UConn NCAA Champion Kentan Facey Was Clouded By European Basketball At First But Ron Ross Helped Him Become The Player He Is Today

Coming overseas for the first time for an American isn’t always easy. It really changes from player to player and often it really depends on the character of the guy and exactly where you landed. Things can be a lot easier when you play in a country like Germany where life in general is organized pretty decent, whereas if you land in some obscure town in Romania where the English language is as scarce as Chicago Bull legend Scottie Pippen coming of his bashing off former teammate Michael Jordan, life can quickly become a lot difficult to handle. Another thing that is always useful is arriving on a club that has other Americans where the adjustment period can very much be made simpler. When playing in a first division in Germany, France or Italy, you will have many guys to chose from. Often a team will have 5-6 players where you can find that mentor, but if you land in a more obscure basketball country and lower league you may only have one other teammate or in a worst scenario be the only American and hope the coach runs everything in English which isn’t always the case. In the case of former NCAA champion Kentan Facey, he literally chose the correct lottery ticket landing with Aries Trikalla BC (Greece-A1) in his rookie season in 2017-2018. He was extremely fortunate to land on a team that had quite a few Americans, but when most are rookies, finding that mentor can be difficult. But he was very fortunate to have Ron Ross as a teammate who had seen it all overseas. Ross had played under the legendary head coach chair thrower Bobby Knight at Texas Tech and had carved out a very solid 13 year professional career. When Facey arrived in Greece, Ross was in his last season and would leave before Christmas to finish his professional career in Cyprus. Facey had been super lucky that he could have the perfect mentor in Ross in his first 4 months. ‘Ron was a great teammate, he is one of the reasons I am the player/teammate that I am today. My rookie year I had 4 other rookie teammates from the States, we were an extremely young inexperienced team. Ron joined the team a few weeks after we started, when he got to the team he provided leadership for us, he was our veteran. Ron would teach us how playing overseas works and how to use the opportunity we had to experience new things. He was great for our team because he was a great player and a leader for us. Ron was on my team for a short period of time but during that time he was a real veteran presence who helped players connect better with the coach and also to show us, the younger players, the way to be successful playing in Europe’, warned Kentan Facey. His journey through the professional ranks in the last years haven’t been easy, but Ronn Ross helped lay the foundation of what to expect. UConn NCAA Champion Kentan Facey was clouded by European Basketball at first but Ron Ross helped him become the player he is today.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Ron Ross in Germany in 2008 when he was playing for Ludwigsburg

Kentan Facey who lists Shabazz Napier, Jalen Adams Amida Brimah, Michael Johnson (Jamaican teammate) Niels Giffey, Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton as his best teammates of all-time was born on July 14, 1993 in Trelawny, Jamacia and attended Long Island Lutheran high school playing for John Buck. He was named N.Y. State Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging 14.8 points, 13.0 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game in 2012-13 and was also named a nominee for the McDonald’s All-American Game. He then attended the well known basketball school UConn from 2013-2017 and his basketball career could have gone a totally different route had he not experienced the full 4 years. He had technically already graduated from high school in Jamacia by Jamaican standards before coming to Long Island. Originally the NCAA had a rule that one has to forgo two years of eligibility and red shirt a season, but later it would not be applied, because it didn’t want to punish international athletes for getting that academic experience. He was able to attend for 4 years and achieved a degree in Herpetology.’ That was a very uncertain period in my career. I had a great high school career, I ended my senior year being New York State Gatorade Player Of The Year, however I knew I needed a lot of work. As a player who started playing basketball at around age 13-14 I was still a project, if I didn’t have four years of college I’m not sure I would be the player I am now had I not been able to go through that four year process’, remembered Kentan Facey. In his first 3 years he played 89 NCAA games, but due to the rosters always being stacked had problems getting playing time. He did average 21 minutes in his second year, but never averaged more than 4,4ppg up to his senior year. He reached the peak of the mountain as a freshman wining the NCAA title. ‘Winning the NCAA tournament was one of the most memorable, most exciting moments of my life. I was lucky to be on a team with some great players and great leaders. To be a part of that team was great, especially as a freshman. Our fans were extremely happy and they showed that when the team arrived home, we had a parade, parties you name it. That experience is one that I will cherish forever because I use that as a reference when I’m preparing for my season, I’ve seen and been a part of the process leading up to winning a major tournament so I have an idea what that hard work is supposed to look and feel like’, stressed Kentan Facey. He finally came into his own in his senior year averaging 27 minutes per game and 8,5ppg and 7,1rpg. The first three years weren’t always easy, but he always stuck being that great teammate and working on his game. ‘My overall experience at UConn was great. The years I spent there built character and toughness. My first three years were very challenging on and off the court but I learned how to bounce back from tough situations. UConn is a school where if you are not performing well there’s a player who is just as capable ready to take your spot so it was essential to always be focused and prepared. My senior year I was able to play more because I developed as a player and leader and also I had a better understanding of what it took to stay on the court. Playing at UConn was tough, for me it was more tough dealing with the mental aspect of college.’, stated Kentan Facey.

The Jamaican who remembers battling UConn teammate Vance Jackson in one on one and also remembered having many other great teammates like German national player Niels Giffey who was constantly in the lab working on his game and helping the younger guys adjust better to college life. Another one of those was Amida Brimah who has been grinding and trying to get to the NBA: ‘Amida is a good friend of mine. He’s an extremely talented defender and he has added a lot to his offensive game that’s making him a bigger threat on offensive that people are you to seeing from him. Sharing the front court with AB was a luxury because he would be a one man zone, he made everyone’s job easy because he would constantly communicate with us as well as cover our mistakes at the rim by blocking/altering numerous shots. I definitely profited from playing with Amida because guys would settle for outside shots rather than to get to the basket, this made it easier for me to play defense and on offense Amida was such a big pick and roll threat that teams would over help which would help me get open shots’, added Kentan Facey. He wasn’t only influenced by the great teammates around him like Shabazz Napier, Rodney Purvis or Daniel Hamilton, but also head coach Kevin Ollie who prepared and groomed him for a professional basketball career. ‘ Coach Ollie played a huge roll in preparing me as a person and player. Practices were very tough and competitive, this set the foundation to build good habits. Coach Ollie played in the NBA so he knew what the professional side of basketball looked like, he would have certain requirements of the players, for example different players were to watch film breakdowns with different coaches in order to see what we were doing on the court and how we could improve. One of the biggest takeaways I got from Coach Ollie was to show up everyday ready to work hard’, added Kentan Facey. In his 4 year UConn career he scored in double figures in 17 games including a 23/10 game in a 20 point victory over Temple and a 20/12 game in a victory over Tulane. He also won the ACC title in 2016.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and 2 time NCAA champion Niels Giffey at the 2015 BBL allstar game in Ulm

The NCAA champion lists current NBA player Jahlil Okafor as being his toughest cover in the NCAA began his professional career in 2017-2018 with Aries Trikalla BC (Greece-A1) playing 12 games averaging 5.7ppg, 5.2rpg, FGP: 53.7%, FT: 55.6%. Despite having a perfect mentor like Ron Ross beside him, he will never forget what his wake up call was to being overseas for the first time where he knew that he was very far away from home. ‘As this was my first year I went through culture shock. I didn’t know what to expect as in the past I only visited 1 country where English wasn’t the first language. My experience in Greece was unique, with the language barrier and the food, it took me a while to get adjusted to the culture there. In regards to basketball, I realized things were a bit different when I played against a few teams in the preseason and after the game the players would hop in a minivan with their wife and kids, to me that was different and that was a wake up call, we were not in college playing against kids, now this is against men who have a family to feed’, remembered Kentan Facey. He scored in double figures in one game netting 14 points against Promitheas and also had the privilege to play against Euroleague Powerhouses Olympiakos that was stacked with well known guys like ex NBA player Brian Roberts and Hollis Thompson and against Panathinaikos where he squared off against players like Nick Calathes, Chris Singelton, Marcus Denmon and KC Rivers. He lost 87-56, but showed his presence on the defensive end with 2 blocks and a steal and also grabbed 5 rebounds and scored a basket in 20 minutes of work. We played against some really good players on those top teams, for me it was more respect for those guys than being in awe, those guys were competing at the highest level in Europe, that deserves some respect’, said Kentan Facey. In his second professional season, he took a step back playing for AEL Limassol (Cyprus-Division A,), but had his break through averaging and showing he can be a game changer overseas averaging 12.8ppg, Reb-4 (8.6rpg), Blocks-5 (1.2bpg), FGP: 57.9%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 61.5%. ‘Cyprus was an amazing experience. I love everything about Cyprus, the weather was great and the people were great. My season in Cyprus helped me to get back on track because I had a tough first year in Greece. I was lucky enough to have a great coach who helped me in many ways, we would work together on skill development everyday and I believe this extra work translated on the court. Cyprus definitely provided and opportunity for me to grow and develop as a player’, remembered Kentan Facey. He scored in double figures in 17 games and had 7 double doubles. Some of his most memorable games in Cyprus occurred against Apoel where he had 27 points and scooped up 16 boards and 18/14 against AEK Larnaca.

After a very promising and solid second season in Cyprus, it was only logical that he would of gotten a deal in a higher league, but instead he found himself in the second division in France with BC Souffelweyersheim (France-ProB). Obviously landing a job isn’t always easy as the competition overseas is extremely brutal, but with his skillset, he sure could of played in a higher league. ‘Overseas basketball is extremely competitive, this was something I struggled with coming out of college. A lot of players coming from the United States and other regions think we have an understanding of what overseas basketball is like however most of the time that idea is wrong. Once you leave college you hit the reset button and you start over. I went to a high level college and my expectations were that overseas would be easier, I was wrong. I believe I landed in a good situation after Cyprus, obviously if it was possible to play at a higher level I would have loved to do that, however I think each stop on my career path is one that I need in order to grow’, warned Kentan Facey. In the last two seasons he played 54 games averaging 10.4ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 54.3%, 3PT: 18.8%, FT: 58.6% in his first season and 11.7ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.2apg, Blocks-2 (1.5bpg), FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 27.0%, FT: 81.4% in his second season. ‘The first division in Greece was very challenging vs the first division in Cyprus. The level of competition in those two countries is vastly different. My experience in ProB France was a good one. The competition in the ProB league is very high, this makes the league interesting because each night a lower rank team can beat a top team. In France I found that the style of basketball there fits my game, I like to be active and athletic when I’m playing and the French league is centered around this style. Even though ProB France is the second division, I think it’s one of the top second division in Europe, I believe it prepares players to assimilate in any of the top leagues’, expressed Kentan Facey. In those two seasons he scored in double figures in 32 games including 23 points a piece against Fos-Provence and Nancy. Sometimes playing in a second division does wonders for a player’s game especially when he doesn’t have to take a back seat on the bench. ‘The past two seasons in France played a very big role in my development. I had a great coach who believed in me and he would allow me to do the things in the game that he sees me working on in practice or individual workouts. Coach Eberlin would put me in situations where I am used my strengths. Playing in Souffelweyersheim helped me develop as a player because I played a lot of minutes and this allowed me to play through some mistakes and get better from those mistakes. I was able to add different elements to my game while I was at Souffel. My self confidence grew with progression, the more I improved the more confidence I had and a big part of this I owe to my coach and my teammates. As things stand right now I would say I am a 4/5 man who can score, defend and rebound at a high level. I’ve also become a better leader and communicator on the court’, commented Kentan Facey.

So now let’s fast forward to 2022. The power forward who like many players believes that the classic film Coming To America should have been left alone was jobless as an injury had derailed his 2021-2022 campaign. In the final game of last season in France, he was injured that required surgery. Of course just like everyone else on earth, COVID also has affected his life. It wasn’t always easy, but he made the best out of it. ‘COVID is new for everyone so we all struggled to find a way to adapt to a sort of new lifestyle. During my time in France COVID caused us to pause our season, reschedule games etc. but overal I think the league did a great job in trying to protect the players and fans by having measures in place to reduce the possibility of spreading the virus. Our biggest challenge on the court was playing without our fans, in Souffelweyersheim we had a small gym but our fans made it feel like it’s Madison Square Gardens lol. Off the court the biggest challenge was the lockdown, during this time it’s easy to get bored, especially when the season was on a pause’, stated Kentan Facey. Covid also gave him the chance to explore new things in life, things he wouldn’t have had had COVID never struck. ‘I think COVID gave us all a chance to explore certain areas of our lives, where if not for COVID we wouldn’t have had the time to do so. On a personal level COVID allowed me to find a passion/hobby outside of basketball. I would agree that COVID made me stronger because I had more time to feed my brain, I was reading more, I spent more time trying to learn the French language and I was able to spend more time with my family’, stressed Kentan Facey.

The Jamaican who’s favorite player is Kobe Bryant, but his goat is Michael Jordan is a 206cm forward that likes to compare his game to Los Angles Lakers big man Anthony Davis. He watches a lot of forwards, but the guy he studies most is the ex Kentucky (NCAA) standout Anthony Davis. ‘He is an extremely versatile forward. I find that there are some similarities in our games where we both are threats out of the pick and roll, we both block shots and guard some smaller players at times. AD scores a lot of his points off non post-up plays and I think that’s another similarity we have’, stated Kentan Facey. He is a big that can score, rebound and block shots, but last season incorporated a three into his game to try to become more of a modern day forward. ‘I spent more time working on being more consistent shooting the three as well as developing the confidence to take those shots in game. I was always able to shoot but normally the teams I’ve played for in the past didn’t require me taking those shots. Moving forward I will only be more confident and consistent shooting the three because this adds another dimension to the team and to my game’, expressed Kentan Facey. Another strength that he has that seems to still be off the radar is his ability to switch on to smaller players and being able to disrupt the ball handler. His quick feet allows him also to be a versatile defender and guard the positions 1-3. He continues to work on his game to become the best player he can. ‘I am currently putting a lot of focus on my shooting mechanics, I’m working on having a more fluid shot. I am also putting a lot of time into my body, I believe if I’m bigger and stronger then I will be a more dominant player’, warned Kentan Facey. After 4 years in Europe, Facey knows exactly what to expect while his game keeps growing. By the way he isn’t jobless anymore as he signed with France Pro B team Saint Vallier. I’m sure if Ronn Ross saw his game and character today, he would be very proud

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s