Nearly five years ago, Martin Krampelj finished high school and purchased a plane ticket for a 5,000-mile trip across the Atlantic Ocean so he could join a Florida basketball academy and try to earn a spot on college coaches’ radars.
The Slovenia native had just a month to prepare himself for this venture — hardly enough time for a teenager to feel completely confident or comfortable with the stark contrast in culture and lifestyle he’d soon experience.
That flight was booked in August. Krampelj stepped foot in the United States in September.
And as expected, Krampelj was out of his element.
He didn’t have much of a grasp on the NCAA system or the recruiting process. He wasn’t familiar with the American game. He barely spoke English. He didn’t know where to eat or what to eat — his dad ended up just buying whole rotisserie chickens from the grocery store those first couple of days.
But Krampelj adapted, and eventually flourished.
Now, in the midst of another potentially life-altering moment, the Creighton big man is applying similar principles.
By May 29, Krampelj has to decide whether he wants to turn pro or play one final collegiate season with the Jays. He’s thought a lot about it, but hasn’t made up his mind. And he won’t — until next week.
“I want to know just as much as everyone else does, honestly,” Krampelj said. “But at the same time, I’m just enjoying it. I know wherever I’m going to be, I’m still going to be the same person. I’m still going to work hard.”
That’s what makes this final stretch so critical.
Krampelj said his goal has always been to avoid making a decision about next season until he receives all the possible feedback he can, most notably during on-site workouts with NBA teams.
The 6-foot-9 forward participated in a six-man session with the Detroit Pistons on Monday. He auditioned in front of Indiana Pacers personnel Tuesday. He hopes to get a couple of more chances to showcase his jump shot and his athleticism before next week’s NCAA-mandated withdrawal deadline.
By then, Krampelj will have had a month to prove himself — which, in reality, is a rather condensed stretch of time to figure out for certain what’s best for the next stage in his basketball development.
But he’s not one to get intimidated or stressed out, even with a weighty decision looming.
“For me, the big part is just having fun with it,” Krampelj said. “Not being too uptight. That’s where I’m at my best. I’m going to work hard, but I’m going to keep my smile on. Whatever happens, even that I got to this point (in my career) — that’s amazing. That’s incredible.”
For Krampelj, it doesn’t seem so long ago that he was the high school kid who passed time in his room by watching YouTube clips of NBA stars.
He’d follow the big-name titans like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. But he also kept tabs on guys like Goran Dragic, a Slovenian who made his NBA debut in 2008.
That was Krampelj’s dream.
Half a decade later, it’s still the dream.
And now Krampelj’s closer to realizing it than he’s ever been. He just has to decide what route is best.
If a couple of NBA teams do express an interest in him, is the risk worth it? Does it make sense for a 24-year-old graduate to remain in school for another year, even if he adores his teammates and coaches? Can he still get enough legitimate NBA looks if he were to sign an overseas deal? How do executives process his injury history?
Krampelj has plenty to consider.
But he knows whichever path he ends up on, he’ll find his way.
“It’s a win-win situation,” he said. “I’m glad that I’m here, where I’m at. I’m not worried about it. I’ve got my family supporting me. Whatever I do, they’re going to be behind me.”