Bracey Wright is a 34 year old 191cm guard that is playing his 14th professional season and first with CEZ Basketball Nymburk (Czech Republic-NBL). He began his career at Indiana (NCAA) where he played from 2002-2005 and as a senior led the Big 10 in scoring. He finished three-year career at Indiana ranked 15th all-time in scoring with 1,498 career points and tied for third with 186 career three-pointers. He began his professional career in 2005 and played two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He began his career in Europe in 2007 and has been here ever since. He played for teams like Aris Thessaloniki (Greece-A1), DKV Joventut Badalona (Spain-ACB), Base Oostende (Belgium-D1), Paris-Levallois (France-ProA), Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia-A1), CAI Zaragoza (Spain-ACB), Krasnie Krilya Samara (Russia-PBL), Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem (Israel-Winner League),Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL), Acibadem Universitesi Istanbul (Turkey-TBL) and Demir Insaat Buyukcekmece Basket (Turkey-BSL): He won titles in Belgium and Israel. He spoke to germanhoops.com before the Basketball Champions League game in Bamberg.
Hi Bracey, thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Welcome back to Germany. I read that you live full-time in Europe now. What do you miss from the States and what do you appreciate most of the European lifestyle?
I actually don’t live full-time in Europe. Players that play overseas spend a lot of time here. What I have enjoyed the most about the Euro lifestyle is the simple lifestyle. For example now I’m playing in the Czech Republic in a smaller city and everything moves at a slower pace and there is more quiet time. There are no distractions like in the states. But what I do miss most about the states is the comforts and conveniences I was accustomed to while growing up there.
Since 2008 you only played 4 games international club games against Alba Berlin and ratio Ulm. Could you give a guess what your record is?
I know I lost against Ulm and might have lost against Alba Berlin.
It’s 1-3. You lost two close battles against Alba Berlin and split with Ulm, but scored 36 points combined . Despite the many games you play, do you have any memories of playing against Casey Jacobsen or then ULM players current Euroleague player Will Clyburn or current Boston Celtic Daniel Theis?
I remember playing against Casey. I had the chance to see him play a long time with Bamberg. I remember the Ulm games better and remember playing against Clyburn and Theis. They had a good team that year. I also remember playing against Alba Berlin twice in Pre season with Hapoel Jerusalem. Even though I have never played for a German organization I have followed the league over the years. I think that it is a very entertaining league for the fans. There is great media coverage there and there is also a great hype building up to the games. I don’t remember seeing that hype in other countries. There the game just happened. You feel the energy of the fans in the arena’s. The arena’s are always full and the fans are great. You can see that the fans are passionate. It is a fun game to watch in Germany.
Your turning 35 this year and playing your 14th professional season and first with CEZ Basketball Nymburk (Czech Republic-NBL). What do you enjoy about the game of basketball more today than say 10 years ago?
My view of the game is different now. I’m a guy now where I come across guys who were in high school and saw me playing in college or the pro’s. Some players now remember me from my early years as a professional. My mind set is different now. I’m a veteran. I help the young guys and give them advice. Even opposing players come to me for advice. I tell them what to expect overseas. I especially like to help other Americans. I tell them that they have many challenges ahead. It was something I saw and I pass on my experiences. I’m happy that I can still play and that my body has held up. I like that I can still compete against the young guys and it’s great seeing many of those young players develop into great players over the years.
You have played for many well known European clubs, but what has been most special playing with the Czech Republic’s most famous basketball team?
I played against them years ago and coming into this situation has been an interesting one. I’m working with the same coach Oren Amiel who I had in Jerusalem. So I knew what to expect when I came in. It has been a very good experience being on a club that has won something like 15 straight Czech league titles. It’s rare finding a team with that kind of dominance. There is a good group of guys here that have high expectations. Even if we have been struggling in the BCL, I feel that we will continue to move forward this season.
You won titles in Belgium and Israel, but how enticing was it coming to a team that has won the league title each season since 2004?
That didn’t play a role. It was mainly the coach why I came. I played the last three seasons in Turkey and had some negative experiences with teams having financial problems. Coming to the Czech Republic was a new experience and I had never played in the Basketball Champions League. At this point of my career, I want to experience new things and new situations. Before coming to Nymburk, I had no idea of their dominance, but was aware that they were a strong club. To be honest, I would love to play in Germany. I almost signed with Munich many years ago. They were the only club that showed real interest.
On what things are you still trying to improve on at age 34 and is a guy like Geno Lawrence a guy that pushes you to the maximum in practice?
Not necessarily. At this point in my career the biggest and most important guy that is pushing me is myself. I have played many games and have a lot of experience. At age 34 there isn’t much that I haven’t been familiar with. The most important thing now is to have the ability to still keep improving. I don’t have the same mind set as when I was 24 years old. Now I’m coming towards the back end of my career. I want to be able to continue to compete at the highest level. That is what my aim is now at 34. Once I can no longer do that, then it will be the time to step away. I would like to play Euroleague again. They have changed the rules since I last played. The Euroleague is more exclusive now.
Your still so consistent in your 30’s. What still drives you to keep playing the game. More than 10 years ago when you battled Alba Berlin, you played Immanuel Mcelroy who is going strong in Germany at age 38. Could you see yourself playing into your late 30’s?
I get asked this question a lot. I ask this question myself a lot also. This question pushes me on. The biggest thing now is that I really enjoy the competition of the game. The play here is a lot different than from the States. There is a lot you have to get used to. I can do without the two practices per day. But having that competition in practice and games is what I still play for. I’m used to this all and know I can still play. Once I’m done, I know there will be no coming back. I don’t know If I will still be playing at age 38, but I feel like I can still contribute for teams.
You played the first time in Turkey and played there the last three seasons in the TBL and BSL leagues with Acibadem Universitesi Istanbul, Demir Insaat Buyukcekmece Basket and Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir. What kind of experience was it taking a step back, but then playing in the first division and playing well against Euroleague teams, but unfortunately losing?
I had good experiences there despite some of the financial problems. It was the best experience I had after Spain. The BSL was the best league I played in outside of Spain. There were so many great players there. As an older guy, I had to be sharp every night. Playing in the BSL league was a barometer for me to see if I could still play. I played against great guards every night. I never planned to play for three different teams, but there were always financial issues that made me go.
From 2013-2015 you played two seasons with Hapoel Jerusalem (Israel-Winner League) putting up very consistent stats. Was winning the Israeli Winner League title your biggest achievement as a professional player?
That was an exceptional great season. My best achievement overall was reaching the NBA, but winning the Israeli league title was my biggest achievement in Europe. It was there first title ever. To be able to be a part of that and also be the finals MVP was huge. I had been injured leading up to the playoffs. I had had eye surgery. I had been struggling leading up to the playoffs and I didn’t know how good my game would be going in. In the finals everything clicked. It was great being the MVP and winning that last game in Jerusalem. When we won you could feel the emotion of the fans and the many years of waiting. The celebration with the fans afterwards was great.
You were teammates there with ex NBA player Ronald Dupree as well as years before in Minnesota who then retired. What memories do you have most of his game?
I had known him for a long time. We were teammates with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but I had already known him before that. He is a great great guy. He was a very hard working player. When we were teammates in Jerusalem, he was around 33 or 32. It was at the end of his career. It was fun to link up with him again in Europe. He was always a competitor. He was known then as a big time defender. I haven’t talked to him since he took the LSU assistant job.
You played a season with CAI Zaragoza (Spain-ACB) 33 games: Score-4 (14.5ppg), 3.0rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 43.1%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 83.9%. You belonged to the top players in the top league in Europe. Were you playing your best basketball there?
I don’t think so. At that time yes, but I kept developing my game and getting better after that. I enjoyed playing there. I had a very good year there. It was one of my favorite places to play. We had a really good coach and group of guys that season. We were a better team than what our record showed. The Spanish game was free flowing and very athletic which suited my game well. I remember that we practiced so much that season in order to keep our game polished.
You lost twice against Real Madrid, but had good individual games. What memories do you have playing against them how was the experience difference playing them with a Spanish team than in the Euroleague?
I remember that whenever we played Real Madrid or FC Barcelona, everyone was always really extra motivated. I remember that there was a lot of hype then as Rudy Fernandez had come back from the NBA. They beat us bad. Real Madrid was a team that had players at every position that were solid if not great. You needed to have a perfect night to beat them because they had such a high skill level. It was definitely different playing them with a Spanish team, because there was more history and pride involved then if you played them with a non Spanish team.
You also played two seasons in Croatia with KK Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia-A1). What kind of experience was it playing here and was playing in Belgrade and seeing their fan atmosphere one of the craziest you ever saw?
It was always tough playing against Red Star or Partizan Belgrad. I enjoyed my stay in Zagreb. It was a place that I thought I wouldn’t like until I got there. It was such a basketball place. I had the pleasure of working with Drazan Petrovic’s brother Alexsandar. He had a wealth of knowledge and understood how to deal with players. That was a big reason why we reached the Eurocup final. My teammate was Dontaye Draper. That was my best Eurocup season. Petrovic was the best coach that I ever played for. He told me that he was in the States with his brother when he played there and learned so much. The knowledge that he gained in the NBA, he brought back to Europe. He had that NBA approach to the game in Europe.
You also played briefly with Paris-Levallois (France-ProA) and were teammates with American Marcellus Somerville who is two years your senior and is still playing now with Nancy. If you had to bet who will play longer?
It could be him. He was always in amazing physical condition. He loved to train. Barring injury, it seems like he could play until he is 40.
In 2009-2010 you won your first professional title with Base Oostende (Belgium-D1) coming in the middle of the season and playing 19 games averaging 12.8ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 45.1%, 3PT: 33.0%, FT: 84.1%. What memories do you have of then teenager Quentin Serron who would go on to become a top Belgium national player and currently has won 10 titles in Belgium?
I do remember him. I was just talking about him a few days ago. I was talking with my teammate Mike Myers and mentioned that there was a player in the Czech Republic that reminded me of him. I haven’t followed his career, but it’s great that he has had a great career.
In 2008-2009 you played half a season with DKV Joventut Badalona (Spain-ACB) before going back to Greece. Your teammate then Demond Mallet retired last year. How vital was his presence in your early development as a player?
Demond was great for me. He was the first veteran guy that I learned a lot from. He showed me the ropes. He had just won the Eurocup and had a lot of experience. We worked out a lot together. He was very helpful in my transition to Spain. He lived in Texas not to far from me so we already had that connection.
In your first season in Europe you played with Aris Thessaloniki (Greece-A1) What was your wake up call to being in Europe where you knew that you were very far away form home?
When I got off the plane. I saw all the fans at the airport greeting me with the hats, scarfs and chants. But the biggest difference was the first game where all the paper confetti was thrown on the floor. That was when I knew I was far away from home. I really enjoyed my time with Aris.
What distinctive thing do you remember about the coaching style of Gordon Herbert that you experienced that season?
He was a very intense coach, but in a good way. I remember he had been with the Toronto Raptors organization before coming to Aris. He had a lot of knowledge about the game. He had this special intensity and he was so passionate to detail. He was really helpful to me. I had come from the NBA and Aris was my first stop in Europe. He spoke a lot to me about the differences and always made sure I was ok. He wanted me to succeed. I enjoyed playing for him.
You were two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2005-2007. When you look back at this time what did you appreciate the most about being in the NBA?
I appreciated the fact that when your in the NBA, there are so many opportunities for you to improve on a daily basis if you chose to do it right. If you take that opportunity and want to improve then you can. There are so many coaches and trainers that are there for you at your dispense. You can be in the gym at 2 in the after or 2 in the morning if you wanted to.It all depends if you want to maximize your God given talent or not. In the NBA, there are many distractions. There is so much free time and traveling that it can be hard for a 21 or 22 year kind coming from college. There is so much going on. You can be distracted, but if you have the drive and will to want to improve than you can, but if you chose not to use the resources than you either won’t play or be out of the league soon.
When you look back at the second year there were two older guards with Mike James and Troy Hudson and a young buck like you with Randy Foye. Do you feel like you got a fair chance there?
We had a lot of good guards including Rashad Mccants and Ricky Davis as well. Of course I could say I didn’t have a fair chance, but that would be incorrect. I had every opportunity there to come into my role, but my mentality kept me from staying in the NBA. Playing time was there. We were losing games and they had fired Dwayne Casey and they were searching for players to get them back on the winning track. I didn’t make the most of my opportunity. If I would have had the knowledge that I have now, my focus then would have been a lot different. The whole experience was a great learning lesson. I am very grateful to the Minnesota Timberwolves for giving me the opportunity. I learned a lot from my teammates and they did influence me to implant certain things then into my game.
What was the most important thing you could soak up from Kevin Garnett and favorite story about him?
I could tell you a lot of Kevin Garnett stories. The biggest thing that I took from him was just how much he respected the game. The guy had so much talent and everything came so easy to him. When you saw him in high school, you knew he was destined to be great. He had that special drive to be great. What I will never forget is when he said it was an honor and privilege to be in the NBA. He always said that so many guys want to be in our positions, but that doesn’t mean just because you’re a good player, that you can be in the NBA. Every year somebody is coming along. As long as you’re here, it is an honor. That is how he approached everything. At that time I was young and didn’t apply it, but I understood it when I came to Europe.
You had a stellar career at Indiana (NCAA) from 2002-2005. What were your fondest memories from there?
Indiana was amazing. It had a lot of history from the 70’s and 80’s and with guys like Bobby Knight and Calbert Cheaney. Even though we didn’t win as much as a North Carolina or Duke, it was a basketball school. Not matter who we played, every game at Assembly Hall was packed. Something like 17,’000 would be there. It was an amazing atmosphere. I had such a blast as a freshman. We won the Maui invitational and I had been the first freshman to ever win the MVP. We beat Maryland by 20 points and we were on cloud nine. We struggled my last two seasons.
You played your first two seasons with AJ Moye who unfortunately had to end his career in 2010 due to a stroke in practice. What will you forever remember about him? Possibly his incredible competitiveness?
Absolutely. AJ was my guy. He was such a competitor. My first year there he took on this amazing transformation. When I came in as a freshman, he was chubby and looked out of shape, but late that season he started being in the gym everyday and cut out bad food. He was notoriously undersized, but that didn’t stop him from anything. He was a force inside. You always knew that there was some knock on him, but he worked on getting better. He was our heart and soul of the team.
How did head coach Mike Davis groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career at Indiana?
In a sense he did and then in a sense he didn’t. He gave me the opportunity to start as a freshman. I was averaging something like 30 minutes per game and averaging 17 points. When I arrived on campus, he told me I would start. That was huge for me. That was how much he believed in me. He wanted me to be the leader as a freshman and had faith in me and wanted and let me play my game. He played me a lot at a young age and that prepared me. The exposure and responsibility I had was important for me on my way to becoming a professional. I see guys coming from Duke or Kentucky and they developed so much. Those schools are known for developing players to become pro’s, but not at Indiana. Indiana is known as being just a great program.
Who won a one on one in practice you or AJ Moye
I think I did. He wasn’t a scorer then. In the post he was strong, but he couldn’t shoot yet.
You won the Gold medal at the 2004 FIBA Americas World Championships. What memories do you have from that time and what teammate then impressed you the most?
That was my only Gold medal. That was a crazy time. My teammates were guys like Chris Paul, Sean May and Shannon Brown. I remember playing against Cuba with Peter Ramos and J.J Barea. I was most impressed with J.J Barea. He was so small, but so good. I had never seen a guy that was so small and so fast and had so much confidence in his game. Since then I have always kept up with his career and it’s great that he is still with Dallas.
Who is the toughest guy that you battled in the NCAA that reached the NBA?
Rashad Mccants. He is one of my closest friends. It was so special that we got drafted by the same team. It was like a party when we got drafted. We had some epic one on one games back when we were with Minnesota. It was some of the best one on one games I ever played in my life. He won a lot, but I also won my share. He knew so much of my game and I knew so much about his game. Whenever we played against each other, we always wanted the other guy to play well. We wanted the other guy to put on a show, because then we knew that we got beat by their best game.
If you had to pick your personal favorite starting five of teammates over the years which players would you chose?
Kevin Garnett, Rashad Mccants, Deron Williams, Jusuf Nurkic, Dontae Smith
If you had to construct your very own NBA mount Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?
Wilt Chamberlain, Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen
What is your personal opinion about the never ending debate of who is the greatest between Michael Jordan and Lebron James?
This is always an unfair question. It was different generations and different players. I think that without a Jordan there wouldn’t have been a Lebron. Jordan inspired everybody. He made every one’s imagination run wild. Lebron is doing that now, but I would say Jordan
What was the last movie that you saw?
Polar. It was a good movie.
Thanks Bracey for the chat.