Brandyn Curry and his blog are back. After a successful rookie season playing (and writing) in Holland, where the former Harvard University standout guard was an All-Star, won the Dutch Basketball League championship and was named Finals MVP with Den Bosch, Curry now calls Germany's BEKO BBL home this season with Eisbären Bremerhaven and will continue to share his thoughts on playing professional basketball abroad with his blog, "3 Things I Learned This Week Playing Overseas"...
Adversity...that is the main topic that has been on my mind heavily these past weeks and one aspect of playing overseas where I hope I can help other pros who may face obstacles abroad.
Unfortunately, a lot of adversity has come my way and my teams' way this season in Bremerhaven. Currently, we are 2-10 and in 17th place out of 18 teams in the BEKO BBL. We've been through a coaching change and a few weekends ago we were up 11 points going into the fourth quarter against BBL rival and Euroleague squad, Bayern Munich only to lose in overtime. One of the best teams in the BBL and we were outplaying them the ENTIRE game only to lose in the last couple minutes. Frustrating.
The game before, the exact same thing happened on the road to us against the third-best team in the league. To be honest I have never seen anything like these losses before.
Sure, I have been in games before where we blew a big lead and sometimes lost the game but never this many in one season already. We now have four losses in the same fashion, all were against top teams and three of them were road games. Finally we were able to hold on to a victory against the number one team in the league -- ALBA Berlin after leading the whole game, so that win showed us we are capable of playing a complete game and getting a win against the best team in the league.
We should definitely be at least 6-4 on the season and in the playoff race, yet the Basketball Gods have other plans for us and we find ourselves in the bottom of the standings. With as much talent as we have and the dominance we have shown against the top teams only to lose the games in the final minutes has made this all the more frustrating.
Despite how the situation looks right now for the team, I am still certain I made the right decision in choosing Eisbaren Bremerhaven as my next destination along my professional basketball journey and know we'll overcome adversity together as a team.
It's very fitting the book I was reading last week -- “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People”, by Harold S. Kushner -- that I saved this quote in my phone scrapbook.
“Let us remember that humanity’s story has only two perennially recurring themes; struggle and progress. We mustn’t wish the end of the former, as the latter would be buried alongside it.”
In other words, there is no growth if we do not have struggles along our journey. These current struggles lately have had me thinking about the lessons I’ve learned with handling adversity and I figured I would share them in this space.
During a trying season, I have learned to raise my level as a professional and get comfortable with being uncomfortable and when faced with adversity there are two responses to embracing the struggle: back down from the challenge or meet it head on. I have already learned this lesson once before but it's always good to get reminders.
For those who don’t know, I had to take a year off after my junior year in college at Harvard for being implicated in a “cheating scandal” for a final exam for an Government class. I promised in one of my post last year that I would tell y’all the story so I’m keeping my word. But that year away from school and away from basketball was definitely a struggle. Within that struggle I grew so much and that year has been a turning point in my life. I credit the path I’m on now to that year off and I am forever grateful for it.
We find out things we never knew about ourselves in times of adversity.
Due to some rules regarding what happened at that time, I am not allowed to explicitly go into all of the details but here is the overall summary for what happened to me specifically. The class was a Government elective called “Intro to Congress”. One of the easiest classes Harvard has ever offered, there was no requirement to attend class or section at all during the entire semester (everyone was high fiving when we all learned this). The only assignment for the classes was four take home exams, meaning we could do them anywhere outside of the classroom. For the first three exams everything was fine, no issues. The big problem came on the final test. Like all college students know Finals can get really hectic. The four biggest assignments of your whole year are all in this week. Last minute cramming and all nighters becomes the norm and a part of college life during Finals. People who haven’t been in the library all semester (yes, at Harvard) suddenly set up sleeping quarters there. It's pretty stressful. No doubt this period is why there were a few people who made a huge mistake on the exam. When the grades came out for all classes the following week, everyone in the Government class had not received their grade yet.
There was an “investigation” going on.
As it turns out ,there were several students who had a word for word incorrect answer with a typo in it (even students at Harvard make mistakes!). Needless to say, the allegations and investigation got messy from there. After some questioning and investigating into the situation, a review board decided to launch a full investigation into EVERYONE in the class. Little did I know my life was changed forever.
The investigation took the entire summer and once everyone returned to campus we all got our “packets”. They compared every single persons test with each other word for word and paired people with who they thought they might have collaborated with on the test. One by one we were questioned and asked about our tests -- all 250 students. It was crazy to say the least and different people had different situations but I will only discuss mine like i said. Since everyone knows now with the news well reported, me and two of teammates were implicated together. They felt we had similar word usage in our exams. There were no exact answers or copying of answers but nevertheless we had dilemma. The ruling for who would have to be sent home wouldn’t come until December. If it turned out that we were found guilty and had to take a year off, then we will be in eligible to play basketball because Ivy League rules state once a player plays in one scrimmage or official practice, they have officially used their year no matter what else happens after that. So the only option to be safe was for us to voluntarily withdraw for the year.
That was easily the craziest week of my life.
It was breaking news on ESPN's SportsCenter and local newspapers. My teammate and I were co-captains for the upcoming season, so that only made things seem worse. The media was outside our dorms for the whole week trying to get in to talk to us, so we had to go out the back door. Just like that my world had change. At that moment I thought for the worst but as I would find out I was very wrong.
I learned some critical lessons about how to handle adverse conditions that have shaped my life. Here are what I think are the three most important:
1. You Have To Take Responsibility And Channel Your Initial Emotions
Anger, sadness, guilt...when things go wrong these are the usual emotions that arise.
When I found out we had to leave Harvard, I have never been so mad and upset before then I was at that moment. Did I put in all ths work my entire time for it all to be ruined by this one incident? Is it really fair for us to be punished like this and what's happens next?
For days I pondered on these questions and i was certainly depressed. The feelings were overwhelming. I've never experienced anything like it. This was the first really bad thing to happen me in life and it was a lot to deal with at first. Luckily for me, I had a great support system. People in the Harvard community, alumni, my family, friends, teammates, and coaches all reached out to let me know I was not alone in this. They let me know that this would not define me and they knew the kind of person I was. It makes all the difference in the world when you know the people closest to you are in your corner. Honestly that's all that really matters.
Thanks to them I was able to channel my initial emotions into positive energy. The only way I was able to do it was by first taking responsibility for what happened. It's so easy and common for people to want to blame someone else or something else for why things went wrong. Sure I wanted to at first but then I would not have been able to move on. I take full responsibility for the situation I was in and that was honestly the most liberating thing for me. I didn't make any rash decisions or any kind of statements that I would regret later on just because I was angry. Many people let their emotions get the best of them and do some things in the moment they wish they could take back. Instead, I started looking forward to what was to come next which leads me to my next critical lesson I learned.
2. Look For The Positives And Make The Absolute Best Of Situations
There is a silver lining in every cloud. I 100% believe that. No matter how bad the situation looks there is something positive that can be gained from it if you really look for it.
Once I got past the anger and sadness I saw what my silver lining could be. All my life since i can remember starting sports I've been nonstop go-go-go. In high school playing basketball for the school, being a straight A student and then playing AAU basketball in the summer completely consumed my time. That didn't change once I got to college being a student-athlete at Harvard. I saw this year off as an opportunity for me to just completely focus on me, to really take a step back to evaluate where I was at this point in my life and where I was heading.
People get so caught up in the rat race of life that we don’t get enough time to take self inventory. I now had this opportunity. I vowed to myself before I left Harvard campus that I would not return the same way I left. I would make the best of this situation and become much better from it. I stuck to this promise. Even though I learned a great deal at Harvard, I learned the most from this year off. Before I got to college I used to love reading on my own but got away from it once classes started. I read some of best self-development books ever made including, "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill, “Slight Edge" by Jeff Olson” and the “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey. These books changed my life and I encourage everyone to read these ASAP if you have not already. I got out of my comfort zone. I tried new things such as a new diet, new workouts, and new habits. I worked as a life insurance agent something I thought I would NEVER do. I learned so much from all of this and it truly really made the year one of the best things to ever happen to me. I am forever grateful for it.
3. Realize Everyone Has Struggles. How You Bounce Back Defines Who Are You Are
One of the most encouraging messages before I returned from my year off, was from one of my Harvard alumni mentors.
He told me I would be defined by how I bounced back from this situation more so than what happened. People would be looking for how I would act upon returning. Would I be resentful and return with negative emotions? Had I not accepted responsibility, than I certainly would have returned just like that. I know some people who did but I’m glad I was not one of them. I had several people tell me that they were very impressed with how I handled things and returned back. Those messages meant everything to me because it showed I had succeeded in what I set out to do before I left campus, which was to become a better person.
My senior year at Harvard ended up being a great ending to my career. Despite an injury that kept me from playing the first half of the season it was still a special season for me. We won our 4th ivy league title in a row and I can say I beat every single Ivy League team in my last game against them. Our win against Cinnicinatti in the NCAA Tournament is one of my most memorable games of my life. I also will never forget the next round game against Michigan State. Even though we lost the run we went on in the second half to bring the game within 2 points was the most thrilling 10 minutes of my college career. I also had two great semesters in the classroom and formed new friendships within the harvard community. If anything the year off made me realize I had to appreciate getting to be at such a great university and take more advantage of being there. I made sure to do everything I could to do just that.
Looking back, the entire experience was a great ending to my career at Harvard and I would not have it go any other way now. That year has set me on this current path I am on now and I would not be here as a professional basketball player without it. Seriously, because during my year off I meet my current strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Martin, who helped me to correct a lot of things wrong with me physically and without his help i most likely would have had a serious injury right now!
I have been building off the habits I've formed that year and I am very excited for what the future holds for me -- even during times of struggle. Everyone will come across some form of adversity in their lifetime. You may be facing some right now as you read this. I encourage you to look for how you can make the situation work in your favor.
There is something to be gained I guarantee you.
Look for that silver lining, bounce back a better version of you!
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