New Giant embraces the team-first ethos

PETE MCNAE
Last updated 13:00 16/02/2012
Giant
PATRICK HAMILTON/Fairfax NZ
ENTHUSIASTIC: New forward Pete Campbell of Indiana has joined the Fico Finance Nelson Giants.

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Making the most of opportunities involves being in the right place at the right time and, for American Pete Campbell, here is the right place and now is the right time.

Campbell arrived in Nelson on Tuesday, the first of the Fico Finance Giants' two overseas recruits for the National Basketball League season, which begins early next month.

The 27-year-old forward was still stretching the travel kinks out of his back and the folds out of his legs yesterday, but already he had formed a fair idea of what his new home was like.

"No one knows me yet but everyone is very welcoming – they're smiling at me in the street. I've heard Nelson is a basketball town in a rugby country, and that sounds good to me," Campbell said.

The 2.01m Indiana native has been signed to bolster the Giants' offence after setting college records for three-point accuracy while at Butler University.

He's quick to stress that Nelson fans shouldn't be blinded by shooting statistics.

Four years on the professional scene, briefly in the NBA's Development League and the remainder of the time in Germany's Bundesliga and Pro A competitions, have helped him round out his game.

"At school, with the team we had, my role was to hit a spot and, when the ball came to me, I was there to knock down the shot.

"I've been shooting all my life so that wasn't a problem, really," he said. "Getting overseas, teams still want you to make shots, but you have to bring other skills to the table."

Giants coach Chris Tupu believes Campbell offers something few other teams have – a big man with guard skills who can draw defenders away from the basket with his shot, then punish them when they find themselves in unfamiliar ground on the perimeter.

He will also be pleased to hear Campbell preaching the "team-first" ethos. After starting his college career at in-state IPFW, where family members living nearby could watch him play, Campbell transferred to the higher-profile Butler in Indianapolis after sitting out a season.

His arrival coincided with a purple patch for Butler, capped by a runner-up finish in the national college championship last season.

Campbell said Butler was the perfect fit.

"We had the guys who slipped past the recruiting services – maybe we didn't play on the teams that got the publicity and the sponsored backing from Nike or whoever – but were still very skilled, just not so obvious," he said.

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"We understood fundamentals and the value of playing as a unit.

"That's why I have enjoyed Germany but didn't get the same satisfaction from the D-League.

"Even though you think you are one step, one good game, one scout contact, away from making the NBA, it's not that cut and dried.

"I found quickly that it wasn't a league that emphasises team-first and I was a bit of a fish out of water."

Instead, he returned to Germany, joining Bayreuth and helping them win a championship and earn promotion to the elite Bundesliga.

He said the German league attracted high-level American talent because it had a reputation for treating players fairly and, because there was a strong emphasis on practice and fewer games, players were able to develop.

"I definitely think I have more strings to my bow now than when I left school, when I got invited to a camp with the [Indiana] Pacers, or when I had that short time in the D-League," he said.

"Two of my uncles played professionally overseas and it was always a goal of mine in the game to be able to reach a standard where I could do that, too."

However, arriving in Germany straight out of college was still something of a shock for the lad from Muncie, Indiana (pop 70,085). Campbell said the feeling was different as he stepped onto the tarmac at Nelson airport.

"I've only been here 24 hours but you get a feeling about a situation straight away," he said. "It's not too bad being able to smell the ocean from your front door.

"But, you know, I'm not here for a vacation. This is my job, and that comes with expectations.

"I have always felt that the best way to gain acceptance somewhere new is to be humble, work hard, bring the effort every day, and maybe give the fans something to celebrate.

"That's a great ice-breaker ... winning games with the home team."

- The Nelson Mail

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