Justin Briggs( Kapfenberg Bulls) Game Continues To Change And Evolve As His Mentality Of Always Having To Prove Himself Will Help Him Progress

                Guys that I particularly love to cover are those guys that never got anything for free and always had to prove themselves thus never losing that drive to grind in the gym until the janitor throws them out and turns off the lights. One simply doesn´t see many players coming from NCAA 2 schools make the trek overseas and get rewarded with that professional contract. You see more of these talented players that are talented, but forever reason were off the radar of division 1 schools pop up in lower country leagues in Europe, but every so often they also appear in division one leagues in Europe. One of these special players is Justin Briggs who landed in Austria and is playing his second professional season for the Kapfenberg Bulls. He played college ball at Chico State(NCAA2) that have produced many great players, but seldom guys that have gone overseas. There was a actually one graduating class 2005 where they didn´t send one player to Germany, but four with Will Bonner, Andy Butcher, Tim Haley and Jason Van Eck. Ten years later Chico State had another special player called Amir Carraway who played three seasons in Germany. He finished school a year before Justin Briggs came on board at Chico State, but his legacy left a lasting impression on the young center. “What comes to mind when I hear the name Amir Carraway is a Friend, Mentor, and Leader who has always been open to reaching out to me and giving me advice as well as being there to work out and train with during off seasons. He understands what it takes to play at a high professional level and also knows what it takes to get there from where we both started so it is always good hearing advice from him”, stated Justin Briggs. But not only does Justin Briggs have that love for Amir Carraway, but the love is mutual. “Justin Briggs is going to be a high level big for many years to come. It only takes a couple of down and backs to see the talent. I had a chance to watch him play a few times in college and by no surprise; he’s finally getting the opportunity to showcase his talent. He’s a student of the game and has a great basketball IQ. He has good hands and rebounds the ball at a high rate. Both things you can’t teach. I’ve seen him go against lottery picks and #1 overall selection while in college and there’s no surprise that those experiences and work ethic has gotten him to the pro ranks. I expect him to excel even more as he adjusts to the pro level. For some reason Division II doesn’t get the credit it deserves as there are a handful of guys currently playing at the NBA level”, warned Amir Carraway. Briggs is an exciting player that wants to leave his mark on European basketball as well as make his school Chico State proud. His game continues to change and evolve as his mentality of always having to prove himself will help him progress.

            Justin Briggs who lists Isaiah Brooks, Robert Duncan, Mike Bethea Jr., AJ Turner, and  Isaiah Ellis as his five best teammates of all-time was born on September 19th, 1997 in Okinawa, Japan and grew up in West Sacramento, California. He attended River city High school and then attended Chico State(NCAA2) from 2015-2020. After a redshirt year, he began his NCAA 2 career in 2016 averaging 8.4ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.9bpg, FGP: 53.3%, FT: 47.7%. Right away as a freshman, he reached the NCAA 2 Elite 8. “This was one of the most memorable moments there because of the talent we had on the team that year as well as how far we made it that year. It was a great experience that a lot of people don’t get to see in their college career even if it was Division 2 it was a great accomplishment from me and that group of guys we had”, stated Justin Briggs. In his second year he averaged 8.9ppg, 6.5rpg, 1.4bpg, FGP: 56.0%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 54.2%. He displayed special consistency with scoring and rebounding and in his junior season averaged.8.8ppg, 7.4rpg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 51.5%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 46.2%. His game took greater strides in his senior season as he averaged 11.7ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.8bpg, FGP: 60.3%, 3PT: 38.5%, FT: 51.3%. He was forced into a new role and knew that he had to take control and heighten his game. “We lost some veteran players my junior year and I knew in order for our team to make another NCAA appearance I would need to step up as a scorer as the only senior that was playing on the team at the time. My game developed with each game as well as our team chemistry and the connection I had with my point guard helped as well”, remembered Justin Briggs. In his four year career, he scored in double figures in 44 games.

            The California native who has Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Shaquille O’Neil, and Jamal Crawford on his own personal NBA Mount Rushmore helped the school reach three CCAA tournament semi-finals and will never forget two of his last games at Chico State against CS Stanislaus where he lost 78-77 and 75-73. “Those we’re probably the closest back to back games that I played in college especially since we played the same team twice and those games ended up going to overtime so that is always going to be a great game to remember and I had a high school friend Xavier who played on the CSU Stanislaus team and we still talk about those games”, expressed Justin Briggs. Even if the Elite 8 loss to Lincoln Memorial was long ago, it was an experience that really helped him grow as a player at Chico State. Playing against very good talent with future NBA player Emmanuel Terry and Luquon Choice who would go overseas to Germany and being tested at any early stage of his NCAA 2 career was very important in his early development. “Playing them in the Elite 8 was a good experience and it showed the level of physicality that needed to be increased after each round of the tournament in order to be successful. They had talented players that were physically more aggressive than us and that was a lesson that I kept with me going forward through my basketball career”, commented Justin Briggs. Some of his best games in the NCAA 2 occurred against CS Los Angeles where he poured in 23 points and against CS East Bay and Azusa Pacific where he added 21 points apiece. One individual who was instrumental in him being a consistent player and maturing into a professional player was head coach George Clink. “Playing for Greg Clink was a great experience. His basketball knowledge was excellent and I hear and use a lot of his coaching points that he taught me in the professional basketball games that I’ve played in so far. He expected great things from his players and brought out the full potential in all of us. He has coached a handful of players that have went on to play overseas and I’m sure he will continue to develop new talent”, warned Justin Briggs.

            The American who remembers Deandre Ayton who currently plays for the Phoenix Suns was his toughest opponent in an exhibition game during his school time is one of those rare players that went through COVID during school and then had to find a professional team during the hard times. In 20 years he will always be able to say he had to go through all these restrictions and had to adapt to a new lifestyle overseas which obviously wasn´t easy. “The biggest obstacle when Covid was in its early stages was how we as players and staff should go about our season. We had just made the NCAA Tournament and there were rumors about it being canceled at the time or postponed and it was difficult to understand the severity of Covid at the time because of the lack of knowledge and information about the virus. Once I made my way to Austria the biggest difference was playing in empty arenas with no fans and trying to come out each day and play with energy and intensity when each game had a sort of “Practice Feel” to it”, said Justin Briggs. COVID also made him look at life a lot differently than before COVID had reared it´s ugly head into everybody´s life. “Covid personally made me understand not to take simple things for granted, such as fans, social life, and even travel. It limits what you can do and when you can do things so this past year I just kept telling myself if I can make it through a season with Covid restrictions, empty gyms, and limited travel I will be able to make it through any season and strive from here on out in my career”, warned Justin Briggs. He had to really fight for that first rookie gig as the whole transfer period was difficult and different for the 20-21 season because of COVID than ever before. But he stuck through it and signed a contract in Austria in January 2021. “When I wasn’t playing and didn’t sign in the beginning of the 2020-21 season I was down on myself at first but not discouraged. I was training everyday staying game ready and healthy even when the phone wasn’t buzzing with opportunities I had faith as well as patience and knew they would eventually come. I knew the biggest obstacle would be getting a good first job overseas that would lay out the framework for the start of my career and once I got the job I knew I had to prove that I belonged there”, stressed Justin Briggs. He never forgot that he came from the NCAA 2 and has that special mentality that from now on nothing will come easy even after he proves himself. That mentality to always have to prove himself is something that will never go away. “It was a blessing getting the call in January 2021 to come and play in Austria and prove myself as a professional Talent and to then play for the rest of the 2020-21 season and get the call that they wanted me to resign for another season in a starting role it was even more of a testament to my hard work and dedication that I have put into myself as well as the organization. Coming from Division 2 you always have to work harder than the next guy and prove yourself before you get the respect and recognition and that is what this year is all about”, warned Justin Briggs who beat Chico State teammate Marvin Timothy in one on one battles back in the day.

            Last season as a rookie in Austria with Kapfenberg Bulls (Austria-BSL) the ex NCAA 2 player who thinks Lebron James is the greatest to ever play played 23 games averaging 5.3ppg, 4.3rpg, FGP: 63.3%, FT: 50.0%;and played 3 FIBA Europe Cup games averaging 2,0 and 1,7rpg. He right away got a great feel of what playoff basketball is all about overseas witnessing an opening round 5 game series win over Vienna, then sweeping Wels and then losing a tough 4 game final series against top club Gmunden. He also played Fiba Europe Cup getting a first taste of international club basketball. He also was lucky to have been teammates with Austrian legend and ex ACB player Thomas Schreiner and ex German Pro A player Alex Herrera. “Thomas was a great teammate who shed a ton of knowledge to me as a first year rookie We would watch game film together and he would show me clips on how to be more efficient as well as point out how to be effective while me and him are on the court together. When it comes to Alex it was great playing against him every day in practice, before I had arrived Alex was the only 5 position and once I got there he didn’t take it easy on me we both worked extremely hard to get each other better and prepared for games. It was always great battling with him and also learning from him each and every day”, stated Justin Briggs. This season Kapfenberg has added some new pieces and want to get back to it´s winning ways from 2017-2019 where they won three straight titles. “With the Covid season last year it took a toll on the basketball in the club and we are eager to get back to the standard we were once at in the past. We have a lot of goals to meet this season and we are excited to work towards them day by day”, added Justin Briggs. Two players that bring their own special qualities to the team and feed Briggs in the paint are veteran Kareem Jamar and Joshua Scott. “The biggest aspect that I get from Kareem Jamar is his knowledge of the game as well as his knowledge of the program since he was a part of those winning seasons in past years winning the Austrian cup and being a league champion. Playing with Joshua Is also a fun experience because he is a high energy player just like myself who is quick and explosive and also takes the time to learn each and every day in order to get accustomed to the team and get comfortable leading our team in the point guard position”, expressed Justin Briggs.

            The big man who felt that the classic Coming To America should have been left alone is a 208cm center that has a game that is similar to NBA player Karl Anthony Towns. He is a solid post player that can hit the jump shot and be efficient on the pick and roll. He is also an active player at both ends of the court. “My game is always changing and evolving with each passing day but I would like to say that I am a big that plays in the low post with vision to find the open man passing out of the post, playing one on one from the mid post as well as the low post, and when open knocking down the Three pointer/Mid Range. & With pick and rolls I like to make the read on how my defender plays it and make plays out of catching the roll pass and finishing or creating for a shooter”, stressed Justin Briggs. But he so much more than just an offensive presence, but also a player that has a potent defensive game that will definitely help him move up the basketball ladder in the next years should that develop as well as his offensive game does. In the NCAA 2 he averaged 1,5bs per game in his four year career and he hopes to continue to be that rim protector at the professional level. “I am a good post defender who moves well on any kind of ball screen defense and I typically come from the help side to get my blocked shots when we have guards driving to the basket or posting up on the opposite side of me. I want to consistently execute our teams defensive schemes perfectly so that teams are forced into rushed shots. I also guard different positions well on the perimeter when we go into a switch situation and I am switched out on a smaller offensive player”, said Justin Briggs. He definitely has a game that will keep developing in the next years and it will be exciting to see what next opportunities he chooses and how well he can adapt to new styles of play in different countries. But for now he has a game that will definitely turn heads in Austria. He will never be satisfied with the last big game, because he has that mentality that he always has to prove himself. He simply doesn´t know any better.

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