DIFFERENT WAY TO THE NBA – RYAN BROEKHOFF

DIFFERENT WAY TO THE NBA – RYAN BROEKHOFF

We breed ’em tough down in Frankston.

It was a semi-final of the domestic league and I was about 10 years old. I took a charge, fell back and felt a lot of pain in my left wrist. I went off the court like, ‘Ahh … I’ve hurt it!’

My mum, Jo, wasn’t having it.

‘You’re fine. I didn’t raise no soft boy.’ (That’s in nice terms!)

She told me to get back out there and I played the rest of the game, which we won. Straight afterwards, I went to play a mixed netball final. I fell down a couple of times, which really hurt, but we won again.

Eventually, we went to get the wrist checked out and discovered that it was broken. Mum felt bad afterwards. She was very apologetic.

The next week, I was sitting there on the bench for the grand final with a cast on my wrist. I wasn’t too happy. We lost.

I was a very quiet, shy kid. Even as a teenager, I didn’t say boo to anyone. Communication is a big part of basketball, so my under-16s Frankston coach, Neil Williams, tried to do something.

‘You’ve got to talk, yell, be loud on defence! You know what? We’re going to call you ‘Rowdy’ until you start talking!’

The nickname stuck: friends and family still refer to me as Rowdy. Ryan is usually just for when I’m in trouble.

I may have been quiet, but I always knew what I wanted to do with my life.

MY SPECIAL HOMETOWN

Growing up in Frankston was great.

We didn’t have a lot as a family, but we lived a 50-metre walk from the beach. It was a small, two-storey place. My twin sisters, Melissa and Carlee, shared a room; my older brother, Dan, and I somehow got our own.

It was a beautiful spot; perfect for us. Half the time we weren’t even in the house. We were down at the beach, swimming in the ocean, playing in the sand. Every summer was spent down there.

Mum did a wonderful job of raising us four kids, me being the youngest. Mum was the one putting in all the time and driving involved in playing domestic and representative basketball. She did everything for us.

My Grandma, Licia, was there to help mum raise us. Four kids take a lot of work, and she helped get us to school and sport. With cooking for us, too; we all lived with her for a while when mum went back to work and she also moved into our place for a time.

Frankston gets a bit of a bad rap. It is a mostly working-class place. Things could definitely have gone a different way for us if not for mum. She deserves so much credit for raising four kids who have turned out well and found happy, successful lives.

One of the keys was that she kept us playing sport.

I took a charge, fell back and felt a lot of pain in my left wrist. I went off the court like, ‘Ahh … I’ve hurt it!’ My mum wasn’t having it. ‘You’re fine. I didn’t raise no soft boy.’

All my closest friends, bar a few I met in college, are guys I went through Frankston basketball with. When I’m home, they’re the guys I make sure to catch up, have a beer and spend some time with.

My friends are proud mates – even today, they won’t even let me buy them a round of beers at the pub. They’ve always liked me for who I am, and whether I played in the NBA or worked around the corner at Woolies, they would treat me exactly the same.

That’s very refreshing. True friendship.

Frankston is such a brotherly, close-knit area. A real place, which made things a lot easier growing up. And long before I got there, we could already claim an NBA player: David Andersen, who played with the Rockets, Hornets and Raptors.

At a young age, before I played basketball, I used to go to the local stadium and watch my mum play for Frankston. She saw that I had a love for the game; I would always run on to the court to shoot during breaks and I picked up the game quickly.

I had good genes. My father, Wim, was an NBL player, albeit briefly. When the Frankston Bears played their one and only season in the NBL, he was on the roster.

Dad was a hard-nosed, back-up forward who rebounded the ball well, from what I’ve heard. I didn’t get the chance to see him play, as it was just before I was born.

I’m lucky that I got his body shape compared to mum’s; he was 6’6” with a solid wingspan, while mum was a little 5’4” point guard. I’ve ended up 6’7” (201cm). Getting dad’s physique and mum’s skills was the best of both worlds.

My friends are proud mates – even today, they won’t even let me buy them a round of beers at the pub. They’ve always liked me for who I am, and whether I played in the NBA or worked around the corner at Woolies, they would treat me exactly the same.

Basketball took me into the Victorian state team, then the Australian Institute of Sport. I shared both with Matthew Dellavedova.

He’s a good man, Delly.

Before I got my Mavs contract, he’d brought up my name a few times with the Milwaukee Bucks. That’s something that I’ll never be able to repay him for, that he believed in me and stuck his neck out for me. I loved and respected him for that, and it gave me confidence in myself.

We followed similar paths for a while, both had good US college careers. Delly really wanted the NBA from the start and he forced his way in, going at Kyrie Irving day after day at Cleveland Cavaliers practice. It earned him a spot that led to a championship alongside LeBron James.

I went off to Europe, but we always kept in touch. I went to his wedding and he came to my wedding reception in Australia. We always keep track of how each other is doing.

You meet so many people in basketball but to make true friends like Delly is what makes the journey special.

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