Turning Belief Into Opportunity

by May 29, 2012

by Jeremy Bauman / @JBauman13

Never a lock to become a professional basketball player at any level, Dave Boykin is somebody who younger players should aspire to be like. Boykin, a 6-3 combo guard from White Plains, NY, has taken the road less traveled on his journey from prep standout to pro.

The most important lesson people can learn from his stories is to keep believing in your abilities—to never give up and to always seek out your options.

If you don’t do yourself that justice, you’ll never know where your basketball talent (or any talent that you have) will take you…

SLAM: How are basketball and life different overseas?

Dave Boykin: Life as a whole is a bit different out here in Germany than it is back in New York. The culture itself is different, but it definitely has its similarities to the States. Some of the main differences are, of course, the food and the language. I also had to get used to every single store being closed by 9 p.m., and even worse, on Sundays, everything altogether is closed! This is a big difference coming from New York, where a lot of stores are 24 hours. As for the basketball aspect, the game over here is much more physical. The players over here aren’t as fast and athletic as the players back home, but they make up for it in being very smart and physical. Also, everybody can pretty much shoot the rock.

SLAM: What is the hardest part about playing professional ball overseas? On the court? Off the court?

DB: The hardest part about playing professional basketball overseas is the fact that you are so far away from your family and friends, and for such a long period of time. Once you conquer that part, it gets a lot easier. Also, the language barrier; depending on where you play, it can get very frustrating at times. For me, on the court, the hardest part of my season was dealing with losing! I’ve always won championships on every level of basketball that I played at, and in my first professional year, we had a difficult season. We only played one game a week, so I had to wait a whole week to redeem myself from the last game. That was definitely tough!

SLAM: You are the epitome of a player who never gave up on his dream and kept persevering to reach your goals. Discuss your journey from high school, to college, to another college, and then finally overseas!

DB: My journey from high school, to college and to the pro level, definitely had its ups and downs, and plenty of twists and turns. In my first two years at White Plains High School, I was being recruited by many DI schools all across the country. Then, in the summer after my junior year, I had surgery on my back, which caused many of these same college coaches who loved me just the year before, to back off and be reluctant to offer me scholarships. I literally had start from scratch in terms of getting my name back out there as a big-time recruit. I had to “re-prove” that I could play on the Division I level again.

This was one of the hardest times in my basketball career. I knew that I was still the same player as before my surgery, but many colleges didn’t want to take a risk on a player who just went through the surgery that I did. At the end of my senior year, I accepted a scholarship to Fordham University in the Atlantic 10 conference. I thought this was going to be a great opportunity to play in a big conference, and to be able to stay close to home. However, after a year and a half at Fordham, things weren’t going as I planned in terms of playing time, so I decided it was time for a change.

Being a Division I athlete, the last thing I wanted to do was transfer to a Division II school. I felt that I had worked so hard to get to the point that I was at, plus I felt I was simply better than that! After a few weeks of considering different options to transfer to, I came to the conclusion that I would attend the University of Bridgeport, a DII school in Connecticut. I took this option because this school gave me the chance to play right away, rather than sit out for entire year if I would’ve transferred to a DI school. This move ended up being one of the best decisions I could’ve made in my basketball career.

At the University of Bridgeport, I was able to shine and lead my team to a conference championship. In my two seasons there, I was able to score 1,000 points, appear in two championship games, receive two First-Team, All-Conference awards, and be named the scholar-athlete of the year. My coach, Mike Ruane, allowed me to play my game, and put us in the best situation to win games! My team’s success, along with my individual achievements, gave me the opportunity to receive a professional contract to play for the Willich WIldcats in Germany.

SLAM: What was this season like for you playing for the Willich Wildcats? What were some of your success stories—individual and team—and what were some of your roughest times on the court individually and collectively? Becoming a First-Team All-League Player and leading the league in scoring must have been excellent experiences…

DB: All in all, I feel that my first year playing pro basketball overseas was a success. I had the opportunity to experience a new country, and a new way of life. That itself was a big accomplishment. On the court, I was able to lead my league in scoring at 27 ppg, as well as in steals at 2.4 spg. My biggest accomplishment was to be named a First-Team All-League selection. I credit these accomplishments to my coach and my teammates for allowing it to happen.

The toughest part about my first season was our struggling record. This was the first time that I ever played on an under-.500 team. This was something that killed me all season! I also experienced one horrible game individually where I couldn’t buy a basket. Nights like this can be hard to shake off, but it’s just part of the game.

SLAM: How do you envision the rest of your career playing out? How much longer do you plan on playing in Europe (or wherever the next contract takes you)?

DB: I plan on playing this game of basketball for as long as I can still produce at a high level. As for playing overseas, I can see myself playing over here between 7-10 more years. Right now I’m just focusing on getting better and seeing where I end up next season.

SLAM: What kind of advice would you give to young players who are trying to play professional basketball overseas?

DB: My advice to young players that are seriously trying to play professional basketball is to simply keep working! Don’t stop your grind, whether or not things are going well or horribly. Don’t ever get discouraged and remain confident in your game. Also, it takes more than talent to get you to the professional level. There are millions of people who have the talent to play at the pro level, but you have to be a well-rounded person to give yourself the best opportunity to play professional sports.