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Ryan Broekhoff: On being a Boomer, Turkish All-Star, and what lies beyond
Ryan Broekhoff might not be a familiar name to you - yet.
Broekhoff: All-American, Boomer, Eurocup player and Turkish All-Star. As recently as twelve months ago, even the most ardent Australian basketball fan could be forgiven for knowing very little about the 24 year old Broekhoff, who hails from Melbourne's Mornington Peninsula.
Ryan enjoyed a decorated collegiate career representing Valparaiso, gained All-American honours in 2012, and was a starter for the Australian Boomers at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He is currently a big part of the European basketball scene, playing with Besiktas Integral Forex Istanbul in Turkey. Needless to say, the dynamic swingman has not taken a backward step in his journey towards excellence.
The college years
His 4 years of experience were capped by an All-American selection for his dominant 2012 campaign where he averaged 15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists en route to guiding the Crusaders to its first NCAA March Madness tournament in seven years. View image | gettyimages.com Broekhoff developed into one of college basketball's most reliable and consistent performers during his senior year, and often played well above his 6'7 frame as a power forward, despite being undersized.
The big shot
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he former Frankston Blues junior will be fondly remembered by most at Valparaiso for the crazy fadeaway buzzer beater in the Horizon League tournament semi-final against Green Bay-Wisconsin. It was the type of shot that most kids dream about and act out in the driveways and playgrounds the world over. That miracle shot carried the Crusaders to the conference championship game in his senior year - a game which they would ultimately go on to win.
"That is a moment I will never forget and what every kid dreams of," Broekhoff said of the game-winner. "There was no long celebration or anything because we had the championship game the next day and if we didn't win then it was all for nothing."
What it delivered was not only a memory that will stay with him forever; it enabled the young man from bayside Melbourne the opportunity to live every collegiate basketball players dream and play in the coveted NCAA Tournament.
Representing Australia on the world stage
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]espite such an impressive college resume, it was his meteoric rise from being possibly cut at training camp, to his selection to the starting five for the Boomers at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He pushed ahead off peers like Dante Exum for a starting spot, launching the former AIS graduate onto the international stage.
Broekhoff started six games, putting up averages of 7.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1 assist per game as Australia's campaign came to an end with a eight finals defeat at the hands of Turkey. The swingman's deadly perimeter shooting proved to be a highly valued asset for the Boomers.
The Victorian said the tournament was a massive learning experience, and despite the disappointing end to the competition, the honour of representing his country in such a high-profile tournament was an experience that he will cherish forever.
"Representing Australia at a major event like the World Cup was a huge dream of mine," he said of the campaign. "Not knowing if I would make the team to earning a starting spot in the World Cup was a huge honour and privilege that will never forget and will always cherish."
"The tournament didn't end like we wanted, but to wear the green and gold and perform like we did is very special to me."
Australian talent boom
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ustralian basketball is in the midst of a talent boom, with a strong contingent of Aussies in the NBA. Stars like Andrew Bogut, Dante Exum, Joe Ingles, along with NBA champions Patty Mills and Aron Baynes are all national team representatives. Let us not forget about veterans like Brad Newley, David Andersen and of course Broekhoff plying their trade around Europe.
Add projected number one draft pick Ben Simmons to the fold and the talent at the disposal of the Boomers cannot be disputed. When asked if this could be the greatest era of Australia basketball when it's all said and done, Broekhoff was quick to point out talent could only take one so far, and called for his fellow Boomers to commit to the cause.
"It very well could be (our greatest era), but we have a long way to go before our generation can be compared to the 90s and early 2000s with the likes of Gaze, Heal, Longley and many others," replied Broekhoff.
To distinguish themselves from previous generations of Australian basketball, Broekhoff believes the current Boomers need to prove themselves, and excel in the international scene.
"There is a great talent in this group coming through, but to separate our generation we need to medal in a major international competition," he said. "I believe it will happen if all (of us) stay healthy and buy into the Boomers program."
When asked about the similarities between himself and Joe Ingles, the humble Broekhoff was flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ingles: veteran Boomer, and current NBA starter with the Utah Jazz.
"Joe is an amazing player, so to say that is an honour," stated Broekhoff. "I'm a quiet guy but I got to know Joe during the World Cup and he is someone I would go to advice for."
"Joe is a great guy, and one to lighten the mood when needed, but when it comes down to business he is as smart and professional as I have seen. We play a similar position and he has played in big leagues in Europe and been in the national team, so he is someone I would look to for advice and guidance being new to it all."
A Turkish All-Star
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]roekhoff is currently in his second year of professional basketball, now playing a starring role for Turkish Eurocup team Besiktas Integral Forex Istanbul. After a period of adjustment from the collegiate level to professional basketball, the youthful star has earned the trust of the coaching staff.
"Personally, I had an up and down year in my first season," Broekhoff outlined. "Being a rookie and new to the European style, it took some time to adjust and gain my coaches trust and earn my minutes."
Broekhoff went on to add that he has made the most of the opportunities that have been presented to him and managed to close out last season strongly.
"When provided with a chance, you have to play well," shared Broekhoff . "There were some injuries which you never want to see happen and I was presented with some chances to show what I can do and thankfully I made the best of them. I finished last season strongly and so did the team."
This season Broekhoff has been an important player for Besiktas in advancing to the Last 32 in Eurocup. He has been providing 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting a deadly 50.8% from distance and 59.5% from the field. In the Turkish Basketball League, he has been delivering even better numbers consisting of 11.1 points, 6.4 rebounds per game. There is no doubting his influence on a team that is battling to remain in contention in both competitions.
Broekhoff admitted that moving from the comfortable surroundings of the college basketball program where he spent four years, to the often hostile basketball crowds in Turkey and across Europe took some adjustment. He explained that the move has taught him some valuable life lessons.
"Obviously living in a country where English isn't the main language, you really learn independence," said Broekhoff. "You don't have the same support systems as in college, you really learn to adapt in this situation."
The challenge of playing against grown men proved to be a big, but necessary transition for Broekhoff. More than 18 months later, he has worked hard to become an elite three-point shooter while being able to contribute at both ends of the court. He is shooting the three ball at an elite level, no small testament to his work ethic, and something he believes stems from his mother who was also a basketball player.
"Mum is an amazing woman who showed me what hard work is," replied Broekhoff. "She is an amazing woman who raised four kids on her own whilst working, cooking, cleaning and driving us to all our sporting events."
As for his on-court improvement, Broekhoff attributes it all to his dedication to the sport, and a desire to get better each and every day.
"I am my own toughest critic," he explains. "Mistakes I make during games and practice stay with me and eat at me until I find a way to fix them. Fixing them usually means working on them in the gym or on the court. If I don't work at it, then I would just go crazy with frustration."
When asked about the hostile Turkish crowds, Broekhoff was complimentary of the fans.
"The Turkish fans are some of, if not the most passionate fans I have seen," he said. "All game long they are cheering and chanting. There have been flares thrown and fights between rival clubs at games. It's an amazing atmosphere to play in front of, as you can feed off their energy and enthusiasm."
Broekhoff has certainly generated a lot of enthusiasm from the Besiktas fans over such a short period when players are often traded and change teams on a regular basis. One such enthusiastic fan has adopted his name as a Twitter handle and regularly shares the praise of Broekhoff and his on court achievements.
— yigit (@ryanbroekhoff) February 7, 2015
Right now, the good-natured Broekhoff has become a genuine fan favourite, with social media exploding whenever he has a good game, which is more often than not. His outstanding season to date culminated in his selection to the 2015 Turkish League All Star game as part of the European team. With rumours circulating that he is being recruited by a number of Euroleague teams for next season, there is no ceiling in sight as to just how far he can elevate his game.
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]roekhoff continually does his best in establishing himself as a professional basketball player. Not only in the Turkish league and Eurocup, but also as a Boomer. He hopes that he might one day fulfill his dream of playing in the NBA.
"I have hopes, like all kids, to play in the NBA some day," expressed Broekhoff as he discussed his NBA chances. "If one day I am good enough, then who knows, but I will just continue to work hard and put myself in positions to be successful."
Right now, Ryan is focused on becoming a better basketball player, working within his immediate role and living up to his responsibilities with Besiktas.
"There has been some (NBA) interest recently, but to actually earn a contract with a team is a long way off. I am just trying to concentrate on my season at hand and trying to improve myself each day, all the rest will take care of itself." - Ryan Broekhoff
There is no doubt that the sweet-shooting, versatile small forward has a bright future ahead and will continue to make the most of his opportunities.