Justice lives professional dream in Germany –
By Mark Carpenter –
Every little boy who picks up a basketball in his driveway has a dream of someday being on a much bigger stage. The dream of professional basketball burns deep in the hearts of young hoopsters everywhere and for one local player, that professional dream came true last season, albeit in a more unique way.
Whenever you utter the name “Justice” in Adams County, thoughts immediately turn to the hardwood and the recollections of a family that has given local fans many thrills since the days of twins Brian and Brett to the more recent high-scoring exploits of Brett’s son Beau, who shattered all of his older brother Blake’s scoring records at Peebles High School, but for now, it is that older brother who had the opportunity to pursue his professional dreams.
After his graduation from Peebles High School, Blake Justice spent two years at Division I Akron, before making the decision to transfer to Division III Valdosta State University, a decision which turned out to be a good one as Justice had a productive three seasons at VSU, but after graduating there, he had to make a decision on what to do next.
“My entire life I have always said that I wanted to be a professional basketball player,” said Justice. “At the end of my senior year at VSU, I continued this process and worked out the entire summer, however in the middle of my training I broke my foot, which required surgery. At that point, I thought it was going to be near impossible to find a pro team anywhere to play for.”
“I spent my injured time with the opportunity to start coaching and helping out with VSU basketball, where by now Beau was a member of the squad. After I was medically released, I immediately started training again. Training didn’t last long as I drove home from Ohio one night I got a call from my agent telling me I had five days before I needed to be in Germany if I wanted a pro contract.”
“I accepted it with no question and took off.”
That offer came from a professional team in Germany known as “Licher Basketbaren”. Justice joined the team midway through their season while the team was in the midst of a losing streak, but after his arrival the fortunes turned and the Peebles native averaged around 12 points a game through the remainder of the regular season and tournament play.
“The style of play is very different, there is very rarely one-on-one or isolation basketball,” says Justice. “It’s a more high IQ game and getting the ball moving quickly, similar to the Spurs. In college you have several very good athletes that sometimes lack basketball IQ, but in Germany you have good athletes, but to win games you have to play as a team and have a better understanding of the game.”
The basketball part of the transition overseas was no problem for the Peebles native, but moving from the rural life to a foreign country brought its own set of cultural challenges.
“There certainly was a huge adjustment for me,” said Justice. “Food was the initial thing, plus getting used to everything being closed on Sundays. The culture is very different and people are much more straight forward than they are in America. The time difference was also huge (Germany is six hours ahead). The large cities were much more Americanized than the smaller ones. I lived about 30 minutes from Frankfurt, which was a very nice city. The speed limits changing along with places having no speed limits at all turned out to be very interesting.”
“Being overseas was great, but it also allowed me to view life from a different aspect. It allows you to appreciate all of the little things along with your friends and family. I got an opportunity to see and do things that some people only dream of and I got paid to do it. You can’t beat that.”
What does the future hold for Justice? A recent offer to become an assistant coach for Valdosta State may keep him on this side of the ocean.
“I really enjoyed my time playing in Germany but it was also not easy to be away for so long. If I was not to return, it would be 100 percent due to a nice coaching opportunity or having that opportunity to coach my brother.”
Wherever Blake Justice ends up, you can bet that the sounds of the basketball gymnasium won’t be too far away.