Days prior to training camps opened around the NBA in early December, the Sacramento Kings busily refined their roster to start the season fresh.
Coming as no shock, the Kings renounced the rights to Samuel Dalembert, Marquis Daniels, Darnell Jackson and Pooh Jeter, and life went on from there in each case. The Houston Rockets are vying for Dalembert’s services, Daniels returned to the Boston Celtics, and Jackson remains a free-agent currently playing in the Ukraine.
As for Pooh Jeter, he’s living near the beach in Barcelona, Spain and thankful to be playing back in Europe, this time with FIATC Joventut Badalona in the ACB Spanish League.
“I don’t care where you play, it’s all about taking care of you and your family,” Jeter, who signed with Joventut during the lockout, told Crossover Chronicles.
“Even though I am not in the NBA right now, I still get to wake up every day and do something that I love to do which is to play basketball — and getting paid good money to do it. I would like to say, ‘Thank You Lord and Joventut Badalona’. It’s a blessing.”
Jeter’s basketball journey hasn’t exactly been the most conventional. He didn’t go to a big school. He wasn’t high on any teams’ draft board or heard his name called on draft night in 2006. Instead, he bounced around overseas, the D-League, and summer league appearances before finally landing in Sacramento last season as a back-up point guard with the Kings and having his NBA dream come true.
So, when the dark cloud of a work stoppage ruled the headlines and the NBA for what became a five-month span, Jeter didn’t waste any time deciding to sign in Europe and play ball in mid-August.
“My agent (Andre Buck) couldn’t really talk to teams during the lock out so I decided to go back to Europe because I was a free agent. I had to make sure that everything kept rolling in because I can’t play basketball forever,” explained Jeter, with the Kings holding a team option on his second-year contract.
“Coming from a small mid major school like the University of Portland, spending a year in the D-League, five years with different NBA summer league teams, three years in Europe, and then last season finally reaching my goal and dream in the NBA — and then this season, we were locked out — I wouldn’t change anything about it because it made me who I am.”
Jeter’s career path since turning pro reads more like a “Trip Advisor.com” post than a basketball bio: Colorado (D-League), Kiev, Ukraine, Menorca, Spain, Malaga, Spain, Jerusalem, Israel, Sacramento, and now back in Spain with Badalona. And while some may simply know the 5-foot-11 point guard as the younger brother of World Class sprinter Carmelita Jeter, Pooh Jeter relies heavily on his past travels and a deep rooted faith to help him survive his current realities.
The transition hasn’t necessarily been the smoothest.
“The process has been alright,” he added.
The season in Spain’s ACB League “started off shaky” after Jeter tore his hamstring before playing his first game for Joventut and after rushing back and playing three games with the injury, Jeter was forced to sit the next four weeks before returning and finding a groove.
“I’m just now getting my rhythm back. I’m very familiar with the ACB and the competition gets better every year. You must bring your ‘A game’ every single week because any team can be beaten in this league.”
After averaging 4.1 points and 2.6 assists in 62 games as a back-up in Sacramento, Jeter is averaging 10.1 points and 2.1 assists in eight games starting for Joventut (4-6). The Los Angeles native is one of three American-import players on the team along with Derrick Obasohan (University of Texas at Arlington) and Latavious Williams (the first player to by-pass college and play a year in the D-League, before getting drafted in the NBA by the Miami Heat 48th overall in 2010). Yet unlike Obasohan and Williams, Jeter has already reached the promise land of the NBA.
And life was good.
“The NBA is fantastic on and off the court. You’re playing against the best players in the world, flying private, five-star hotels, you receive per diem on road trips, and you’re playing on TV every night. Last year was dream come true. It’s a lot different from being in Europe.
“Don’t get me wrong — everything is great about playing in the ACB Spanish League and living in Barcelona. Off the court, I have nothing to complain about. Just think: I live on the beach, my team car is a Benz, the food is great, shopping is the best, the party scene is good, the weather is good, I have a Dominican barber, traveling is great, and of course there are beautiful women everywhere. I am very thankful to be here.”
Still, part of Jeter can’t help but think about making it back to the NBA one day soon.
Over the last month, he’s watched the NBA come back to life after dead end player and owner discussions, the free-agency market run wild with deals going down through the grind of training camp, former teammates ink hefty extensions, and the league prepare for a back-to-back-back heavy 66-game schedule. It’s hard to not think about, “what could have been”.
But Jeter knows better.
A free-agent once his ACB season concludes in Spain, Jeter can pursue offers of his choice abroad or back at home. But he also knows he’s exactly where he is meant to be in life these days, in and outside of the game.
“I was in the NBA and now I’m back in Europe. Its’ a tough feeling but I keep telling myself I need to take advantage of the moment. My mind needs to be where my body is. Mind and body must be on the same page. You know? I really need to do that though,” explained Jeter.
“Whatever God has planned for me, that’s what I will do. I just need to make the right decisions during this whole process.”
Wendell Maxey is a featured sportswriter living abroad in Nuremberg, Germany after spending the past eight years covering the NBA and sports at large in New York City and Portland, Oregon. A contributor writer for NBA.com and various newspapers in the States, Wendell has also appeared on NBA TV, NBA Radio on SIRIUS and ESPN Radio among other stations. He also operates Beyond The Beat on the Bloguin network. He will regularly contribute to Crossover Chronicles in a new feature we call “Over and Back”
Photo courtesy: FIATC Joventut Badalona