more and eating and drinking right because I want my body feeling good for every practice and especially games. For my down time I like to Skype my family and friends as well as play Call of Duty online and watch movies or TV shows. Right now, I am watching Dexter and this show is crazy. I'm mad it took me so long to get on but I always watched Prison Break and didn't feel anything could compare.
I feel like I am writing too much now ahahahaahah, so I'm going to wrap it up. I just want to thank everyone who took the time to read my blog post. I want to send a big shout of to fellow Canadians playing ball overseas Jermaine Anderson and Jevohn Shepherd (Editor's Note - Shepherd was a former From Long Distance blogger) for giving me valuable advice on how to handle the pro life overseas and go about finding a agent, etc. Also big shout out to Coach Wayne Dawkins for always having my back and making time to train me when I'm home. I was never one of the high profile guys coming out of Canada but I always knew that I was one of the hardest working individuals to play the game, and that is something no can take from me. For that reason I always play with a chip on my shoulder.
In my life I have had to sacrifice a lot and I want to shout out my mom Paulette Johnson for making sure I always had my head on straight and focused on the tasks at hand. (She never stopped reminding me about what's really important in life.) So far, I have enjoyed this long journey and look forward to whatever God has planned for my future. I truly am blessed and want to thank God for allowing me to stay injury free and experience what I experienced so far in my life and in my basketball career.
We want to thank Kyle for allowing us into his world. To follow him in his basketball adventures you can find him on Twitter @SmoothKJ88 for all his daily updates or you can find his APOEL games streaming online as well but remember the 5 hour time difference.