Bradley Tinsley plays waiting game for next overseas hoops opportunity
Brad Tinsley is back home in Oregon City, waiting for a call from his agent.
It's the game most American pro basketball players who make their living in Europe play this time of year, although in Tinsley's case, the question isn't so much if he'll get another opportunity to play, it's where?
Could the 6-foot-3 combo guard who played his college ball at Vanderbilt be headed back to Germany to pick up where he left off at the end of last season?
What about a return to Portugal where he earned "Import of the Year" honors two years ago?
What about France? Belgium? Lithuania?
"I don't know what's next," Tinsley said. "That's one of the biggest negatives with this job -- the waiting. My agent and I keep in pretty steady contact and talk about different offers and different interests here and there.
"When we get something that we like, we'll close on it."
Tinsley, 29, has spent the past six seasons playing overseas with stints in Belgium, France, Australia, Germany, Portugal, Lithuania, and back to Germany. He has put up solid statistics along the way, playing both the point guard and shooting guard positions.
"The basketball is good," he said. "It kind of depends on what country you're in, but European basketball is a different game than the one Americans are used to watching. It's a different style of play, and the game changes from country to country, so it's pretty cool.
"It took some time for me to adapt. Coming from Vanderbilt, I played behind a lot of talented players, where I wasn't the first or second option on those teams. But being an American in Europe, you're seen as 'the guy,' so you have put up big numbers every single night, or else you don't have a job."
Tinsley had his best season overseas in 2015-16 when he averaged 13.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in leading FC Porto to a league championship in the Portuguese Basketball League. He also was named to the all-league first team and was recognized as the league's Guard of the Year and Import of the Year.
Last season, Tinsley signed a deal with Prienu Vytautas in the Lithuanian Basketball League, but the partnership did work. The team's coach had a different spin on how he thought an import should be treated that didn't jive with how Tinsley thought he should be treated, so the two side parted after only three months and Tinsley finished out the season with Chemnitz in the German Pro A Division.
"One of the lessons I've learned is that when you find a comfortable situation and a system that you fit in, that's more valuable than any money you can earn overseas," Tinsley said. "A lot of times, guys go to different teams in different countries every, single year, and then it's a new language you have to figure out, new foods, and new cultures, not to mention all the stuff on the basketball court with new players, a new coach, new systems, and a new style of play.
"It's really hard to move different places, year in and year out. But with that, if players have a good year in Europe, usually that brings more money and attracts a top team or a team in a bigger league and they move on. And if they don't have a good year, a team won't re-offer them. That's why you don't see a lot of guys staying in one spot."
The money that players can make in Europe is good, but not great. It helps that teams provide players with an apartment, a car, and insurance, "so you get to pocket a lot of the money," Tinsley said.
Tinsley got married a year after leaving Vanderbilt and has had his wife, Margaret, a former basketball player at UC Santa Barbara, with him throughout his travels overseas.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "To be able to travel the world with my wife and see different things with her is a blessing, for sure.
"You can't really get ready for life in Europe, but it's pretty good livin' over there. Things are toned down and not as stressful as American life. We've met a lot of good people and experienced a lot of different cultures, so it's been good."
What about the language barrier?
"That is an issue, but a lot of Europeans speak English nowadays," Tinsley said. "A lot of countries have made English mandatory in their schools, so it hasn't been as much of an issue for me as it probably was for some of the players before me.
"I picked up Portuguese pretty well when I was there. I was about 65-70 percent fluent in Portuguese, but French and German were too hard. Being in those countries for only nine months, I picked up on small talk and how to order food and basketball terminology, but that was about it."
If Tinsley could pick his next destination, he'd like to play in France, Germany, Italy, or Spain.
"Those are the 'big four,' and I'd love to play in one of those top divisions because that's where the high-level players are," he said. "I'd like to see how much more I can progress in the European ranks.
"I'm sure there are a lot of teams that have seen me. It's just a matter of if they want to sign a foreign player or not. Some of it is who your agent knows, some of it is how your numbers are, and some of it is getting lucky."
If things unfold the way Tinsley hopes they will, he should be getting a call from his agent before the end of the month, then he'll leave for Europe in the middle of August to prepare for the start of league play toward the end of September.
"Coming out of college, the plan was always to play overseas," said Tinsley, who sees himself playing for at least another three or four years. "I didn't know what I was getting myself into as far as how to handle everything and whatnot, but six years later I'm happy with every decision I've made and it's been a blast, for sure."