Ryan Broekhoff’s long and winding journey to the NBA has finally reached its destination after the former Valparaiso star signed a two-year contract with the Mavericks last week.
The Australian native played for the Crusaders from 2009-13, leading Valparaiso back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in nine years during his senior season. Broekhoff began his professional career in Turkey and has spent the last three years playing for Lokomotiv Kuban in the VTB United League, the top tier of professional basketball in Russia. Broekhoff also represented Australia in the 2016 Summer Olympics, helping to lead the Boomers to a fourth-place finish.
Broekhoff recently spoke to The Times of Northwest Indiana correspondent Paul Oren about signing with the Mavericks and beginning his NBA career.
Q: What was your initial reaction when the Dallas Mavericks called? When did you find out you were a NBA player?
A: On (July) 5th. I guess I was very taken aback that it was a reality. It's been such a long process for myself to get to this point. It still doesn't seem entirely real. I was obviously very happy when the phone call came through. It was out of the blue. I worked out for a few other teams, but not the Mavs. They came through and offered up to see what I was looking for. It all happened very quickly. It's still a little bit of a shock; it's been an amazing few days to take it all in. The family support has been pretty amazing.
Q: When European teams called you, did they understand you were waiting for the NBA?
A: Yes, we made it clear from the start. NBA was the priority. This was my best time, my best chance to make the jump over here; not having national team this summer and coming out of my contract completely from Europe. This was my best chance to maybe work out for teams where they could see me in person and get a feel and not just watch me through game tape. The European teams, we told them from the start, we let them know nice and early that the NBA was No. 1. We had been talking very closely with a team in Turkey about a deal if something was not to come up with the NBA.
Q: You have such an interesting roster (in Dallas) with one of the oldest guys in the NBA in Dirk Nowitzki and then maybe the youngest guy in Luka Doncic. How much of a mentor can you be at your age now to help a guy like Luka get through his first year in the NBA?
A: It's going to be a great experience to play alongside Dirk, to learn and to workout with him. To see firsthand what it takes to survive in the NBA for as long as he has and to play at the level he has. That's something I'm going to soak in as much as I can. Luka is going to have a lot of people looking to really take care of him and show him the ropes. I can help him out in any way that he needs. He's a pretty special kid already. He's going to be taken care of pretty well. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders.
Q: You had an interesting game against (Team USA) in the Olympics. Did you know when you walked away from that game that you were an NBA player, or did you know before that?
A: I think I believed in it beforehand, but actually going through that game and really pushing the Americans and competing so closely with them definitely added fuel to that belief. Having to guard Kevin Durant and guys like that, it was a great experience. It was a great learning experience and something that I took to heart. These guys are fantastic players and very talented. I don't think I'm leagues below them or anything like that. The way that we played and the way I played personally gave me great confidence.
Q: What do you know about Texas?
A: Everything is bigger in Texas or something like that? I don't know too much. From speaking from people down there, they say it's an awesome city. I'm looking forward to getting down there and find out for myself. It's something I'm really looking forward to.
Q: You wore No. 45 at Valparaiso, will you wear that number with the Mavs?
A: Yeah, I'm pretty sure the number is open. As long as it's open and there's nothing against it, I think I'll keep the 45 going. I did (it) in my junior career and my professional career. It's something I've had with me for a long time and I'll keep it going as long as possible.