(Zaporozhye, Ukraine) — As soon as Jake O’Brien disembarked from his plane, it was apparent to the former Boston University forward that he was worlds away from his native New England.
“Very few people here speak English, and the ones that do can barely speak it,” said O’Brien, sitting in his apartment in Zaporozhye, an industrial city on the banks of the Dnieper River. Taking a breather from training camp with Ferro-ZNTU Zaporozhye, a team in the Ukrainian Superleague with whom he will begin his professional career, O’Brien reflected on the drastically different landscape from life in Boston.
“It’s kind of weird… [They’re] definitely 20-plus years behind as far as buildings, cars – just the overall landscape,” said O’Brien.
The last year has been a whirlwind journey for O’Brien, who was supposed to spend his entire career in Boston – punctuated by leading his hometown Terriers to the bright lights of the Big Dance – only to have fate get in the way.
A near career-ending injury, two surgeries, four college coaches, a post season ban, a transfer, and a graduate degree later, O’Brien finally can bask in his memory of the grand stage of the NCAA Tournament.
“I definitely gotta’ remind myself how fortunate I am,” reflected O’Brien. (more…)