Last Thanksgiving, 2011 graduate and former basketball standout Jack Eggleston was not taking a break from work to celebrate the day with friends and family in his home state of Indiana. Instead, he was sitting in his apartment in Leverkusen, Germany, waiting for basketball practice to start when he heard a knock on his door.
“It was my landlords with a fully cooked chicken,” Eggleston recalled. “They said they knew it was supposed to be a turkey for Thanksgiving, but a chicken was the best they could find. It didn’t matter though because it was just so considerate of them to think of me that way.”
Eggleston was signed by the Bayer Giants — a Pro-B (third division) team based in Bavaria — on Aug. 10 after a summer of hope, uncertainty and crossed fingers.
The process, he said, differed a great deal from being a high-school recruit.
“[Being signed to a professional team] is much more out of your hands,” Eggleston said. “When you’re a high-school recruit, the schools and coaches are contacting you, but with this I mostly just talk to my agent every once in a while and he lets me know what’s going on.”
That meant Eggleston had nothing to do but work out and try to improve before signing with the Giants.
Playing in Europe, he said, was always the “more realistic” goal for him, and Germany was one of his top choices from the beginning.
“Germany is one of the most stable places to play because teams that are in the league at the beginning of the season will still be in the league at the end,” Eggleston said. “In other places, players can sometimes go months without being paid.”
Despite battling injuries all season in both his left and right ankles, Eggleston was a high impact player when he was healthy enough to be on the court. In 23 appearances, he led the team in average points per game with 14 and posted a 49.5 field goal percentage, 37.1 percent from the three-point range.
Though his statistics were similar while Eggleston wore the Red and Blue, he said playing in Germany was a completely different experience.
“Because I wasn’t playing in the first league, for the German guys playing on the team wasn’t a full time job, they all had other things going on,” Eggleston said. “But to their credit, we had a really good group of competitive guys, they worked hard and played hard.”
Eggleston’s goal for next season will be to move up to the first league either in Germany or in a smaller country, “like Switzerland or the Netherlands.” Right now, he is at home in Indiana working out and waiting to hear from interested teams.
Eggleston is hoping that teams will look to his last game of the season as an indicator of what he is capable of, rather than the games where he was dealing with his ankle injuries.
The Giants were playing in what’s known as the “playdown” tournament, which Eggleston described as essentially the opposite of playoffs. The bottom four teams in the given league play best-of-three games against each other, and the bottom team in the tournament has to move to a lower league.
“It’s a huge deal because no team wants to move down, so there was a lot of pressure,” Eggleston said. “The last thing I wanted was to lose our series against the [Giessen] Pointers and go out on a bad note.”
Luckily for Eggleston, he had two weeks to rest before the playdown series began.
“Those two weeks off were crucial because I finally felt like I got healthy, and I played my best games of the season in that final series.”
The Giants defeated the Pointers in the first game but lost the second, and the fate of both teams came down to the final game of the series and the season. Eggleston led the team with 36 points and eight rebounds on 14-of-18 shooting from the field in the 83-76 win.
But Eggleston’s best memories from his year in Germany will not be any individual game played.
“The most important part of the experience for me was by far the people that I met,” Eggleston said. “My landlords, my teammates, coaches, the general manager, everyone treated me so, so well, everyone cared that I enjoyed my time there.”
But whether this season was enough to guarantee him a place in a league next year –– in Germany or elsewhere –– is still up in the air. Ultimately, whether you are a high-school recruit or a professional hopeful, it all comes down to a team deciding to take a chance on you.
“Right now I’m just trying to keep improving, I’m just waiting on a call,” Eggleston said. “I know that I can make the best of whatever opportunities come my way.”