Promising forward Venky Jois has signed his first professional contract, agreeing to terms with Estonian club Tartu Ulikool Rock.
Jois, who starred across 4 years at Eastern Washington in the NCAA's Big Sky Conference is looking forward to the new challenge ahead. While the exciting 6'8 forward impressed in NBA workouts with the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors, he ultimately went undrafted. He will look to improve his NBA chances in Europe with Estonia's best team that is aiming for a spot in Europe's new Basketball Champions League.
"I think I need to demonstrate and provide evidence of my ability to shoot, and have that on paper," said Jois in speaking with The Pick and Roll.
"A lot of the people in the workouts would brand you straight away. It was kind of like - he is a mid-major, high points, no three-point shot. I kind of got stereotyped as a low-post, back to the basket big man. It was annoying at first, but I was being measured against players from major conferences."
"I just need to deliver in Europe now, and once I do, I will be able to demonstrate my value and eliminate the mid-major stigma."
With a focus on the NBA, he now knows what he has to do to get there.
"The goal right now is still the NBA," added Jois. "I know what I have to do, the numbers I have to put up. Through that, bigger European teams will jump aboard, and I will give it my all to get to the NBA."
Tartu is the second largest city in Estonia, a country bordered by Latvia, Russia, the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. Basketball is one of the most popular sports, with the nation qualifying for the prestigious Eurobasket 2015. Joining the 7-time Estonian National League champion, their last title coming in 2015, Jois is well aware he is in for a cultural shock, both on and off the court.
"From a lifestyle point of view, it will be really cold," shared Jois. "They have an International University and I may be able to finish one elective to complete my degree. I wasn't too concerned about the location, as it was a basketball-influenced decision [to play in Estonia]."
"Going from being a student-athlete to a professional will be a major change. To be able to play for a team that are perennial national championship contender, and the possibility of playing in the Basketball Champions League, it was a very good opportunity for me and I am looking forward to it."
Jois, who recently suiting up for the Dandenong Rangers SEABL team in an exhibition win against the touring Washington Huskies, has been enjoying his time back home with friends and family. He does not have much more time before he heads off back overseas.
"That was very tough, not knowing any of the plays, the spacing, but it was good," said Jois on linking with his former Melbourne based club.
"It was actually pretty funny. Their [Washington's] coach came up to me and said he thought he was done in coaching against me. It is just a shame I will miss the Eagle's tour of Australia and a chance to go up against my old team - it would have been hilarious! Unfortunately I will be heading to Estonia just as the team lands in Melbourne."
"The Aussie boys on the side are really looking forward to playing at home in front of family and friends. They are all very excited."
As a dynamic and versatile forward, Jois does his best work in the paint at both ends and is a threat to record a double-double every game. Offensively he is a dunking machine, possessing a variety of post moves, while also being able to beat taller opponents off the dribble. Defensively, he is able to change and block shots. To highlight his on-court success over the past 4 years, Jois has pulled down 1,015 rebounds (3rd in school, 5th in conference history) and racked up 240 blocked shots (school record, 2nd in conference history). He also departs the Eagles as the school’s career leader in blocked shots per game (2.0).
To be able to dispel any stereotypes he has been cast as a traditional back to the basket big man, Jois is looking forward to be able to show he is more than that in his time at Tartu.
"From my understanding, I will be playing the 4/3," added Jois. "I will be doing a bit more ball handling and have an opportunity to demonstrate my shooting. Those two things combined will provide a platform for me to show that I have more to my game. That's what I need to do."
As the 2016 Big Sky Conference First Team selection, Jois poured in 16.4 points at 58.3% from the field alongside 8.7 rebounds per game in his final year at Eastern Washington. He will be looking to add perimeter scoring to his bow.
Tartu will be looking to atone for their 2016 Estonian League loss in the finals while also looking to qualify for the newly established Champions Basketball League run by FIBA. Also playing in the Baltic Basketball League, They will expect a lot from Jois as one of their imports, and he will need to deliver.
With every opportunity he has received throughout his career, Jois has capitalised and delivered. Expect no different in his first season as a pro. Season G MIN FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS 2012-13 28 32.7 49.0% 0.0% 71.2% 9.0 2.0 0.9 2.4 2.5 12.3 2013-14 31 31.8 52.8% 11.1% 52.8% 8.0 2.5 0.9 1.6 2.6 13.4 2014-15 31 31.2 61.0% 30.0% 54.0% 7.7 2.0 1.2 2.2 2.3 16.7 2015-16 32 33.1 67.9% 47.0% 8.7 2.5 1.0 1.8 2.6 16.4 Career 122 32.2 58.3% 18.2% 55.0% 8.3 2.3 1.0 2.0 2.5 14.8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGk88ZtPhDA