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From the NBA to Vechta: Wes Iwundu’s Transition to European Basketball

Skyscrapers, mega arenas, superstars, bling-bling – the big show! Wes Iwundu (29) toured the NBA for five years. But after 236 games in the best league in the world for the Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and Atlanta Hawks, the basketball player was mercilessly discarded.

Iwundu fought his way through the farm teams for a year. Then he made a decision: Europe! The Texan checked the offers – and ended up in the Easycredit Basketball Bundesliga. Of all places, with surprise newcomers Rasta Vechta! Lower Saxony province, 34,000 inhabitants, a university and a cult basketball club.

His move was a sensation! In the BBL, only Bayern star Serge Ibaka (34) has played more NBA games (1071). “I knew: Vechta is a small town. And that it would be a big change for me,” says the winger. “But she’s worth it. I felt like I owed it to myself to focus solely on basketball. “To have a good, consistent year.”

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The 1.98 meter man was a role player in the NBA – in Vechta he is a key reason why the promoted team is in fourth place in the playoffs before Sunday’s top game against Alba Berlin (5 p.m., live WELT TV)!

“Maybe we can even try to win home advantage in the first round,” says Iwundu confidently. “That would be great for us and the city. And I think it’s a realistic goal.”

When Iwundu arrived in Vechta (from the Low German word for “wet land”), he experienced a culture shock! “EVERYTHING was different. That starts with the language. Plus the time change. And I even had the impression that the air was different! Somehow harder. During training I had trouble breathing and I got tired much quicker. But after the first two weeks it went away.”

He keeps in touch with his family via his first cell phone – the cooking show fan uses his second cell phone for basketball and business. Care packages from the States often arrive in the mail. Iwundu laughs: “My mother, my sister and my nieces make sure I always have some of my favorite snacks.”

The only thing he misses in Germany are his dogs. “I have two Goldendoodles. Hopefully if I come back to Europe next season I will find a way to bring her with me. That’s the first item on the list!”

Things also get difficult for the fashion freak because of his penchant for clothes. Iwundu grins: “I would say: Vechta doesn’t have that much going on when it comes to fashion. And I admit: When I’m here, I only wear Rasta sweaters.”

Nevertheless, he regularly posts stylish photos on social media. Because: “Fashion has always been part of my personality.”

On days off, Iwundu sometimes gets into the Skoda that the club provides him, drives 180 kilometers to Hamburg and strolls through the trendy shops. “Driving on the highway is definitely a new experience,” laughs the car fan. “If you’re not going at a certain speed, you shouldn’t change lanes! They are coming. They’re coming fast, man! But I don’t feel unsafe.”

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Just like on the parquet. “I feel very comfortable with the European style. Even if I haven’t internalized the Euro ball 100 percent yet. In the USA, the focus is on the individual aspect. In Europe it’s more about the team aspect. I’ve always been more of that type of player myself.”

Nevertheless, Iwundu enjoyed his time in the NBA, where he played in a team with super stars like Luka Doncic (24). “You shouldn’t take an experience like this for granted. These guys are so good because they put in so much work every day. You want to be the best. Being in the hall with guys like that every day and seeing how Luka works on his game is motivating. It teaches that if you treat the game right, the game will reward you.”

The man with Nigerian roots also lives this life at Rasta, where he shines with detailed work, rebounds (5 per game) and long-range throws (37.3% hit rate). Star behavior is alien to him.

That’s another reason why he enjoys small town life. “I knew there wouldn’t be much here outside of basketball, nothing to distract. I personally needed this. To get back to who I am as a player.”

2024-02-11 09:34:41
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