Nick Kellogg is making strides overseas

As he walked off the court in St. Louis, Missouri, during the Sweet 16 round of the 2012 NCAA Basketball Tournament, Nick Kellogg realized his talent stood out on...
Provided via Nick Kellogg

As he walked off the court in St. Louis, Missouri, during the Sweet 16 round of the 2012 NCAA Basketball Tournament, Nick Kellogg realized his talent stood out on one of the sport’s biggest stages.

“That was a pretty big moment for myself,” Kellogg says. “I mean people told me I was good. I didn’t really think I was that good.”

Although Ohio lost that game in overtime to top-seeded North Carolina, it would become clear that Kellogg underestimated his own talent.

Four years later, as he sits alone in his apartment in Lublin, Poland, Kellogg reflects back to that moment. His face is unshaven and he’s wearing a light gray hoodie with four green letters spelling out “Ohio” across the chest. It seems fitting that he’s bundled in that particular hoodie because he’s now more than 4,700 miles away from home.

But being on his own is something Kellogg has gotten used to since graduating from Ohio University less than two years ago.

After graduation, he decided to play basketball professionally on the heels of his senior season where he made the most 3-pointers in school history. Kellogg also finished as the all-time leader in 3-pointers made in Mid-American Conference history.

“That man could shoot the ball,” Kellogg’s former Ohio teammate Tony Campbell says. “He was a great on-court leader, off-court leader as well. He did all the right things.”

Despite playing as a shooting guard in college, his 6-foot-2 frame made him much more suited for the point guard position, which he hadn’t played since his senior year of high school.

Without much hope of making an NBA roster after college, Kellogg packed his bags. At 23 years old, he signed a deal to play overseas in Batumi, a small port city that borders the Black Sea in the country of Georgia.

His first experience living outside of Ohio came as a shock to Kellogg, who spent most of his life in Columbus and Athens.

“I was scared about just being on my own, not knowing where to go, not knowing anything about anything to be quite honest,” Kellogg says. “I was just out there in the middle of a foreign country.”

Kellogg began his professional career with Basketball Club Batumi, which is one of eight teams that competes in the Georgian Superliga. The league was founded in 1991 and BC Batumi won four straight championships from 1999-2002 and a fifth in 2004.

One of the biggest challenges about playing for BC Batumi was that the majority of the players did not speak English, with the exception of two of Kellogg’s teammates.

His coach, Mikhail Kobeshavidze, spoke even less English. “[He] knew literally like how to say ‘hello’ and … ‘bye’ and that was it,” Kellogg says.

There was one thing, however, that made Kellogg feel more at home. “I think the way I dealt with it best was just, you know, trying to tell myself at the end of the day it’s basketball,” Kellogg says. “That’s what I love to do.”

Despite being in a foreign country and communicating through a difficult language barrier, Kellogg didn’t miss a beat on the court. In his first season, Kellogg was selected to the Eurobasket.com Georgian League All-Imports Team and earned the opportunity to play in the 2015 All-Star Game.

But the pieces of succeeding as a pro were already in place before Kellogg ever picked up a basketball. His dad, Clark Kellogg, was a Big Ten MVP at Ohio State University. Clark was drafted as the eighth overall pick in the 1982 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers and was selected as a member of the NBA All-Rookie Team after averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds during the 1982–83 season.

It’s been an adjustment, but the success Nick achieved in Georgia allowed him to take the next step in his basketball career. Following his first year, he moved to Poland where he joined MKS Start Lublin to play in a more competitive league.

When he’s not on the court, Nick spends some of his time keeping in touch with his friends and family in the U.S. Although Poland is six hours ahead, Nick finds a way to talk to his mom every day.

“He’s a momma’s boy, man,” Nick’s former Ohio teammate Treg Setty says with a smile.

Nick doesn’t talk to his dad every day, but the two recently had a special moment of their own. Clark, now the lead college basketball analyst at CBS, was able to take time off from work during the third week of January to visit his son in Poland. Before he left for the trip, Clark was excited about spending the week with his son for more than just the opportunity to see him play basketball again.

“I was looking at it more as just a dad being able to spend some time with his son who’s chasing his dream in a far away land,” Clark says.

Thinking about seeing his son for the first time, Clark has only one thing on his mind. “I’ll give him a great big bear hug and hopefully he won’t break me in half. When he’s hugged me like this in moments before, he’s almost crushed me,” Clark says with a ring of joy in his voice.

“He’s a pretty big guy, I don’t think I’ll break him in half,” Nick says, smiling from ear to ear.

During a normal week, it’s hard for Nick to find a way to talk to his friends and family, although he’s got the same solution that most people in their early 20s have.

“I’m kind of a night owl to be quite frank,” Nick says. “It’s tough being away so I just try to be available at all times when I can.”

Nick’s family may get to see him more often in the years to come, depending on his next career move. Although making an NBA roster isn’t attainable for him right now, playing in the U.S. is still a possibility.

He has considered coming back and playing in the NBA’s Development League, also known as the D-League, which serves as a quasi-official minor league basketball organization of the NBA. The league started with eight teams in 2001 and now consists of 19 teams that are either single-affiliated or owned by an NBA team.

Nick expressed concern that the money in the D-League isn’t as good as it is overseas. In the D-League, salaries remain flat at $13,000, $19,000 and $25,500 for the league’s three player classifications. For younger players, overseas salaries are typically thousands more than the D-League’s maximum salary.

Most overseas basketball players, including Nick, don’t have to pay taxes and their teams cover all expenses except food.

Kellogg says if the money continues to be in a place that he’s comfortable with, it would be hard for him to turn that down. Several other former basketball players from Ohio University are continuing their careers overseas.

Including Kellogg, there are six former Bobcats playing at the international level: Stevie Taylor, Maurice Ndour, Bean Willis, Reggie Keely and D.J. Cooper. Setty, Ohio’s lone senior this season, has aspirations to play professionally and picked up a few things from his time playing with Nick.

“He was just consistent and came to work every day with a smile on his face,” he says.

While Setty hopes to make a professional roster after graduation, Nick is deciding on whether to stay in Poland, continue playing internationally or make the move to the D-League.

Playing in the D-League has the benefit of being part of an NBA organization, which opens the door to more exposure to NBA scouts and competing against other potential NBA players.

Even with those perks and the possibility of being the first Bobcat to make an NBA roster since 1996, Nick is realistic when it comes to his future.

“Those chances of being called up are still, you know, far and few between, because there’s so many good guys out there,” Nick says.

When thinking about his son’s ability, Clark was reminded of a few current NBA players such as Spurs guard Patty Mills and Bulls guard Aaron Brooks who are both shorter than Nick at 6 feet tall. To get to their level, he said his son’s ball handling must continue to improve, as well as his performance as a finisher when attacking the rim in order to separate himself from a crowded field.

“He’s got to develop as a point guard to have a chance to be an NBA player,” Clark says. “Obviously, he’s got a really good shot. He’s a pretty tough kid; he defends well, but I think there are a lot of players like him in the NBA.”

While there’s always room for improvement, Nick’s ability on the court was evident during his time in Georgia and has carried over to his performance in Poland. Per game, he leads MKS Start Lublin in points, steals and 3-point shots made.

On March 6, 2016, he hit a 3-pointer for the ninth game in a row, which broke an MKS Start Lublin record and solidified why the location on his Twitter page is listed as “shooting threes.”

Life after basketball is something Nick has also given a lot of thought to.

“I definitely want to stay connected to the game in some form or fashion, whether that be coaching or, you know, actually following in my pop’s footsteps [sports broadcasting],” Nick says.

Right now, however, Nick is focused on the present and playing the game that he loves. Joining the D-League is a viable option for him, although it remains to be seen where the former Ohio standout will be playing next season.

“It’s hard to say where my heart’s leaning either one way or another, but I have enjoyed the overseas experience,” he says.

Nick’s overseas experience may continue for years to come or end faster than his four years at Ohio University. But no matter what country or state he’s in, Nick will find a home at the same place he always has — on the basketball court.

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