When you have been around as long as I have covering basketball overseas for almost 20 years, there is a phrase that continues to follow me daily in just about every thing I do concerning player interviews and articles. The phrase is ‘time really does fly by’. I mean when I began in 2004 there were guys I’m covering now that weren’t even born yet and guys that hadn’t even began their professional career. Guys battle on the court every day and seasons come and go. Before you know it, you will read an announcement on social media or a newspaper clipping saying some guy has decided to hang them up after an illustrious career. Just in the last year, there have been tons of guys deciding to start a new chaper as Mr Pauldingburg Rickey Paulding left a legacy in Oldenburg that will never be matched again, Per Gunther played an incredible 14 years in Ulm and Alex King, who I saw grow from a young and inexperienced kid in Frankfurt in 2004 to a well spoken and respected gentleman had a stellar 20 year career winning titles with Alba Berlin. Just a day ago Jamar Wilson announced his retirement who had an incredible 15 year career overseas, but there are many others that sometime decide it’s time to think more about the family and life after basketball. There was another guy that like these pervious great players also had a long stellar 13 year career with Brian Harper (208-F-1985, college: Paine, agency: BIG). The only difference with him to the others was that he already retired a year ago. I had already had the pleasure with reminiscing about the past with him, but unfortunately kept his interview on the shelf, but as I like to say every once in a while, ‘better late than never’. Sorry for the delay Brian.
The 206cm forward who celebrates his 37th birthday on July 19th and resides in Atlanta, Georgia and remembers once hitting 2 full court shots one with a swish and the other with a bank shot began his NCAA 2 career at Paine from 2003-2007. It took some time before he got going at Paine, but in his last 2 seasons his game took off as he averaged 16,0ppg and 6,0rpg. His biggest success at Paine was winning SIAC player of the year in 2006 and reaching the conference final. The forward who will never forget his battles with Stillman (NCAA2) great Monyea Pratt began his professional career in 2007 with Gimle BBK Bergen (Norway-1Div) averaging 25.1ppg, 8.3rpg, 1.7apg, 1.2spg, 2.0bpg, 2FGP: 52.9%, 3PT: 21.5%, FT: 66.3%. He needed no time to getting adjusted to the European game as his game took off right away. But he also knew right away that overseas basketball would be no cake walk. ‘The wakeup call was everyone that I was playing with and against could really play there were no breaks every night you had to come ready to play’, remembered Brian Harper. His second season would be a roller coaster as he spent time in Korea with KCC Egis and in the D-League with teams Sioux Falls Skyforce and the Reno Bighorns. Even if his D-League experience lasted only 13 games, he will never forget the moment. ‘ When I got back from Korea I spent about a month in the D-League and really enjoyed it. I will never forget the NBA style of play’, said Brian Harper. After seeing a lot in his first 2 seasons as a professional, he then found some consistency in his career as he went to the other side of the world to Japan. His new club would be the Toyama Grouses (Japan-BJ League) and he would remain 3 seasons there. Even if his first season was cut short because he arrived in March, he saved his best for last as he totally dominated in his last two seasons averaging 18.6ppg, 10.1rpg, 1.7apg, 1.1spg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 51.0%, 3PT: 28.7%, FT: 56.6% and 16.3ppg, 6.9rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 54.4%, 3PT: 28.7%, FT: 61.3%.In 85 games he scored in double figures in 74 games and scored 20 points or more in 30 games and registered 29 double doubles. It wasn’t difficult to imagine what a big advantage it was for him being able to play so well. ‘I was taller than everyone’, laughed Brian Harper who had to get used to bowing and taking his shoes off in Japan.
After 3 years in the far east, It was time for a change. It wasn’t simple, but a decision he had to make. ‘Leaving Japan wasn’t an easy thing to do I love the culture, fans and professional basketball league in Japan , but I knew that if I wanted to continue to grow as a basketball player and wanted to play at the highest of levels it was something I had to do’, remembered Brian Harper. Now it was time for him to conquer the Beko BBL in Germany as he suited up for TBB Trier. He played for legendary German player Henrik Rodl whom Harper remembered watching win the 1993 NCAA title with North Carolina. ‘He is a tremendous coach. I like how he is able to relate to his players and is able to get his point across. He is a players coach. He knows exactly what he needs to get out of his players. I really enjoy playing for him’, said Brian Harper in 2013. With TBB Trier he played 33 games averaging 11.0ppg, 4.8rpg, FGP: 51.8%, 3PT: 27.3%, FT: 60.3%. He had many great teammates back in Trier and one of them was a young player named Joshiko Saibou. He had taken a lot of flak from the German basketball community in 2021 concerning his take on certain political issues and COVID. ‘Joshiko was one of the young guys on our team in Trier the season that I was with the team, and I knew then that he had a bright future. He developed into a great ball player and has carved out a great career. I wish him nothing but the best as he continues to solidify his status as a top guard in Germany’, stated Brian Harper in 2021. His biggest highlight that season had to be scoring 17 points in a win against top club FC Bayern Munich. After his solid season in Trier, he took on a new challenge and joined the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven. This was a team with high ambitions, a bigger budget and more talented players. His minutes dipped from 21-15 and scoring from 11-6. Bremerhaven had many great players and he just wasn’t a scoring option as much as in Trier. But he took it in stride and still played his heart out. Two guys he was teammates was with Derrick Allen a guy that had probably the best work ethic of any player in the BBL in the last 20 years and Darius Adams a scoring guard who should have been in the NBA. ‘Derrick Allen was definitely a coach even back in our days together in Bremerhaven. I know he is going to do great things as a coach. He was one of the hardest working players I ever played with, and I know his mentality and work ethic will translate to how he approaches his coaching career. Darius Adams is a special talent. He is one of the best guards I played with or against in my career. In my opinion he has NBA talent. I would go as far as saying he could be in the NBA if that’s where he decided that’s where he wanted to play, and if it made the most since for him at this point in his career’, commented Brian Harper.
After 2 years in Germany, the flying forward who liked to watch Scottie Pippen as a kid would depart and continue to add new stamps on his passport with his globetrotting journey. His journey continued in Cyprus where he suited up for Petrolina AEK Larnaca (Cyprus-Division A) playing 24 games averaging 16.3ppg),9.7rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 57.4%, 3PT: 31.0%, FT: 60.0%. Once again he needed no real adjustment period and belonged to the top players in the league finishing fourth in scoring and second in rebounding and was an allstar. He was a beast on the boards once registering 21 and 20 rebounds including 14 and 13 offensive rebounds. He helped lead the team to the title with exciting playoff series wins over Keravnos and Apoel. After his success in Cyprus, it was time for another change as he went from the beach to the freezing temperatures in Estonia. Once again his game took off with Tartu Ulikool/Rock (Estonia-Alexela KML) playing 22 games averaging 12.6ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.0apg, Blocks-2 (1.3bpg), FGP: 61.1%, 3PT: 35.0%, FT: 55.0%; and played 11 FIBA Europe Cup games averaging 11.0ppg, 6.6rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 54.7%, 3PT: 40.7%, FT: 66.7%;and played 6 Baltic League: games averaging 12.8ppg, 6.5rpg, 1.5apg, 1.5bpg, FGP: 53.6%, 3PT: 14.3%, FT: 88.0. In Estonia he teamed up with top Estonian player Janar Talts a guy that had also balled in Germany in the BBL and been teammates with ex NBA beast Marcin Gortat. ‘I had a real good time playing with Janar Talts. We did end up spending some time talking about our experiences playing in the BBL. I enjoyed my time in Estonia and learned a lot that season. I had a good time competing in the FIBA Euro Cup, and Baltic League’, remembered Brian Harper. He could of racked up many more titles had he had a little bit more fortune in Estonia, but at the end of the day, he was second 3 times. After a few years away from Japan, he had the itch to go back and played with Tokyo Hachioji Trains (Japan-B League D3) averaging 14.6ppg, 8.4rpg, 1.1apg, Blocks-3 (1.3bpg), FGP: 55.7%, 3PT: 27.6%, FT: 63.2%. ‘I love the Japanese culture and my wife and I enjoyed our time there. My fondest memory of my time there would be my wife and I getting pregnant with our first child while living in Tokyo. The style of basketball is up tempo and more one on one basketball in most cases. I’ve been able to have some success in both styles of play so I enjoy playing in both’, stressed Brian Harper in 2018. In the 2017-2018 season, his globetrotting ways continued as he encountered a new country with Israel, but his stay was short with Hapoel Ramat Gan Givataim (Israel-National League) playing 4 games averaging 13.0ppg, 4.3rpg, and he then finished the season with Cytavision Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus-Division A) playing 12 games averaging 12.8ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 58.5%, 3PT: 43.3%, FT: 75.0%.
After 4 years away from the German BBL, he returned back, but this time had to take a step back and played with the Tigers Tuebingen a club that had played in the BBL when he had been in Trier and Bremerhaven, but since been demoted to the second league called Pro A. He was there only for a few months and played only 3 games. He would of played more games, but a sudden turn of events effected it. ‘My time in Tubingen was definitely a different experience. Coach Nadjfeji brought me in and unfortunately after me being there for only a game or two the team went in another direction with a different coach. This situation was probably the only time in my career where I don’t feel like I had a full opportunity to display and showcase my abilities. The positives that I could take from the time there was the great fans, and front office and staff’, remembered Brian Harper. Despite sitting and watching more than playing, he was surrounded by great people like the Nadjfeji family and ultimate professional Elijah Allen. ‘It was great playing with Coach Nadjfeji, and was fun playing with his son Nemanja! Coach had a lot of passion and it was obvious how much he loves the game. Elijah Allen is one of those guys you don’t have to be around long to realize just how good a person he is. He is also a great basketball player who not only can play at a high level but also has a great understanding of the game’, stated Brian Harper. He then finished the season in Luxemburg with Racing averaging 18.5ppg, 11.5rpg, 1.5apg, 1.0bpg. He came back the next season in 2019-2020 with Racing Luxemburg which would be his last season. It was only a short stay as he played 3 games, but put up double double stats of 14/10. His best game was scoring 27 points and hauling down 13 boards in a loss to Contern and his last game was on January 11, 2020 where he had 8 points and 12 rebounds in a loss against the Musel Pikes. At that time the world was still in order, but Covid entered 2 months later. He was 34 years old at the time and probably would of kept going for a lot longer had other circumstances not hit. ‘Physically with how my body felt, the skill set I had built over my career, and the way I took care of myself I probably could played at a high level in to my 40’s’, warned Brian Harper in 2021.
Covid hit the world in 2020 which put everything in disarray. It was a time where people began to put other things in perspective. It wasn’t any different for athletes. There were many guys that didn’t play the 2020-2021 season. Another big time BBL player Jared ‘Mr assist’ Jordan also didn’t play which then led to him retiring. It wasn’t any different for Brian Harper who names his teammates in Trier as his best of all-time. ‘My wife and I got pregnant with our second daughter in March of 2020, and with all that was going on with COVID 19 decided to stay home last season to make sure my daughter was born safely, and to ensure my wife’s health. So COVID had a lot to do with our decision only because I wasn’t willing to take a chance with their heath As far as hanging it up, it just ended up being the right time. It wasn’t an easy decision only because how much I love the game. On the other hand it was a peaceful decision. After staying home last season and watching how my family and I were able to settle in I knew the timing was right’, stressed Brian Harper. Not only did Covid play a massive part in his decision to retire, but it also made him stronger as a man. ‘It definitely helped put things in perspective and also tested me in many ways. I’ve always been a family man and have always put my family first. COVID in a way gave me another opportunity to show just that. It forced me to continue to practice what I preach, and make decisions based on what was best for my family’, expressed Brian Harper.
When looking back at his illustrious career, it isn’t difficult to guess where his fondest memories were as a player. ‘Outside of the championship in Cyprus I would probably say some of the premiere teams we beat during my time in Germany. I would also say the seasons I spent in Japan with Toyama, and how I helped take a team that had never won and helped turn them in to a winning team’, added Brian Harper. Making the transition from the court to the office isn’t always easy for professional players, but for the American, he is very excited about what his next life path will be and knows the guy upstairs will guide him ‘I have so many things that I am excited to embark on as I transition into what comes next for me in my professional life. While my playing days have come to an end it is just the beginning of what I believe God has in store for me’, commented Brian Harper. He is a player that left his basketball stamp where ever he played and hopes that fans will remember him for certain things that he stood for with his play. ‘I would want them to remember the passion and tenacity in which I played the game. I always played the game and gave the game 100%. I hope the world remembers and finds joy in the unique talent and skill set that I worked so hard to build over my career. I hope the memories bring a smile to their faces’, said Brain Harper. It was a pleasure for me to be able to cover Brian’s time in Germany. I will never forget when he found space in the zone, it was look out as his thunderous dunks would rock any arena. It was a lot of fun to watch him use his brutal athleticism to his advantage on the court. I always enjoyed doing interviews with him as he was always willing to answer all my questions. At the end, our interview count stood at 8. It is also a blessing when the respect and love is mutual for one another. ‘Miles It has been a true pleasure! I will remember your love and passion for the game. I will also remember your unmatched professionalism! I was always comfortable working with you because I always knew you were honest, and had high character. I can truly say I will miss your interviews my friend’, said Brain Harper. Congrats on a great career Brian. All the best for you and your family in the future. We don’t have to keep our interview count at 8. I’m always ready for a new interview my friend!