July 18, 2007
IOWA CITY – – Former University of Iowa point guard Jeff Horner had his share of ups and downs last fall as the floor general for Euphony Bree, a Belgium professional basketball team.
Horner enjoyed his stay in Belgium and discovered that a lot of people spoke English in Belgium and the country appeared very Americanized. Former Hawkeye teammate and friend Greg Brunner also plays professional basketball in Belgium and lives about 45 minutes from Horner.
“We talk a little bit of trash, but it’s all in good fun.”
“It’s a great country,” Horner said. “The whole country is about the size of Iowa and it only takes about two hours to get across the place. Brunner and I will go catch a movie and I have five American teammates, so we will bowl or go to some clubs to get our minds off basketball.”
The former Iowa fan favorite enjoyed the sights as he traveled Europe to places like Amsterdam, Germany and Paris.
Horner averaged 9.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game during his rookie season, leading Euphony Bree to the First Division Belgium League finals before losing to Telindus Oostende three games to two. Euphony finished fourth in the regular season and made the playoffs before falling in the finals. Teams in the European league can have as many American players as they want, but they also need four Belgium players on the roster. All the Belgium players on Horner’s team spoke English, making it easier to communicate.
“At the beginning of the season it was tough for me being away from my family for a long period of time,” Horner said. “It was hard to adapt to the way the professional game is played — it’s a lot different than college. The shot clock is different going from 35 seconds in college to 24 in the European League, the three-point line is farther back, and just being a rookie was the toughest part.”
The Iowa standout went to Belgium on Aug. 15 and stayed until June 15, but was able to return home for seven days at Christmas. Horner’s parents came to visit over Thanksgiving Break and watched him play against Brunner’s Vervier’s-Pep team. Horner’s sister saw him play during Spring Break.
Horner played against Brunner four times this past year and won the series three games to one. There are many other Division I players in the league — Kelvin Torbert of Michigan State is Horner’s teammate; Eric Hicks of Cincinnati plays for league champion Telindus Oostende and Justin Gray of Wake Forest and Thomas Gardner of Missouri play with Brunner.
“It’s fun playing those guys,” Horner said. “We talk a little bit of trash, but it’s all in good fun.”
Horner noticed similaries and contrasts between playing at Iowa and playing professionally.
“This league and my college experience are comparable — everybody overseas can definitely play,” Horner said. “It’s a totally different game. In college there was a lot of rough play and banging, and overseas pretty much every big guy can shoot the three. I think that the players can shoot better in the Belgium League than at the college level.”
The atmosphere was different than playing in Carver Hawkeye Arena. Horner’s new home court is small, but was always filled with screaming fans, some who pounded drums the entire game.
Horner is also excited for his former teammate, Adam Haluska, who was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA.
“I know he’s really excited and I’m excited for him,” Horner said. “That’s what you work your whole life for — to get to the highest level.”