2nd August, 2014
Back in Finland now. The last few days in Umeå have been... interesting.
So, as mentioned before, Lokke decided that the best way to get me to improve my game was to start training me in the ways of the small forward (complete with acting like a stereotypical kung-fu old man - BTW Lokke, your Chinese accent is atrocious
). I can see why he'd come to that conclusion - he's made a successful career out of knowing the rules extremely well and building a highly unorthodox and difficult-to-predict style out of it, to the point that some regard him as Sweden's reigning king of unorthodox basketball playing. He even changed his name after he got nicknamed Loki years ago; he took being named after his ancestors' trickster god as a pretty high compliment!
Thing is, while I can see why he'd decide to try and get me to learn how to play as a small forward, I'm not as adaptable as he is. Okay, I can play centre, but I haven't done so in years. (My last attempt was with the Minutemen, and that... kinda ended badly.) I've been playing power forward almost exclusively for most of my career, so it's what I'm used to. Maybe I'm getting too nervous about it and you can
teach an old dragon new tricks, but... eh, I don't need or want to think about this right now. (Also, the differences between American courts and European courts threw me off. Again.
On the plus side, I got to meet the kids Lokke's been training to play! There's a few schoolkids and some university students as well. There was a moose calf who I can already see growing up to become a forward or centre, a few sparrows (and a sparrowhawk), a jackal pup, a chimpanzee, and then there was the Terrible Two: Jakob Jr. and Saga. Lokke feels that those last two are nearly ready to go into the pro-leagues.
What fascinated me was how similar-yet-different Jakob Jr. and Saga were. Both of them had taken Lokke's philosophy of learning the game extremely thoroughly to heart, but they applied that knowledge to how they played in completely different ways. Jakob Jr.'s been developing a playstyle inspired by the Dutch concept of "totaalvoetball
" ("total football"), which places a very high emphasis on versatility. (Admittedly, to properly translate it to basketball, you'd need to apply it to the entire team
- a whole team of nothing but bigfurs and swingfurs, essentially.) He hasn't quite gotten there yet, but he's been making pretty good progress, and he's surprisingly good at rebounds for someone who isn't much taller than Lokke. Meanwhile, Saga places a high priority on creative thinking and unorthodox tactics. Admittedly she's a bit hit-and-miss at the moment, but when she can pull off her crazy ideas, it's a sight to behold. Unfortunately she also has some ego issues... which might be why Lokke stopped her from signing up for this year's FBA draft.
Anyway, when we weren't practicing - and the practice was much-needed, by the way; I've been getting a little out of shape - Axe, Jordan and I took the time to explore Umeå. A lot of local businesses are closed, since their owners are on holiday, but we still managed to have pizza and calzones for dinner at one of the local pizza places. (I had to spend a while picking meat out of my pizza, which was annoying, but I can live with it.) We also went for a walk around Nydalasjön, the town's local lake, and even had a picnic lunch nearby. Axe wanted to try and fly into
the lake, but I said no... not that it stopped him. The irritated Spanish tourists did, though.
Eventually we said our goodbyes to Lokke and the group. He'll be going back to Finland soon for his last season with the Furikorisliiga. Curious; it's almost time for me and Jordan to go home ourselves. We did have a brief conversation which made me realise that there's something I want to do before I retire from professional basketball: I want my last season as a player to be back in Finland. There's something poetic about my career ending where it began, and I know not everyone can have that luxury.
We're back in Tampere now. We've already got a souvenir from Umeå: a framed photo of me on the day I graduated from university.
(Player notes: For the curious, Lokke is 5"10'.)