Monteroso reflects on rookie season in Germany
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — New country, new level of play and new role.
Dan Monteroso experienced it all — and then some — during his rookie season with the Ehingen Urspring in the German Pro A League.
“It was definitely different,” Monteroso said just a few weeks removed from returning to the United States. “It was awesome, though. I loved it. Overall, everything considered, I would give the entire experience an eight out of 10.”
Monteroso didn’t find the changes in culture that come with living in Germany as difficult as the on-court adjustments, which saw him have to fully learn how the European style of basketball is played. On top of that, he also came off the bench for the first time since the first game of his freshman season at St. Clairsville.
“It really took me about half of the season before I started to fully understand the European style of play,” Monteroso said. “When I was at West Liberty and even at St. Clairsville, I had all kinds of freedom and a green light, so I had to really adjust how I was playing.”
The Ehingen Urpsring finished the regular season with an 18-12 record, but were swept out of the playoffs in the opening round by the second seed.
One of the biggest adjustments beyond the style of play for Monteroso to become accustomed to was the way the schedule was set up. The league plays one game per week except for a pair of two-game weeks around the holidays.
“It’s a 30-week season, so it’s long,” Monteroso stressed. “I left (for Germany) on Aug. 9 and we had our first practice on Aug. 11. Most of September is training camp and an exhibition schedule and then the season starts.”
The Urspring, who played in front of an average of 2,000 fans, were a relatively young team, comprised of mostly rookies. One of the few veterans was ex-West Liberty and Hiland standout Seger Bonifant, who was shooting an astounding 54 percent from behind the 3-point line before suffering a season-ending injury.
“Seger and I played in the same travel ball organization in high school and we weren’t teammates at West Liberty, but we obviously knew of each other before being teammates this season,” Monteroso said. “I’ll be honest. If it wasn’t for Seger, I would have really struggled this year. He and I became really close.”
There were some moments of trepidation between the two, however, during a few practices, which Monteroso said were intense because of the gap between games.
“Practices were tough and we got after it,” Monteroso said. “Seger and I got into it a couple of times, but it was just competitive stuff.”
Monteroso played primarily the two guard spot, but he didn’t move into the starting lineup until Bonifant went down with an injury and missed the final six games. Monteroso proceeded to fill the void by scoring more than 20 points in four of those games.
“The league has a rule that two Germans must be on the court at the same time and we had the point guard of the year in the league along with Seger and our big was an American, so I had to accept my role,” Monteroso admitted. “It did take a while to get used to it, but it’s part of being a rookie. I dealt with it and handled it like a competitor because I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Monteroso remained confident in the coaching staff as it continued to believe in him during some of the ups and downs of the season.
“I am so competitive,” Monteroso said. “I wanted to put up the numbers that I did late in the season for every game, but it took me a while. I just continued to work my butt off and it paid dividends at the end of the season and hopefully moving forward.”
With so much time between games and down time to fill, Monteroso was able to explore different parts of Germany and Europe.
“It didn’t take long to adjust to the culture because really everything is kind of Americanized,” Monteroso admitted. “Most people speak really good English, so it’s pretty normal in that regard. The biggest thing I had to adjust to was making sure you had groceries or didn’t need anything on Sunday because there is nothing open. If you don’t have food (on Sunday), you’re not going to find any.”
Monteroso laughed, but he very candidly said the biggest thing he missed during his time away from the United States was “Chiptole.”
“I’m not even joking,” Monteroso said. “There’s is one Chiptole in all of Germany and it was a more than a three-hour drive from where we were, but a few teammates and I went to it one day.”
Though his parents — Jeff and Cathy — weren’t able to get over to see him play, Monteroso’s girlfriend, Brooke Cenkus, visited him in December.
“I visited a lot of different places in Germany and then when Brooke came over, we went to Paris for Christmas and Switzerland for New Year’s Eve, so it was fun,” Monteroso said. “We’re already planning to go to Italy and some different places next year.”
Monteroso admitted that unless he lands a college basketball coaching position, he plans to return to Europe to play at least one more season.
“I am weighing some options and seeing what other opportunities (to play) might be out there,” Monteroso said. “I’ll probably have a better idea of where I’ll be in July, but I told myself when this started that I would do two years for sure and then see how my career is going after that and make a decision.”
Though he missed his family and Cenkus, Monteroso rarely went a day where he didn’t communicate with all of them, especially his younger sister, Claire.
“There’s a six-hour time difference, so by the time she was getting home from school, I would be winding down from my day and we’d call or Facetime,” Monteroso said. “She has her own iPad, so she could text, Snapchat me and all of that stuff.”
Monteroso was picked up by Cenkus at the airport and immediately went and saw his sister upon his return.
“She had softball practice, so she wasn’t able to come to the airport, but we were both super excited when we saw each other,” Monteroso admitted.
Monteroso pointed out that he received everyone’s blessing — including Cenkus and Claire — to plan for a return to Europe next season.
“I am pretty sure everyone’s on board with it,” Monteroso said.