MYRTLE BEACH — Jon Pack’s first taste of professional basketball was admittedly a bit of a culture shock, but the former Coastal Carolina center is finding himself right at home in his second post-collegiate opportunity.
After spending almost four months playing in the Czech Republic’s top division, Pack returned to more familiar surroundings and signed with the American Basketball Association’s South Carolina Warriors last month and now plays his home games just a few miles from where he developed his skills the last five years with the Chanticleers.
He’s not sure where his professional career will take him, but for the time being, he said, it’s good to be back.
“I love being here,” Pack said. “It sounds silly, but I love America. Just being able to go out and get some food, it’s lovely.”
The 6-foot-11 Pack emerged as a starter for the Chants last season while averaging 7.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.06 blocks per game for a 19-12 Coastal team, and his agent then landed him the opportunity in the Czech Republic. But the experience didn’t go quite as he planned.
He struggled to adjust – on and off the court – and said he and the team reached a “mutual” decision to part ways halfway through the season.
“It’s a little bit of a different game,” he said. “They wanted me to score a lot, and as you’ve seen throughout my career, that’s not really my role. I’m more of a hustle guy, get a lot of rebounds, play the role I need to play, so it was kind of tough to fit in at first. The coach spoke zero English, so I really didn’t know what he wanted 100 percent, but other than that it worked out pretty good for what it was.”
Well, other than that and the cultural differences ...
While he had been to Poland and China before through the Athletes in Action international sports ministry, Pack said this was a bit different.
“I guess when you really stay there and you know you’re living there for a while, it really hits hard,” he said. “You want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and they don’t really have [any] jelly or peanut butter. It’s kind of different.”
His stint with the Warriors, meanwhile, is plenty familiar. Pack had attended several Warriors games last season during the franchise’s debut year in the ABA, and when he returned to the area he contacted Warriors coach John Kefalas to see if there was a spot for him.
The team was already stocked with an ample share of forwards and centers, but Kefalas brought Pack on anyway and it’s worked out fortuitously for both parties. With the 12-1 Warriors having several players leave for other opportunities recently, Pack has worked his way into the starting lineup and according to his coach is averaging about 14 points and 10 rebounds through his first handful of games.
“He listens,” Kefalas said. “A lot of guys when you get up to this level, they’ve got their own agendas. He’s a learner, he’s really thankful and I enjoy coaching the kid, I really do. He’s a big guy, he’s got a lot of possibilities. We’re working on making him stronger underneath the basket, positioning himself on defense, and he’s done very well.”
Aside from the freedom to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches whenever he pleases, there’s one other thing Pack has come to appreciate in his return to town.
“We don’t really practice like Coach Ellis’ three-hour practices, so that’s lovely,” he said in reference to Coastal coach Cliff Ellis.
Despite the challenges of his time in the Czech Republic, Pack reiterates that it was a good experience and he’s hopeful to pursue other international opportunities in the future if they arise.
But for now, it’s good to be home.
“It was an OK experience overseas, so if another opportunity comes, I’ll definitely take it,” he said. “But for right now, I’m just happy with where I’m at.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.