Julian Gamble: Patience and Hard Work

 

By: Patrick Ronan | @pk_ronan


In a profession where everything can change with one play or front office decision, power forward/center Julian Gamble has relied on two constants –  patience and hard work.

Gamble wasn’t always a sought after high school recruit. For the majority of his four years at South Durham High School in North Carolina, Gamble was considered a mid-major college prospect.

“My entire recruitment process blew up in an instant when I played in an AAU tournament down in Miami,” Gamble said. “I had schools from all over the country calling me seemingly 24 hours a day wanting me to visit their school and commit.”

Gamble went up against some of the best high school talent in the country in Miami and put up huge numbers on some of the top recruits at his position. He left for that AAU tournament with just three scholarship offers on his plate. He came back with 15.

One of those schools was the University of Miami Hurricanes, who made Gamble an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“Once I visited the university I was sold. I would have a chance to play in the ACC, in a city where I wouldn’t be so close to home, so I could grow more as an individual outside of my comfort zone both on and off the court,” Gamble said. “Who could turn down going to school in Miami, right?!”

Patience and hard work were even more vital for Gamble during his time playing with the Hurricanes. He sat out his first year on campus as a redshirt and after working his way into a key roll in the Canes’ rotation over the next three seasons, Gamble would once again be tested.

An ACL injury in the summer heading into his redshirt senior season meant another year on the sidelines, but he wasn’t going out like that. The NCAA granted Gamble a clock extension, giving the forward the opportunity to stay at school for a sixth year. Gamble took full advantage.

The 2012-13 season was historic for both Gamble and the Hurricanes. Gamble put up new career highs in points, rebounds, minutes, starts, and blocks, while the Canes had arguably their best season in school history. Miami won their first outright ACC regular season title, their first ACC Tournament championship, reached No. 2 in the AP poll for the first time in school history and earned a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

“My path at Miami was far from straight and easy... who knew that being at Miami for six years would yield such amazing results both on and off the court?” Gamble said. “Looking back, it all really gave me a different perspective on basketball and life in general, which I think still helps me in my pro career and now being the leader of my own family.”

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With the college chapter of his life now over, it was time for a new journey into the world of professional basketball, something Gamble says was more difficult than the transition from high school to Miami.

“In college there are systems and people set in place to help athletes acclimate themselves to the change. When turning pro, there can be very little to no support in assimilating yourself into a new team, country, and culture…. most of the time, much of the learning you will have to do as a pro will be done on your own,” Gamble said.

His first professional team was in France, and even Gamble admits that things were challenging in the beginning.

“My transition wasn’t the easiest. I was very uninformed about what my first situation would hold,” said Gamble. “Almost everything I initially encountered was an obstacle. From language barrier, to dealing with a new currency, living in a small city, and even driving my own car were things I had to learn to cope with. Before my first professional season, I had never driven a manual car!”

On top of learning a new language and how to drive stick, Gamble had to come to reality with basketball not being the same in Saint-Vallier, France as it was in Miami, Florida.

“I had no idea what to expect, but I was completely shocked going from Miami to St Vallier, France. The population of the city was around 4,000 and our gym only held 2,000 so it was far from what I had got accustomed to,” Gamble said.

Another shock for the first-year pro was the lack of a winning culture. Just months ago he and his team were winning at levels Miami basketball had never seen. Now, he was on a team that was just trying to stay in their league, let alone make the playoffs.

It was during this tough transition period that Gamble had to come to grips with what he might call the most shocking part about living and playing in France…

“The most heartbreaking thing I learned was French toast wasn’t really French,” Gamble said. “That to this day is my favorite breakfast thing to eat!”

The experience in France was still a positive one for Gamble. He built lasting relationships with a couple veteran guys on his team, learned from other American players he met along the way and really grew into his own as a pro.

After his rookie season in France, Gamble got his first taste of TBT in the inaugural 2014 tournament. Gamble suited up for Rep Your City, a collection of college players that included some big time names as well as a couple of his former Miami teammates. His first TBT had him hooked, and Gamble began building a relationship with Armored Athlete GM AJ Mahar. The two stayed in touch throughout Gamble’s professional season, brainstorming about the TBT team for the summer and Gamble has been on the Armored Athlete roster ever since.

“The team built a culture and chemistry that really attracted me, along with having a collection of players and staff that had high basketball IQ with one goal in mind,” Gamble said. “The entire team has chemistry that extends beyond the court, as we keep up with each other throughout the year and talk about our excitement for the summer. Ultimately, I am a family guy, and the family atmosphere we have built at Armored Athlete is what is special to me.”

Gamble’s next professional stop brought him to Belgium, where he was once again in a big city (Brussels) and on a competitive team. They would make the playoffs in his second season, sweeping the #2 seed and coming just one possession away from an appearance in the finals, but it was his first season that gave him a little taste of home and his most cherished memory from Belgium.

Halfway through his first season in Brussels, former Miami shooting guard Rion Brown joined the team. Not only was he a teammate of Gamble’s while at Miami, Brown is the godfather of Gamble’s son. They would face off against another Miami teammate playing in the league and had a fourth Hurricane teammate in the stands watching.

“Having four guys that won a championship together under one roof in Europe was a great experience,” Gamble said. “My college teammates and I are all still very close, we have a group chat where we talk almost every day and guys are all over the world. Our bond is definitely unbreakable.”

Gamble is now in his second season with Telekom Baskets Bonn, a team playing out of Bonn, Germany in the German BBL. His team is squarely in the playoff race and is aiming to head into the postseason in fourth place. Although he enjoyed his time in France and Belgium, Germany has been Gamble’s favorite stop for a very special reason. His wife L’Oreal also plays for the pro women’s team in Bonn.

“Although it is not the level she is accustomed to, it is great seeing her in her element and being able to support her in still playing the game she loves as much as I do,” Gamble said.

Gamble attributes his continued success at the professional level to his tremendous work ethic – constantly watching film, talking to coaches and pushing himself every day to become a better leader.

“From year to year I want to add things to my game, but nothing is going to come without the willingness to work at it,” Gamble said. “For me it is important to continue to work to make myself the best player I can be. Outside of all of the work, a huge key to success is to just have fun! I get to play basketball for a living and I want to enjoy the experiences, cultures, and places I get to visit as much as possible. Playing basketball has also allowed me the platform to provide for my family the life they deserve and that in itself is a never-ending motivation to become the best possible version of myself.”

When asked what about TBT keeps him coming back every summer, Gamble pointed to the high level of competition, added exposure to scouts/fans that might not watch overseas ball and the opportunity for his family and friends to watch him play.

“It’s also great to be able to play with and against so many guys that you have either heard of, played with, or played against abroad and really seeing how small the basketball world is,” Gamble said. “Oh yea, and there’s this prize money at the end that everybody wants!”

His professional season with Telekom will end in May, and shortly after he, L’Oreal and their son Jay will head back to the states where Julian’s focus will shift to Armored Athlete and TBT2018. Gamble says there will definitely be some big splashes made in the Armored Athlete roster, but wasn’t quiet ready to spoil the secrets.

”No doubt my expectations are high, especially after making it to the quarterfinals last year. I am hungry to help us make the next step,” Gamble said. “I am also just excited to team up with my guys again and have some fun, I don’t get a chance to see many of them during the year so we are all excited about the potential the summer holds for us in TBT.”