FRISCO, Texas – Since his days at Eastern Washington between 2012 and 2016, Venky Jois has seen much of the world. But the 26-year-old admits there’s no place like the U.S., which he calls his home away from home.
“It is definitely nice to be back in the States,” said Jois, who was in his first season with the Memphis Hustle of the NBA G League when pro basketball was halted on March 11 due to the coronavirus outbreak. “It’s one of my favorite countries, and with the relationships I’ve developed over here, it’s a home away from home.”
“I’ve got an American girlfriend, so it’s very nice that we can see each other every few weeks, and it’s not an ultra-long distance.”
In 18 games with the Hustle, the affiliate of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, he averaged 5.9 points and 3.9 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game.
Of course, EWU fans remember his time with the Eagles, when he was named 2013 Big Sky Freshman of the Year, earned first-team all-conference honors as a junior and senior and helped EWU win the 2015 Big Sky Conference Tournament, sending the Eagles to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history.
And even though some time has passed since his days in Cheney, he still recalls his time at EWU with positive vibes.
“Very fondly. Still to this day, I think, especially any Australian or international that’s thrust entirely into a new culture, you’ve just got your brothers, your teammates, and it’s just a surreal experience, one that forces you to grow,” Jois said. “So, both from the basketball standpoint and academic standpoint, also the life experience, too, was surreal. Got some accolades and a Big Sky championship along the way, so pretty happy with it.”
Since then, he’s played in Estonia, Japan, Germany, his native Australia and New Zealand. Like many players who have ventured overseas, his experiences have been a mixed bag, some good and some not, but every stop has provided its share of invaluable learning experiences.
“There’s definitely pros and cons, but once again, nothing that I would trade in for the world. I’ve played for some teams that treat you incredibly well and some that treat you incredibly poorly,” Jois said. “Basically, you gain perspective of how things can be. You also appreciate when things are really nice.
“If you’re always accustomed to getting taken care of or a certain standard of treatment, I don’t think you appreciate it to the same degree as when you actually know how things work in different countries. I would recommend that anyone at least experience that, don’t just want to play where you’re comfortable. It’s great to get other experiences too.”
One of his more recent stints abroad was in his native Australia for hometown club Melbourne United at the tail end of the 2018-19 season.
“It was odd I suppose, just because I came back from Germany early. Took about a month off,” Jois said. “I think they (Melbourne) had eight games left, and you needed eight games to qualify for playoffs. It was odd because playing in college and overseas for so long, when I come back home, I’m in holiday mode. I see my friends, I see my family and makes it weird to have both. Melbourne United as a club treats players really well and (has) great fans. Just another blessing to get to play for any club that treats you like that, especially your hometown club.”
Last season, he’d explored returning to the States to play in the G League, but instead opted to remain abroad after a former teammate told him some bad things about the league. However, after another friend now playing in Germany relayed his great experience with the Memphis organization, he decided to return stateside, another move he hasn’t regretted.
His time with the Hustle and under the Grizzlies umbrella has been nothing but overwhelmingly positive for the ex-Eagle, even as he dealt with an illness and injuries which have limited his playing time, as well as immigration issues off the court.
“I couldn’t speak more highly of our coaching staff, especially from the management side of things,” Jois said. “There’s been a lot of stuff that I’ve had to deal with this season. They could have easily said, ‘Just figure it out.’ But everyone has been super helpful, streamlined a lot of things for me, especially when it came to rehab and stuff like that. They spared no expense. I didn’t feel like there was anything more that they can do for me. That feels good as a player.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.
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