Verdell Jones (12) is back home in Champaign, Ill., and possibly looking for a new European club team after the holidays.
Verdell Jones had begun to move past the culture shock — the crowded city, the riots, soldiers with automatic weapons on street corners. Then the paychecks stopping coming.
Jones was playing for Peristeri B.C., a professional basketball club in the sport’s top division in Greece. His career there was just a few games old when the economic crisis gripping the European nation began to directly impact his bank account. Jones has returned home for the holidays, unsure of his next move.
“Just got back from Greece,” he told InsideIndiana.com on Tuesday afternoon, reached by phone. “Here for the holidays, and then head back out after Christmas. Actually contemplating going to another team right now, because of the financial situation my current team is in.”
A four-year starter and 1,000-point scorer at Indiana, Jones graduated last season after helping steer the Hoosiers to three top-five wins and a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. He finished his time in Bloomington 23rd all-time in scoring at IU, and ninth in career assists.
Jones traveled to Greece after finishing rehabilitation from an ACL tear suffered in the Big Ten Tournament last season, and he played in a handful of games before returning to the States. Adapting to the basketballing style in Greece, he said, was something of a challenge.
“In Greece, it’s more of a slow-tempo game,” Jones said. “As far as the physicality, they call fouls, not as physical as the Big Ten. You get touched, they call fouls over there.”
Moving from the Midwest to Western Europe was itself a big change for Jones as well.
He won’t complain about the Greek weather, nor his neighborhood, which he called “the Beverly Hills of Athens.” But the country’s financial woes, which have led to civil disturbance in the country’s capital in particular, certainly made for an interesting adaptation period.
“It’s definitely different,” he said. “The weather over there’s amazing, but as far as the culture, it is different. When I first got to Greece, they were going through riots and stuff.”
The 6-foot-5 former Hoosier spent time at several positions across the court, because his size gave Peristeri an advantage at both guard spots, and at small forward.
“They had me playing the one, two and three, just all over the place. They had me running point a lot,” he said. “Me being 6-5, I’m the same height as some power forwards.”
Now home for the next few weeks, Jones said his agent is working with representatives in Europe to try and identify a new team for him to join after Christmas.
Jones said he’s not averse to returning to Greece, but he’s also open to hearing from teams across the continent. He said Italy in particular, a league with a wide-open style similar to Indiana’s own approach, which Jones knows well, would suit him fine if he could find a spot on a roster there.
One of the challenges for American players overseas is that some leagues cap the number of American players teams can add to their roster. In Israel, teams can have unlimited numbers of Americans, while in Greece the limit is four, and in Italy and Spain, three.
While he works out at home in Champaign, Ill., focusing on staying in playing shape and keeping his game sharpness, Jones said he isn’t going to get too picky on a final destination, when European teams start looking at the American talent pool again after Christmas.
“At this point, it’s a job, so whoever pays the most, really, is where you want to go,” Jones said. “But if I had a choice, I’d like to play in Italy or a place like that, where it’s more up-tempo.”
While he is stateside, Jones is taking the opportunity to spend some time with family — and catch up on Indiana’s 2012-13 season.
He will be in Cleveland this weekend to watch his little brother play in a high school tournament, but he’s hoping to get to Bloomington for a game before he leaves as well. What he’s seen of Indiana’s play so far this year has Jones encouraged for the program’s immediate future.
“I’ve been definitely keeping tabs,” he said. “I watched the North Carolina game, and I watched them when they were in New York. The North Carolina game, they definitely looked like a national championship team.”