It was October 29th 2020 when I ventured to Bonn to watch a mid-week Basketball Champions League game between the Telekom Baskets and top Turkish club Besiktas Istanbul. In all my years of covering basketball, I have come upon many players and Jordan Theodore who I covered extensively one season when he played for the Fraport Skyliners belongs in my top 5 players that I have covered in my career. It was a no brainer that I would venture to see my guy Jordan play again after not having seen him in 3 years. The Besiktas squad had a very talented roster with up and coming German guard Ismet Akpinar , but also had 2 other very top notch Americans with 2 time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors James McAdoo JR the son of ex NBA scoring freak James McAdoo and Shaquille Mckissic who made the jump to Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus (Greece-Euroleague) and has a huge career ahead of him. On any night, you won´t find a better trio of American players on one team with Theodore, McAdoo and Mckissic in the Basketball Champions League. But wait there was a fourth American on the squad with Todderick Gotcher and I actually had a connection to him and also wanted to see him play and meet him. He had hit me up early in 2019 lauding my work which was nice being he had never played in Germany but still read my work and had been playing in France and I decided to give him an interview. He is a player that tailors his game after an Eric Gordon and Bradley Beal and just plays his role not thinking about putting up the eye opening stats. On this cool rainy evening in Bonn, the American from Garland, Texas didn´t catch his best night playing 16 minutes and scoring 0 points. Playing on a team with so many scoring options, he didn´t necessarily have to score 20 every night, but as always focused on trying to be the smartest on the court offensively and defensively. At the end of the night, Besiktas Istanbul suffered a tough 86-82 loss. That was only the beginning of more hardships to come for the Turkish squad. Not too long after, Todderick Gotcher all of a sudden was the lone American on the team and had to take on bigger roles to help the team. “It was not too tough on me personally. In college, I played for 4 different head coaches and changes so I am used to adapting to whatever situation I am in. I just tried to make the best of the situation by doing my job the right way and keeping a positive mindset. It was tough to see my teammates leaving. I have built great relationships with each of them. We continue to keep in touch but each of them went to great situations for them and their families. But I just continued to put the work in on my end. Shaq McKissic & Jordan Theodore were the ones that got me prepared everyday. Battling them in practice everyday elevated my game.”, stressed Toddrick Gotcher. The team was up and down in his lone time there, but then as quickly as all his American teammates left, came COVID-19 and his season abruptly ended.
When COVID-19 struck like a fierce hurricane in March 2020, Toddrick Gotcher was still in Turkey. When he first heard about it, he wasn´t too concerned, because his wife who is a nurse kept him updated about what was happening in the medical world. But he did utter a phrase that just about every player I interviewed in the last 6 months said to me. “I must admit, I did not expect it to shut down the entire world”, stressed Toddrick Gotcher. He didn´t go home right away, but had the experience to see how the Turkish culture was responding to COVID-19. His time in Turkey during COVID-19 was a time where he could actually get a gripe on other things in life and be a very special role model to his 1 year daughter concerning how to handle one´s self. “In Istanbul, I stayed at home and read many books during this time. It was helpful because I had the time to catch up on things unrelated to basketball. The Turkish culture was not too bad, people stayed home. I was more aware of how I handled myself. The main reason is because I have a 1 year old daughter so I was more worried about her more than anything”, stated Toddrick Gotcher. The first few months in 2020 were tough for all basketball players and it wasn´t any different for Toddrick Gotcher. A benefit from the ending of the season was focusing more on family, but it also had other disadvantages like playing the last few games without fans and not to mention having to take a long time to digest the meaningless tragedy that the basketball world suffered with the death of Kobe Bryant which set off 2020 on a very low note. “We as players, were all disappointed and wanted to finish the season. This is what we go overseas to do and it is something we love to do. It was disappointing, but we could use this for good and spend quality time with family for the time being. I think it is tough for us to play without fans. Obviously, we do not mind it, but it is tough and Lebron James said in the media “What is sport without fans. When I heard about Kobes death, I was in a restaurant. I got at least 5 calls about it and I was in disbelief. He definitely had a huge impact on my life. Everytime I shoot a piece of trash to the garbage, I still scream Kobe”, commented Toddrick Gotcher.
It was a very long extended summer for all involved in basketball. When had a Toddrick Gotcher ever been on summer vacation in early March as a professional player? As a professional your usually off in May and if you make the playoffs don´t return home to weeks or a month later. The American returned back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and like in Istanbul was around many many other people. At least he was back home with his loved ones, but the mood was very tense as the United States were going through hard times with COVID-19. “I believe there is fear everywhere. Obviously in the bigger cities due to more people being receptive to the virus. But I would think it is equal with everyone’s mood and everyone being more aware”, warned Toddrick Gotcher. Having extended family time was a huge plus for all overseas basketball players, but they also had to contend with something totally new. Often players return home, do nothing for 2 weeks, then go on a vacation and start training in June while their agents look for teams. But now players could start training in April, but also had the disadvantage of finding a place to train as gyms were closed. Just as creative he is on the court, he had to be even more creative where he could work on his craft. “ It will be a huge adjustment for us all. It will be pretty weird to start workouts earlier knowing we will not have to be in game shape for a while The advantages of this is allowing our body to recover, but the disadvantage is too much time off”, warned Toddrick Gotcher back in March 2020. COVID-19 was an eyeopener for all and it was something that made many stronger as well as the American. “During this tough time, I have learned to just appreciate everything in life. Take some positive out of every negative. Use this time to our advantage with our families”, expressed Toddrick Gotcher.
When COVID-19 hit back in March 2020, the American who played 135 NCAA games at Texas Tech had more time to reflect on his season with Besiktas Istanbul. Despite losing high class Americans, the club got the last playoff spot despite having a 11-12 record. It wasn´t an easy season for the club in the last few months, but he took on the challenge. “There were many ups and downs this season but we had a next man up mentally. Everyone stepped up when we needed them. It was good to see how resilient we were as a team”, added Toddrick Gotcher. Not only did the American learn to deal with a new challenge of being the lone American at the end, but didn´t have a Theodore or McAdoo to get a Mcdonalds midnight snack, but had to form new kind of relationships with his Turkish teammates. “I spent great quality time with my Turkish teammates. They are great guys and showed me the Turkish way, so I have give them appreciation for everything. We all have great relationships as well”, stressed Toddrick Gotcher.
The American got a bit lost with his game with the American trio of Theodore, McAdoo and Mckissic, but here and there he did break through and have some strong games like his 22 points in a huge crushing of Italian team Brindisi in the Basketball Champions League. In the end, he held his own averaging 9,9ppg, 4,7rpg 2,3apg and 1,5spg while shooting 33% from outside in the BSL league and in the BCL averaged 10,8ppg, 3,5rpg and 1,6spg while shooting 41% from outside. and didn´t need his American teammates, because he did just fine with his Turkish teammates. “I honestly started off the season really slow. I was not playing the way I needed to and was not getting the job done. But as the season progressed, I got better and better. I still have a lot to improve on with my game, but I think I can bring more to the game”, warned Toddrick Gotcher. It was obvious that as the Americans left, his minutes increased and his role changed as well. “My role changed a lot. At first, my job was to only shoot 3s to space the floor and defend. But as my teammates were leaving, I had to take on bigger roles, whether it be playing with the ball in my hands or rebounding doing whatever I can to help the team win”, added Toddrick Gotcher. He came to Turkey in the summer already as a versatile player, but as the season progressed, he had many more duties and became even more versatile. “I actually did score more as the season progressed due to my bigger role. My main focus was just doing whatever I can for the team to win. I appreciate the trust of my coach and teammates for allowing me to be myself”, said Toddrick Gotcher. He finished the season strong scoring in double figures in his last 5 games in the Turkish league and had two double doubles and had stats leading toward a triple double and took new steps in his 4th professional season after playing 2 seasons Greece averaging double figures in scoring in the A-1 league and playing in France. “The new step I took was playing the point guard. I enjoyed having the ball in my hands and setting my teammates up to score. I believe that I improved my game and improved my ball handling to get my teammates involved”, stated Toddrick Gotcher. He definitely will never forget Istanbul, but it´s time to move on as basketball player lives like a nomad. “Istanbul, Turkey is one of the best places I have ever lived. It is safe and beautiful with great people. Great environment to live in. One of the top places to stay in my opinion for basketball players”, stressed Toddrick Gotcher. The American will commence his fifth professional season with KK MZT Skopje Aerodrom (North Macedonia-Prva Liga) and continue to look to develop further as a player as well as helping his team be as successful as possible. He also will have a parallel to the second half of the Besiktas season in that he won´t be the lone American, but have one teammate with Hassani Gravett and have many North Macedonian teammates but also a Serb teammate. Learning to play only with Turkish players helped strengthen his game last season and this season he will have the opportunity to continue to develop and get by with mostly North Macedonian players. He may not find a Mcdonalds in Skpje because it was banned, but at least he will still have Burger King and not have to go alone, but have a good conversation in English with lone American Hassani Gravett and for a little period feel like he could be back home in America.