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Happy and healthy: Former BYU star Plaisted still hoping for big break

SHARE Happy and healthy: Former BYU star Plaisted still hoping for big break

MAITLAND, Fla. — His tale resembles those of many free agents toiling to make their case in professional basketball summer leagues this month.

Left school early.

Bounced a bit around Europe.

Still looking for his big break.

Yet none of that deters ex-BYU star Trent Plaisted from trudging on, accepting the realities that come with carving out a career overseas — pro and con — while simultaneously refusing to loosen his grip on a hope harbored by the masses.

Making it, that is, to the NBA.

"There are a lot of guys in my situation — guys that are real close, maybe not quite there," said Plaisted, a 6-foot-10 big man who opened his July playing for the Philadelphia 76ers at the Orlando Pro Summer League here and continued it with the Chicago Bulls at the just-concluded NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

The gap between foreign ball and the NBA can be silky fine for some, cavernous for others.

A few have enough perseverance and pride to eventually bridge the divide.

A few have the sense to comprehend how a career in Europe can prove both monetarily enticing — if the checks cash — and professionally satisfying.

And many more need some time to sort it out.

"It depends on the situation," Plaisted said when asked about next season's plans.

"Times are tough right now, all over the world. So, if there's a great opportunity overseas — obviously I lasted one year there, so me and my wife will be fine," the 23-year-old added. "Ideally, I'd love to stay in the United States and play in the NBA. But, you know, if the price is right over there then that's where I'll go."

Plaisted is two-plus years removed from leaving BYU after his junior season, a decision — spurred by family factors, on-court concerns, academic achievement and an itch to play as a pro — that proved quite controversial in Provo.

"I'm glad. I really am," Plaisted said of choosing the path he did. "I mean, people can look at it either way. I don't look back to it. I was really glad with the decision.

"I mean, I graduated from college with a degree in (economics). And what if I would have gotten hurt my senior year? Then I would have been royally in a bad position.

"So, we'll see. I feel good about it," he added. "My wife feels great about it. We're happy, and that's all that matters."

During his first year removed from school, however, deflating medical matters trumped happiness.

Plaisted made the rounds of NBA pre-draft workouts, including one memorable one for the Jazz in which his breakfast orange juice came out where it went in.

He wound up Detroit property after a draft-night deal, but — as a second-rounder — couldn't stick with the Pistons.

So when a team nestled romantically at the foot of the Italian Alps called, Plaisted answered.

But after nearly 20 preseason games and two more for Pallacanestro Biella in the Italian Serie A League regular season, he couldn't stand it anymore.

His body, that is.


The gremlin: Herniated disc, lower back, L4-L5, an injury perhaps dating to BYU days.

"I got to the point where I'd play a game and I couldn't really stand up straight for like two, three days," Plaisted said. "I don't know of one particular event that did it. It just got worse and decided to flare up, and we couldn't control it anymore."

Plaisted and wife Lacey returned from Italy to the U.S.; surgery was performed in December 2008.

For three months afterward, the Texas native did nothing basketball-related whatsoever.

Over the ensuing three, he got back into shape — slowly but surely working on his game as well, with Lacey shagging his rebounds, just like she often did when he was with the Cougars.

A whole basketball season, basically wasted.

Not all, however, was lost.

The sport still tugged, and now Plaisted had a healthy body when he accepted its pull.

"It happened and it hurt," he said, "but I'm now I'm better, so that's good."

But he might not have felt so fine, Plaisted suggested, if not for Lacey.

"It wasn't like I ever felt like I was never gonna play basketball again or anything like that," he said, "but she kept me upbeat."

Her backing was there as well when a second European invite arrived.

It didn't come from Spain, where some of that continent's best basketball is played. Not Italy, Greece or even Russia.

This one was from KK Zadar, a Croatian club in a civil-war damaged Adriatic Sea city with a cozy 10,000-seat arena and basketball roots dating to World War II.

Not exactly Real Madrid, Benetton Treviso, Panathinaikos or even CSKA Moscow. But a job, which Plaisted wanted.

"It was a good experience," he said. "I learned from it, and I'm glad I did it, and I'm better for it. And it was cool."

"There was some rust I had to get off in the beginning, but by the end I really felt good," Plaisted added. "I have no complaints."

Still, Croatia presented challenges.

And not just to Trent.

Being an American basketball vagabond's wife is no glamorous chore, either. That, he suggested, makes Lacey's role that much more meaningful.

"I don't know if there's a profound speech (she gave) but it's things probably any wife does for their husband who has a difficult job or a stressful job," Plaisted said in defining her contribution.

"Obviously the big thing is she comes with me to foreign countries. That's not an easy task, especially when I travel a lot and she's there by herself. That's hard — to be in a place where you don't speak the language, and your husband's gone a lot.

"But she handles it pretty well," he added. "I'm really thankful for that part of it. And she's my No. 1 fan. That's the biggest thing."

His work in Croatia done, Plaisted returned in mid-June.

Even then, though, he wasn't quite home.

There was a mini-camp in Toronto, where he and others auditioned for the Raptors.

There was the summer league in Florida, where he averaged 7.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in four games — all starts — for the 76ers.

And there was the league in Vegas, which included one game in which Plaisted couldn't tip in a miss by ex-Jazz guard Morris Almond to give Chicago a win over Cleveland — but did post a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double. It ended Sunday with Plaisted averaging 7.4 points and 9.0 rebounds for the Bulls in five games.

"I've sort of been on a whirlwind tour of the world and back," Plaisted said, "so (now) I'm thinking I might just go in a hole for about a week and not let anybody talk to me."

Except, presumably, his wife.

And, of course, his agent.

An NBA team like Chicago, after all, could extend a fall-camp invite — the Bulls especially so since they had no draft picks this year.

Or maybe another offer, perhaps more lucrative than the last, comes from overseas.

Should both happen, Plaisted must make a decision.

One NBA scout said he doesn't have enough length, and maybe not enough quickness, to make it in the league.

Others may disagree.

In any event, Plaisted knows just how fine the line can be — and just how fickle decision-makers are.

"Some of it's luck," he said, "some of it is being in the right place at the right time.

"But the one thing I've figured out so far in my early career is as long as you control hard you work, that's all that matters."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com