Four years ago, Joe Alexander was Milwaukee’s first pick in the draft with his basketball future in front of him. Today, Alexander is trying to resurrect it.
Alexander’s career with the Bucks lasted only two seasons – one actually playing and the other recovering from injury. He averaged 4.7 points and 1.9 rebounds during his brief 59-game tenure in Milwaukee before signing with the Chicago Bulls to finish out the 2010 season. With Chicago he appeared in eight games, averaging just 3.6 minutes per contest.
Sixty seven games in two seasons was not exactly what Alexander had in mind when he walked up to the dais to shake NBA commissioner David Stern’s hand and put on his new Milwaukee Bucks cap right around this time four summers ago. Today, Alexander’s journey has taken him from the NBA D-League in Texas to overseas in Russia.
Where he ends up landing this year is anyone’s guess.
“Right now, I am going to continue to work out during the off-season and wait until the contract offers start coming in and start fielding them and try to figure out where I will end up,” said Alexander, in Morgantown last weekend working Bob Huggins’ Fantasy Basketball Camp.
Alexander isn’t sure if he will sign with an NBA team and play in this year’s summer league or if he will sign with a foreign team and resume his professional career overseas.
“There is a lot of uncertainty right now and I haven’t made those decisions, so I’m not sure,” he admitted. “I’d like to play summer league if I’m able to, but who knows? I’m still a few weeks away from that decision though.”
What is clear to Alexander is that a fine line exists between good fortune and bad fortune - the good and the bad oftentimes being random.
“I guess that’s how life just isn’t fair, but that makes the dream that much more special,” he said. “(Playing in the NBA) is so unique and only so many people get to do it.”
When you think about it, how much difference is there really between Joe Alexander and Jeremy Lin? Hard work, dedication and talent certainly play a part in it, but good, old-fashioned luck and timing also play a role as well. One had it and the other didn’t.
“In my mind it’s always been about who wants it more and I feel like that’s the formula with anything, but I think the other element to it is luck,” Alexander explained. “You’ve got to want it a whole lot and that gets your odds up real high. And then you’ve got to get lucky.”
A lot of Alexander’s time in Milwaukee was spent in the training room and that certainly didn’t help his cause.
“The injuries have kind of sidetracked me, but hopefully I will be back in the NBA and I will be able to say that I’m here because I want it real bad,” he said. “In any career you’ll have ups and downs and spurts of good luck and bad luck, and I think through it all if you continue to work hard and continue to believe, in the end it won’t matter when you hit bad luck.”
In the meantime, Alexander said he learned a great deal about himself and his game playing in Russia last season.
“I think I changed my game a lot in the short time that I was there,” he said. “I learned to take advantage of my mid-range game more and to not focus so much on attacking the rim. Those Euro guys play a lot differently and they certainly have a lot to offer.”
Alexander says the biggest difference between the NBA and European professional basketball is the European players prefer to share the basketball more and work with their teammates.
“The whole time I was there the all kept telling me, ‘You Americans are so selfish with the ball’ and it’s true in some sense, not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s certainly different,” Alexander said. “They are a catch-and-if-you-can’t-shoot-it-pass mindset. They don’t run isolations and they don’t like guys holding the ball.”
As for his return to Morgantown, Alexander said he always enjoys coming back to the place where his career blossomed under coaches John Beilein and Bob Huggins.
“I love coming back here,” he said. “Any time I get to be around my old teammates and my old coaching staff that makes me feel right at home and it just makes me feel good.
“The opportunity to rehab here and workout here is certainly great because it’s a great place to be,” Alexander added. “There are obviously a lot of basketball junkies around here with some of the older guys. I don’t know if I will be doing that this summer, but it’s nice to know that it’s here.”Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History available in bookstores this fall. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.