Growing up, Travis Warech always wanted to play professional basketball and on Oct. 18, 2013, his dream became a reality.
Warech, a Montville High School graduate, landed in Germany in October to begin his professional basketball career with the Pro-A Gotha Rockets, a team based two hours outside of Frankfurt. The 22-year-old guard/forward is currently a starter and so far this season has averaged 9.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
“Now I’m actually getting to live (my dream) out and it’s pretty awesome to be able to accomplish what I always wanted to do,” Warech said.
According to Warech’s father Gary, Travis first picked up a basketball as soon as he could walk and started playing organized basketball around the age of 4. When he was in the sixth grade he started training under the tutelage of Joe Hohn, who has been a trainer for 17 years and owns Hardcore Hoops in Fairfield, N.J., and from there he just kept going. He played for the Mustangs and then went to St. Michael’s College in Vermont. After three years, the team underwent a coaching change and Warech transfered to Ithaca, where he averaged 16.1 points and eight rebounds per game his senior season.
“When you’re dealing with kids, you never say he’s going to be a pro, you just see kids that keep going and (Travis) kept going with it,” Hohn said. “And then he said, ‘I want to play pro ball’ and I said, ‘Let’s see what we can do.’ He took care of himself and trained hard and did all the right things to become a pro.”
After graduating college, the Warechs found out that Travis could claim German citizenship through his grandmother, who was born in Hamburg and had been forced out during the Nazi occupation. According to Warech, German law states that citizenship can be reclaimed through generations, and having a European passport would make him very attractive to potential teams.
“The league states there needs to be two Germans on the floor at all times, so two of the five have to be German,” Warech said. “Since I can play I’m a little more valuable, I play like an American but I have German citizenship. I fill that German quota.”
Warech applied for a German passport in June and then with Hohn’s help, signed with Scorers First Agency in the middle of July. Warech expected that he would play as an American his first year oversees, but he got the notification of his citizenship in September. He signed his contract with Gotha in October and two days later he was in Germany.
“None of this was possible without Joe,” Warech said. “He connected me with the agency and they signed me without seeing me play. Normally you have to go to camps and hope an agency will pick you up, but they took my trainer’s word for it and they signed me.”
Warech, who doesn’t speak German, said his teammates made the transition of leaving home to live in a foreign country a little easier. All the players speak English, and a number of them are from the States, with players hailing from Seattle, Montana and Michigan. The team usually has one game per week, and Monday through Friday they practice twice a day, except for Wednesday, when the coach’s wife teaches a German class in the morning.
The game of basketball itself however, was a little different than he was used to.
“It’s much different. I’m playing with grown men, the players are bigger and stronger and the level of play is higher than college,” he said. “The 3-point line is pushed back, the lane is wider and the shot clock is a 24 second shot clock. That took a lot to get used to the first two weeks and I just remember feeling a little overwhelmed. The game pace is faster and after two weeks I was adapting and I got more comfortable and I worked my way into the starting lineup and I’ve started every game since the first two or three.”
According to Hohn, the reason Warech is where he is right now is because he’s worked so hard for it. He never stopped fighting for what he wanted and he continues to learn and grow thanks to his veteran teammates on Gotha.
“He’s not your normal basketball player, he’s not gifted with great athletic ability and size, his body is the way it is because he works on it, his basketball skill set is what it is because he worked on it,” Hohn said. “He gets in the gym and he works hard, he brings great work ethic and team bonding, just a knowledge of the game whether it’s talking on defense or helping offensively. He just brings a unity, he’s a nucleus to a team, everyone follows him and he knows what to do.”
Gotha is currently 10th in the Pro-A standings at 7-8. The final regular season game is March 30 with the top eight teams making the playoffs, and Warech hopes that he can help his team into the postseason. It’s only his first year playing professional basketball, but Warech isn’t planning on going anywhere for quite some time.
“I’m going to play basketball for as long as someone pays me and as long as my body can keep going,” he said. “This is the first year of many in my pro career. I’m probably going to stay in Europe since with my German passport I’m worth more there than anywhere else. Hopefully things go well and I stay healthy and I can make a nice long career out of this.”