Watching Marcus Slaughter play for Brose Baskets Bamberg in Germany, you almost forget he only really started playing basketball when he was 17-years old growing up in Riverside, California.
He's not one of these guys filtered and spoon fed opportunities to play on AAU teams and instead truly came into his own during college playing at San Diego State before trying to jump to the NBA in 2006 after his junior season with the Aztecs.
"Trying" is the key word.
Over the last six years the world has become Slaughter's classroom.
His major: being an overseas pro and putting dudes on posters.
I recently detailed Slaughter's journey for the San Diego Union-Tribune and how he went from undrafted to ultimately finding a home playing ball overseas in Turkey, Israel, France, Spain and Germany, all while fending off the hardships of being shot down with the Los Angeles Lakers (summer league) and Miami Heat (training camp).
He even dodged a stick of dynamite along the way in Israel.
But this "world hoops traveler" tale is a sojourn may pros balling abroad can relate to.
Here's the part many in Slaughter's position probably won't confess to though: there is no pressure to battle in summer league, only to end up sitting the bench somewhere in the NBA.
"I get calls in the summer time and teams that show interest, but I'm not going to do summer league just for the chase of it. I'm done with that part," Slaughter said.
"If there is something to really talk about, then you absolutely take that phone call."
Timing and situation -- those are the two factors a lot of players who play overseas and have had a run at an NBA training camp or participated in summer league believe their opportunity to land a full-time gig in the Association comes down to. But for the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Slaughter, securing the right fit in the league isn't necessarily worth sacrificing a starting gig in Europe in exchange for sitting an NBA bench somewhere.
"There are certain people who can just sit on the bench and take it and be okay with that because of the status of, ‘Hey, I'm in the NBA and I'm on the bench and that's good for me.' Some guys are okay with that. For me, I don't want to sit the bench anywhere - not high school or the YMCA - I don't want to sit on the bench. I couldn't just be there and be all right with that.
"Here, it's great because I can play and get paid and I can travel and that's my mindset. I don't get caught up in what people say or the status. My head doesn't work that way. I'm not going to chase something that isn't fit for me. It's not something I think about."
It's reached the point now where even watching NBA games has become painful for Slaughter.
"It's tough playing in Europe to watch the NBA. It's such a big difference in the style of games and you watch the NBA and no one is playing defense or boxing out. It's so different that you can't even watch it. Over here, if you aren't playing defense, you're not playing," said Slaughter, who doesn't care that "everything is so one-on-one."
"There is no team basketball. Guys just sit in the corner all day and shoot the three. Here, everyone is involved in the game and the ball is constantly moving."
In Germany's Beko BBL, Bamberg (who also boasts former Stanford standout and NBA guard Casey Jacobsen and former Toronto Raptor P.J. Tucker) is poised to win their third-straight league title and Slaughter's play over the season is a big reason why. Along with averaging 8.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, Slaughter ranks third in the league in blocked shots (1.5 per game) and was an easy selection for Germany's Beko BBL All-Star game in January.
But will he be in Bamberg next year at this time?
"I want to make sure the place and situation is somewhere where I am comfortable and want to stay, because I don't want to be stuck in a place or situation that I don't like," added Slaughter, who signed a one-year contract with Brose Baskets.
"Everywhere I've been I've been asked to come back for a second year, but each time it's been my choice to go somewhere else. It's like a test drive for me."