Monarch Insider No. 9- Gerald Lee
Oct. 30, 2010
Monarch Insider #9 - Checking in with Gerald Lee
ODU alum Lee thinks often about the `time of his life' at ODU
Brendan O'Hallarn Monarch Basketball Insider
As you read this, a very interested observer of the Old Dominion Monarchs men's basketball team is probably holed up in his apartment in Italy, watching television and resting up for work.
When the work is professional basketball, for an undefeated team in Italy's Second Division, you can say that ODU basketball worked out pretty well for Gerald Lee. And the Finnish big man is as excited as every other ODU fan for the season, which starts next Friday, when the Monarchs host mighty Georgetown at the Ted Center. "I have full confidence in the team this year and I believe that WE will win another championship. The only thing is that we need to work hard every day and not get too cocky," Lee said.
Lee lives in Udine, a city in the far northeastern corner of Italy, near the borders of Austria and Slovenia. It's been an adjustment, and not easy.
"Life in Italy is a culture shock to anyone that comes here. No one really speaks English outside of the team," Lee said. Because of the language barrier, "people are really rude, to be honest, and have no patience," Lee said.
"When I'm not playing basketball I usually just watch TV or movies or rest. We don't have that much time off because we have two-a-days every day when we don't have a game. So it's pretty tough."
His team, Snaidero, is off to a 4-0 start to the season. Though the team is in Italy's Second Division, the division is still one of the top five leagues in Europe, because of the depth of quality in Italian professional basketball.
As a European player, his adjustment to life in Italy might be easier than many American collegians. He's far closer to his parents Gerald, Sr., and Ritva in Uusikaupunki, Finland. But Lee thinks a lot about the American city and university he called home for four years.
"I miss everything about being at Old Dominion. The culture in America is the one that I want to live in. I didn't just enjoy my teammates and coaches, but also the fellow students and fans," Lee said.
Lee saved special thanks for ODU's coaching staff. "Even though the coaches were screaming at us most of the time on the court it was good because they knew what they were talking about. The coaching staff really helped me develop my game a lot so I owe them big time. I can never repay the coaches what they have done for me," he said.
Lee sent an email to associate head coach Jim Corrigan, asking if he'd read it at the Meet the Monarchs dinner in mid-October. In it he talked about how being at ODU was the time of his life.
Lee finished his collegiate career with 1,624 points, 670 rebounds, and was first-team all conference his final two years as a Monarch. But for Lee, individual honors didn't compare to the success he enjoyed with his teammates. "The best part of it was cutting down those nets at the Richmond Coliseum" at last year's CAA Championship. "Wish we could've done it four years in a row, but I'm glad we got to at least once. That's what all the sweat and tears about, cutting down those nets."
Head coach Blaine Taylor likes to joke that Lee said all of about seven words during his recruiting visit to ODU. By the time he was a senior, however, Lee threw himself into life on campus. He had a bunch of friends outside the basketball team. He was a regular in Webb Center, just enjoying the company of whoever happened by to chat. "I was really blessed to get a scholarship at ODU. It was the best thing that has happened to me so far," Lee said.
"To all the fans I want to say thank you for the support that you have showed us all these years. Keep it up because that's what fuels us on the court when things are or aren't going well.
"Also I'm looking forward to working for or at ODU some day in the future when my basketball career ends."
Gerald's parents used to get up in the middle of the night to watch online feeds of their son's games in America. Lee wishes he could do the same. "I can't be waking up in the middle of the night because I also have my own career now over here on the other side of the Atlantic.
"But I will look at the scores after every game."
Brendan O'Hallarn, an employee in public relations at Old Dominion University, writes Monarch Basketball Insider. To see other stories, please see the Monarch Insider website, at http://www.odusports.com/ot/monarch-insider.html. If you would like to share your thoughts about ODU basketball, or have a story you'd like to see Brendan write, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.