A former Purdue men’s basketball player has had to make adjustments on and off the court after signing a professional contract in Germany.
D.J. Byrd signed a contract with the Kirchheim Knights, a team in the Pro A German league. He has averaged 17.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in Kirchheim’s first two games.
He said the level of competition in Germany isn’t as strong as what he faced in the Big Ten.
“Basketball isn’t as popular of a sport over here (in Germany) as it is in the states,” Byrd said. “Our games here consist of loud crowds, drums and chants, but at a much smaller scale. Our home games consist of about 1,500 people, but they all participate in the craziness, so our gym is like one big pep block.”
Byrd said the language barrier from English to German hasn’t been as difficult as people might expect.
“Most people here speak enough that I can communicate with them,” Byrd said. “Occasionally I will have to call one of my teammates over to translate, but other than that it’s been pretty easy. I’ve learned some German words, but not anywhere close to being able to communicate effectively.”
The head coach of the Knights, Branislav Ignjatovic, has a limited English vocabulary, but knows enough that Byrd understands what he wants him to do. Most of what Ingjatovic says in practice is basketball lingo, which Byrd said makes game preparation easier.
Byrd has been in contact with former Purdue teammates while in Germany, including Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer. He met up with Grant, who also plays basketball in Europe, after their two teams met in the preseason.
Grant, who currently plays in Germany’s highest level of basketball, the Basketball Bundesliga (or BBL), said Byrd’s game should be able to translate to the European style of basketball.
“He’s a stretch four and can shoot the ball,” Grant said. “He has quickness and can get to the basket, so that causes match-up problems; some fours here can shoot the ball but aren’t very agile.”
Purdue head coach Matt Painter’s strong defensive principles will help Byrd as well, according to Grant.
“If your shot’s not falling that day, and there’s going to be more times than not when it’s not, play defense,” Grant said. “The different things that coach put us through to see how we would react mentally and physically will translate well over here for him.”
The Knights have played five games so far in the 2013-14 season and have a record of 2-3. Byrd has been the same three-point threat that he was at Purdue, making 9 of 13 three-pointers in Kirchheim’s first two games. He’s struggled from inside the arc, however, shooting only 3 of 12.
“In the preseason, we played a couple of first-league teams, both from Germany and Switzerland, and I felt like I had a good showing,” Byrd said.
Byrd has ambitions of playing in the Bundesliga, but said that his current league is a good place for a European rookie to start even though the current level isn’t very high-budget.
“I really feel I can play a role on a first-league team in the future,” Byrd said. “Right now I’m focused on this season and winning this league, which will give me the best opportunity.”