The Deseret News recently caught up with former BYU big man Trent Plaisted after his German league team folded midway through the season.
After breaking down the ins and outs of what happened in Germany, Plaisted touched on a number of wide-ranging topics, including his European career as a whole, how basketball differs around the world and his time at BYU.
DN: Where all have you played in Europe?
TP: I've played everywhere. In order, Italy, Croatia (twice), Lithuania, Ukraine, Turkey, France, Germany, France again same team, Lithuania again different team, and then Germany again different team.
DN: Which was your favorite place to play and why?
TP: All of them are special in their own way, some more than others. I think Croatia from a basketball perspective was my favorite. Germany the first time was probably my favorite from a personal perspective because we had a great group of guys that are to this day great friends.
DN: How come Croatia stands out from a basketball perspective?
TP: Croatia, basketball-wise, because it was sort of my first year in Europe. It was just a totally chaotic and crazy environment with a coach that was nuts and I was able to make it through and set the stage for the rest of my career.
Ironically enough, it was in Kresmir Cosic's home town. Zadar, we played in Kresmir Cosic Arena.
DN: Did people ask you about that BYU connection when you were there?
TP: Yes and no. I mean I would do interviews and it would get brought up, but it wasn't like I was constantly asked. But for sure the people recognized BYU more than other places in Europe.
DN: How is the game different in Europe than it is in the states, or is it even different from country to country?
TP: It's both. It's different from America and different from country to country as well.
DN: How is it different from America?
TP: America, you have just incredible athletes and a whole different set of rules that allows that supreme athletic ability to manifest more. Bottom line in America at the pro level, you have to be a freak or have a particular skill that is so superior that it balances the scale.
So in the NBA you have a lot of isolation basketball, or you did. Now days you're seeing the best team in the NBA sort of follow that Euro mold more, and it really started with the Spurs.
You have a system in Europe, and executing the system is what allows the team to score as opposed to individual skills. Obviously it's basketball still, there is still an element of making plays and rising to the occasion. But in Europe you will be hard pressed on the good teams to find guys who on average are shooting more than 10-12 times a game.
DN: Is it fun to play that style?
TP: I love it, honestly. I fell in love with that style of play, and when it's executed at a high level, it really is amazing to watch. The top teams in Europe play at an extremely high level.
If you're a basketball enthusiast, you appreciate the European style just like you appreciate the San Antonio Spurs.
DN: When did you know you could be a pro ball player?
TP: My coaches in high school used to tell me, and I was super cocky, so I think I believed them, but I would probably say after my freshman year at BYU where I was freshman of the year and all that stuff is when it really became something real in my mind.
DN: How did playing at BYU help you to that end?
TP: So much of basketball is predicated on opportunity, and at BYU I had a great opportunity very early on. It made all the difference in the world.
DN: Was it a tough decision to leave BYU early?
TP: Not at all, at least for me. I think people around Provo blew it up as me being some prima donna or something, which is understandable, but I was done with school. Why would I stay in college if I could earn money playing basketball, and had already finished my degree? You add in with that how many college seniors do you ever see get drafted, and it made perfect sense to me to go.
I will say on the flip side of that, we would have had a great team at BYU had I stayed. I mean they were very good anyway, but that may be the only thing I question. It would have been fun to be with Lee (Cummard) who is my great friend, and win a lot of games. But from a personal standpoint, it was a no-brainer for me to go.
DN: I assume the NBA was always the goal. Is that goal still in the back of your mind or has that changed?
TP: At the time, sure, the NBA was the goal, and honestly I was very close. I was drafted by the Pistons and they "guaranteed" that if I spent a year in Europe they would sign me the next year. Unfortunately, that rookie year in Italy I ended up herniating a disc in my back that required surgery and sort of ruined that deal. I was unlucky, it happens. I would be crazy to say I haven't been insanely blessed still in my career. It's been a roller coaster no doubt, but I've had so many great experiences.
For sure the goal has changed. I'm not an NBA player anymore, I'm a European player. That transition happened relatively quick, and I was OK with it. If the NBA came knocking on my door and said hey, we want to give you a million dollars, would I turn it down? Shoot no, but that's not gonna happen.