Pirates find European pipeline
It might be 3,334 miles between the Canary Islands in Spain and Seton Hall, but for four basketball players who trained there, the Hall has become home.
In Kevin Willard’s three year tenure as head coach of the Pirates, he has found a recruiting pipeline with the Canarias Basketball Academy, which trains some of the best basketball players in Europe.
Juniors Patrik Auda and Aaron Geramipoor come from the Czech Republic and England respectively. Sophomore Haralds Karlis is from Lativa while freshman Tom Maayan hails from Israel.
As for any college student, the adjustment of going to school away from home comes with some getting used to, especially when it is in another continent.
“First it was hard to adjust from being away from family,” Maayan said. “Other than that everything went good. Once I got here it feels like a family environment and everyone’s like trying to make sure you’re doing good and everything is well.”
For Auda, he had an extra challenge of having to get used to another language. The Czech Republic’s official language is Czech and he credits his time at CBA preparing him for the change.
“It helped me a little bit that I spent a year in the Canary Islands,” Auda said. “Even though it was in Spain, the Academy where we were had a lot of people from all over Europe so we mostly spoke English. That helped me improve it a little before I came over here.”
The lifestyle change is not the only extra challenge that European players face entering college basketball as opposed to their American counterparts. Besides just playing against better competition, they face the problem of having to learn a whole new way to play the game.
“At the first couple practices I didn’t play good,” Maayan said. “It took me some time to get used to playing that fast but I’m adjusting and every day. I’m adjusting a little bit more and learn how to play the American game.”
The improvement is something that has caught Willard’s attention. With Jordan Theodore gone, the team has a void at point guard, which Maayan is one of three candidates to take the spot.
“Maayan has stepped up,” Willard said. “He is one of those point guards I love. He is a pass first guard that’s very good at getting in the lane and getting everyone shots.”
Entering his third season, Auda is coming off a sophomore season in which he started 26 games. Despite this, he is still no expert on the way American basketball is played.
“I’m still learning right now,” Auda said. “I think it took me like a year or two to get completely adjusted to the way that basketball is over here.
Auda has also helped the Pirates bring Karlis from the CBA to the Hall.
“I was a really good friend with him,” Auda said. “During the next year when I was at Seton Hall he was still there, I followed him and he was doing really good so I told the coaches my opinion and obviously his results were really good.”
As more new recruits join the Pirates from the Canaries, the former players help them get accustomed to their new surroundings.
“They were like brothers to me,” Maayan said. “Taking care of me and getting me into the program.”
Now in their sixth season, the Canarias Basketball Academy allows students to enjoy a first-level college preparatory education while improving their athletic skills, according to the school’s website. So far 39 players have made the jump from the CBA to Division 1 programs.
With four players from the CBA, the Pirates are hoping they continue to improve and help build on last year’s 21 win season.
Stephen Valenti can be reached at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org.