“So if I have something to say to one kid in the CIS…” the man on the other end of the phone ponders for a moment, “make sure you have a great understanding of the game and it’s not all just skill. Understand the game and what it’s all about and you’ll be prepared to play pro.”
The wise words come from Osvaldo Jeanty, a trailblazing 6-foot guard who turned a wildly successful CIS basketball career into a professional job overseas.
Jeanty is a former Carleton Raven that helped to kick-start the greatest dynasty in CIS basketball history, currently celebrating their ninth title in eleven years. Though he hones his skill in the German pro league now, he’s home for the summer and back in the Ottawa area.
His advice seems sound. Schooled in Dave Smart’s no-nonsense, team-basketball philosophy, Jeanty came up winning while playing a style suited to the pro game.
“Dave runs a system that’s more about reading ball screens and reading down screens which is a lot like the European game,” explains Jeanty. “That’s how they play. They’re very smart about defense, starting with ball movement, working as a team and using the fundamentals.”
Jeanty won CIS titles every year at Carleton (as he boldly predicted as an incoming freshman) and was the MVP in four of those five championship games. He was named CIS men’s basketball player of the year twice, and in 2006 became the first Carleton student selected as the CIS athlete of the year.
Though he achieved all the domestic success, it takes a combination of skill and luck to get to the European pro leagues, Jeanty says, and it’s not easy to get noticed. He was lucky enough to be able to show some of that skill while a member of Canada’s national team on tour in Germany. He wasn’t a starter, but made the most of an opportunity when his name was called and somebody in the crowd noticed.
That person happened to be a scout with a German pro team, and after Jeanty wrapped up his fifth consecutive CIS title he signed his first pro contract to play in Germany the following year.
When he arrived in Germany he played his first season in the lower division and won a championship. He moved up to the first division the next year and hasn’t gone back down. Jeanty has grown to appreciate Germany and the league; having left for Romania for half a season, and testing the NBL of Canada for half of another season, he’s always returned to what he sees as one of the best leagues in the world.
“Right now it’s definitely one of the top leagues in terms of getting your money on time, the professionalism of the club, and the lifestyle,” said Jeanty. While some leagues like Russia, Isreal and Greece are top-heavy, “the seventeenth ranked team in Germany could beat the third or fourth best team in Greece,” said Jeanty.
“Germany is a pretty good league, top to bottom it’s third or fourth [in Europe]. Of course Greece, Israel are very good leagues but top-to-bottom Spain would be first, then Italy, and France and Germany are pretty much tied.”
In the competitive German pro basketball league, Basketball Bundesliga or BBL, Jeanty has remained competitive and found ways to improve his game every year and adapt to the pro game.
“I think every year my game has evolved,” said Jeanty. “As you get older it’s more about tweaking things rather than adding new things to your game but I’m definitely better coming off ball screens, I became a better shooter, better at reading screens. Playing for a lot of different coaches I learned a lot of different defensive schemes to make you smarter about angles and how to defend as a team. I’ve become stronger as well because the leagues are very very physical and you need to be able to take the pounding every day.”
The daily grind that comes with the season is also a long one. The preseason in Germany starts in mid-August with the regular season starting in October. Now, in June, the playoffs are still going. It makes for a ten-month season, which Jeanty says is “a grind, but you get paid for ten months and get two months of freedom.”
Though he’s played with or against the occasional Canadian overseas, he says he doesn’t meet very many though he’d recommend the league to Canadians looking to make a similar leap.
And with role models like Jeanty setting the tone, there are pro teams overseas ready to welcome Canadian talent with open arms.
Are you a talented but underrated prospect from the Ottawa region looking for National Exposure? Take advantage of the NPH Ottawa Showcase coming next month, July 5-7!
Register Today for the NPH Ottawa Showcase OPEN to all players Grade 8-12.