I never thought I would ever write one of these blogs, but here we go: a Clayton Vette blog.
To start off, I’ll give the basics of what’s going on with me these days. I am playing for the Port of Antwerp Giants in Antwerp, Belgium in the top league in Belgium -- the Ethias League -- where 10 teams compete against each other all season long.
My fiancé Kaylee Benning (soon to be Kaylee Vette) is here with me and we’re going through this crazy experience together. We arrived in Belgium on August 11, so we’re coming up on our second month in Antwerp and so far it’s been a great experience. The apartment and car provided to us are very nice and we are starting to feel settled here. We can’t thank everyone in Antwerp enough for how well the team and organization has treated us; the relationships we have already built with them are great.
It’s a wonderful thing to have that kind of comfort when you’re 5000 miles from home.
Saying good-bye to friends and family before we left was definitely hard, but we have been keeping in touch with everyone back home; technology makes it really easy! We have several family members and friends coming to visit throughout the year, so we are looking forward to that. We had a fun “going away party” this summer that my sister and family put together so that was nice to see everyone right before we left for the year.
Many things are really different over here but different in a good way. I think the first week here I drove down a dozen one-way streets and got some gestures to go with my confusion! We are still figuring out all the appliances in the apartment and what is what at the grocery stores. Simple things like knowing what kind of trash bags we can put out on the street has been a learning process.
Some things I miss a lot about home include my favorite foods and places. One of the biggest of these would have to be ranch dressing; I swear they don’t have it over here and I think that I might just have to try to make my own! Also, I realized how much I take for granted growing up in Iowa and all the open space and country scenery. I’m quickly learning that everything in Europe is a lot smaller, and it feels like everything is cramped into such a tiny area. It’s very different than the rural settings I’m used to. I really think a lot about sitting on my parents front porch out in the country and just how slow things feel at home compared to the fast pace life everyone seems to have over here.
The basketball aspect of my experience has been really good so far.
The competition over here is tough and it is very different from basketball back in the States, especially for a rookie big man like me. Our pre-season was hard and very tiring, but that was to be expected. I know it will benefit us down the line in the regular season. We started off a little rough against a good Belgian team, Leige, and we let one slip away. I think turnovers and just overall nerves had to do with us losing that game.
The game atmosphere is also a whole lot different over here. Artificial noisemakers of any kind are fair game and it gets very, very loud at times. In our second season game, we played a 3rd Division team for our first Belgium Cup game and we won by 26. It is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen, they give the 3rd Division team 10 points before the game even starts. Never have I ever heard of something like that, but I guess that is common here.
Our most recent game was against one of the best teams in the league on Saturday, and we won in an exciting battle. It was also our home-opener and Frank Turner, another American, hit a bankshot three-pointer to put us up four in the last minute and we closed it out nicely. It was a great win because it would have been a long week of practice going into the conference season 0-2. Our next game is on Friday against the Kangeroos. They are a new team to the league and looking for their first win so they will be ready to play.
Well that’s all I got for right now. I’m going to go back to watching highlights of Nick Collison to find some motivation.
Clayton Vette is a former NABC Division 2 Player of the Year for Winona State Univeristy and is spending his rookie season banging down low for Antwerp in Belgium`s Ethias League. Follow along this season as the 6-foot-9, 245 lbs. center shares his experience “Balling in Belgium”.
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