Former UCCS star Kevin Fletcher continues his European odyssey
In German, he would be called a "Weltburger," which, loosely translated, means a citizen of the world. A person with no obvious defined nationality who is at ease in any place, any culture.
How ironic that the German language would have such an appropriate word to describe Kevin Fletcher, since German is one of the few languages not native to the many places he's labored.
Fletcher has been playing basketball professionally in Europe since graduating from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2002. His odyssey began in Portugal and has since taken him to Poland, Greece, Russia, Turkey and, now, Italy.
"It's now already my ninth year playing professionally," said Fletcher via Facebook, which is bringing together Weltburgers globally. "I had heard of basketball overseas in college, but never thought I would spend a third of my life here."
Fletcher played at UCCS from 1999-2002 after transferring from Grayson Community College followiing his freshman year. His best season as a Mountain Lion was his senior year, when he led the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in both scoring (19.4 points per game) and rebounding (10 per game).
He showed no such dominance in his first two seasons at UCCS. The summer before his senior season, however, Fletcher spent countless hours in the old Lions' Den working on his game, particularly his mid-range (15-19 feet from the basket). That forced opponents to have to guard him on the perimeter, which opened up the driving lane.
It also opened up a career path he had not previously dreamed was possible. He signed a professional contract with a team in Portugal, where he initially found the customs a bit unnerving.
"What I noticed when I first came to Europe was the way people stared at me," he said. "In the U.S., staring is thought of as rude, but in Portugal they stare at you all day if they feel like it. It made me edgy, because being 6-foot-10 gives people something to stare at, and I had to learn to accept the difference in culture."
Fletcher adapted quickly. That's good, because after two years in Portugal he was off to Poland for another two, then to Greece, Russia, Turkey and Italy. These are places vastly different from each other culturally.
"People always ask me about the cultural differences and every country is different, but I'm so used to being here I guess I don't notice the differences anymore," said Fletcher. "I have lived in Europe 9-10 months of the year for nine years."
This season, Fletcher is the starting center for Banca Tercas Teramo in the top Italian League, Serie A. Just over a week ago, he scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds as Banca Tercas knocked off Benetton Treviso, Italy's most storied basketball club.
Fletcher is averaging 12 points and 6.5 rebounds this season. His teammates include former Wyoming star Josh Davis, who also played in the NBA, and Drake Diener, who starred at DePaul. Among Fletcher's top games this season were a 13-point, 12-rebound effort against Ford Sassari on Oct. 31, a 26-point game against Scavolini Siviglia Pesaro on Nov. 14 and a 24-point, 10-rebound outing against Pepsi Caserta on Jan. 9.
While he's having a very good year on the court, he's also enjoying himself away from it. Teramo, which is about an hour and a half from Rome, is a good fit for the humble Fletcher. Italians don't pander to star athletes in the same way Americans do. They have something else closer to their hearts.
"Since I've been In Italy, I've noticed that the Italians take their food and coffee SERIOUSLY," said Fletcher. "There are no Starbucks here (Starbucks had gone crazy in Europe in the last 10 years), and very little American fast food. The reason is they won't really make much money.
"Italians enjoy good, traditional healthy food, and only a few types of coffee, namely espresso. They don't really have room for double half caff frappuccinos with three sugars and a twist of lemon."
While he's enjoying one of his best seasons and playing in one of Europe's top leagues, Fletcher knows he nearer the end of his professional basketball career than the beginning.
"Now I'm 31 and moving into the latter stages of my career," he said. "It's been quite a journey that I never really expected to take me this far for this amount of time."
Someday soon, it may even take him home again. That is, if he's figured out exactly where that might be.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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