Bayern Munich's Jared Homan - Photo from Bayern Munich

Going from a farm in western Iowa to the buzz of a metropolis like Athens to waiting for sheep to cross a road in Turkey to winning titles in Croatia to a legal battle over salary in Greece to one of the most promising basketball projects in European basketball history.

Welcome to the basketball journey of Jared Homan.

The 28-year-old Homan was raised on a family farm in Remsen, Iowa, about 45 miles from the Iowa-South Dakota-Nebraska border.

“I grew up on a farm in a farming community. That’s part of who I am. My parents have had their farm in their family for over 100 years. We raised corn, soybeans and we had cattle,” said Homan.

Basketball for the 6-foot-9 center was a way to get his college education paid for as he starred at Iowa State University – located in the middle of the state in Ames with 59,000 people.

In the end, it would lead Homan to a fascinating trip around Europe including stops in Greece, Turkey, Poland, Croatia, Greece again, Italy and now Germany and the much-heralded promoted club Bayern Munich.

“I think that’s a heck of a story. I wouldn’t think it’s a true story,” admitted Homan.

“My freshman year at college was an eye-opening experience. And I thought that was a great opportunity at the time to get my education paid for and play basketball at a very elite level. I never dreamed where it would end of leading me.”

After finishing his time at Iowa State, Homan was training in Los Angeles, playing pick-up ball at UCLA with college and NBA guys including Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

“It was quite a thrill,” admitted Homan.

But the time in Los Angeles gave the then 22-year-old a bit of preparation for a big city as his next destination was the Greek capital Athens.

“It was definitely a culture shock – so many people, all the traffic, and just the way of life. Nobody eats dinner there until 8 or 9 o’clock at night which is different than the 6 or 7 p.m. in the U.S.,” said Homan.

The wide-eyed rookie was just in awe of how different things were and everyone speaking a different language.

After reaching the Greek Cup final, the FIBA EuroCup quarter-finals and the Greek league semi-finals with Maroussi Athens in 2006, Homan moved to Turkish top flight side Mersin Buyuksehir Belediyesi.

The highlight Homan most remembers was being on the bus going to practice and the bus had to stop. “We just stopped and then had to wait for some sheep to cross the road and then continue on to practice,” recalled Homan.

The farm boy must have felt at home a bit with the sheep – though he probably just wanted to get to the court to practice.

The fall of 2007 provided one of Homan’s most exciting moments in his career. Growing up in the mid-west United States in the mid-1990s, Homan and all his friends were huge Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls fans.

“Chicago was the team I always loved growing up. And getting a chance to play for the Bulls for a couple months was something I will never forget,” said Homan, who was playing with the Bulls at training camp for almost two months before the 2007-08 season.

“To get that call was incredible.”

Homan knew Kirk Hinrich from the Bulls as the guard was from Sioux City, Iowa and the two played against each other when Hinrich was at Kansas. Homan was a training camp invite and was the second-to-last cut from the team as the Bulls decided instead on a guard since Chicago were dealing with injuries in the back-court at the time. And the Bulls released Homan.

“It was great experience to be in the NBA – the private jets, the five-star hotels, the massages after every practice, the pampering and then playing against the great players,” said Homan, who had the chance to face Tyrus Thomas and Ben Wallace every day in training.

When asked what he learned most from the experience with the Bulls, Homan said: “Just to compete. You can always strive to be better. You got to look at these guys in the upper echelon of the NBA and how hard they have worked to get there and what the possibilities are.”

Homan did not have to wait long for a job as Polish side Slask Wroclaw signed him. He helped Slask to the Polish Cup final and the Polish league semi-finals before moving onto his next team the next season.

The 2008-09 campaign proved to be Homan’s most successful as KK Cibona Zagreb reached the Adriatic League final where they lost to Partizan but won the Croatian league and Cup double. Cibona also advanced to the Euroleague Top 16 and finished third in the group.

“It was a very good experience in Croatia, mainly because we won the championship. That was a very good team,” said Homan, who played alongside Davor Kus, Rawle Marshall, EJ Calloway and Nikola Prkacin.

Despite the success in Croatia, Homan experienced a bit of probably the biggest fear for Americans playing in Europe – money problems.

“Unfortunately you get a bit of a taste of that every year. In Poland, the team went bankrupt so I lost money that year,” Homan said.

“Cibona had money issues too but in the end I got all my money.”

That was not the case in the 2009-10 season as Homan had a nightmare season financially in his return to Athens and Maroussi.  On the court the team advanced from the Euroleague Qualifying Round – beating Alba Berlin in the second round – and then reached the Top 16.

But things unraveled and the team was not getting paid. Homan said the most frustrating thing is that the club owner kept telling the players they would get their money.

“The owner adamantly promised that we would see every penny. But he just flat out was a liar. He lied to our faces that we would get our money. And it’s been two years and haven’t seen a single cent or heard from the guy,” said Homan.

Homan even filed a lawsuit with FIBA’s Basketball Arbitral Tribunal for unpaid wages in the six-figure dollar range. He was the ruling but has still not seen any money.

“I went to FIBA and won the case but figured out that the FIBA way isn’t always the best route to go. When the (2010-11) season started they were not allowed to sign players, but somehow FIBA allowed them to sign players,” said Homan.

The money ordeal was all the more aggravating since it was exactly the opposite of what Homan had experienced his first time in Greece.

“The reason I came back to Maroussi was that in the first year I played there I got all my money and it was a positive experience. So I was hoping for the same thing the second time around. But it didn’t work out that way with the Greek economy going under.”

Homan suggested that FIBA or European basketball leagues should force clubs to have some sort of security for players, possibly by putting money into an account before the season.

“That’s one of the negative things about European basketball. But that’s just something you have to deal with.”

Homan moved onto Italy last season to Canadian Solar Bologna and he really enjoyed his time there.

“Everyone in the United States has heard about Italy as a dream destination to visit, and I got to live there and experience that culture and loved it,” said Homan.

And now the 28-year-old is in southern Germany with Bayern Munich.

“I have a big German tradition in my family. And getting a chance to live here and experience the lifestyle, the food and everything else that comes with it has just been a really good experience.

And Homan still has goals, including playing for quite a few more years.

“A lot depends on how well your body holds up and listening to your body to know how far you can go. But I would say at least another five or six years for sure. I’d like to play until I’m 34 or 35 years,” he said.

“I think Spain is definitely a big goal of mine or at least something I would like to check off my list. They have a very strong league and good basketball tradition over there. And it’s a great country. It’s another country I would like to explore.”

Homan just loves travelling and exploring the world.

“I guess I like the nomadic lifestyle, getting to experience a new country and culture and new team. It’s basically a new adventure every year. It’s always nice to stay in one place and feel comfortable and know your way around I guess, but there’s a certain bit of excitement that goes with going to a new place.”

One adventure Homan does not expect to experience is the NBA – especially since calls to play in an NBA camp means no guaranteed money.

“I have kind of put it on the backburner. I like to think I could make a roster but I don’t know if I’m willing to try it out. I guess one of the biggest problems with me and the NBA is I’m not really a center in the NBA or a power forward. I’m kind of a tweener. And that makes it tough,” said Homan.

One thing is not tough for Homan is when Bayern face off against s. Oliver Baskets. And he is very much looking forward to the Würzburg team coming to Munich on March 18, as Homan is namely good friends with Würzburg guard Ben Jacobsen.

“I have known him since we were kids and played high school against each other and played AAU ball together and then college playing against each other,” said Homan of his relationship with Jacobsen, who grew up in Sioux City, Iowa – about 60 kilometers from Remsen – and went to the University of Northern Iowa.

“Even after college we stayed in contact. We usually meet up every summer here or there. I would say he’s probably one of the closest guys I have around,” said Homan.

You can take the man out of Iowa, but you can’t take Iowa out of the man.

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2 Comments

  1. Annie says:

    We lov you Jared! Keep up the good work!
    Love,
    Your family in the USA

  2. Joe Miller says:

    I worked with Jared’s uncle Louis and remain friends with him. He sent me this very informative article. Too often, we lose track of players we followed in college and, in some cases, are not even aware they are still playing organized ball.

    Jared’s experience in Europe has to add substantially to his background. With the global economy of today, I do not doubt his chances for employment will be materially better for having lived in vartious parts of Europe.