Grant Greenberg may be gone from Leavenworth as far as playing in a local basketball uniform, but he is far from forgotten.
The former Leavenworth High and University of Saint Mary player has begun his professional basketball playing career with the new North American Premier Basketball (NAPB) league as a member of the Kansas City Tornados, who play their home games in Municipal Arena on the Missouri side of the metropolitan area.
It’s been a period of adjustment for Greenberg, who has also done well enough as a professional rookie to earn respect from teammates and coaches as he has started all six games so far for the 1-5 Tornados.
He is averaging 13.5 points while playing 31 minutes a night. He is shooting at a 37.5 clip overall, 26.3 behind the 3-point line, while hitting 81 percent of his free throws.
The all-time scoring leader of all Kansas colleges/universities coming out of Saint Mary, Greenberg has had to adjust to the bigger, faster and higher IQ players he has to face nightly compared to what he is used to.
Throw in an NBA 3-point line that is nearly three feet further back than the NAIA triple, it’s all a growing process.
“(Shooting deeper 3s) has been a huge adjustment for me coming from shooting the college 3 which is a lot shorter,” Greenberg said. “I’m starting to adjust to it a lot more though. It’s been good, it’s a whole new level coming up from college. Guys are bigger, faster. I am just trying to work hard every day and try to learn as much as I can.”
One thing he has noticed is that his once usually reliable attacks on the rim that led to either a basket or a foul don’t always garner either.
“That’s part of the adjustment,” Greenberg said. “It’s more physical and I am kind of learning what I can and can’t do. It’s harder up here. Some things that worked in college don’t work out here, but I am having fun with it.”
Greenberg could use the bounce with deadly efficiency in college and get past defenders or create more space for his own shot, but the NAPB athlete offers much more resistance and so it was about fine tuning his ability to catch and shoot immediately that took priority.
“I talked to different people about him and the second day of practice he was like ‘Dang, coach, I thought I was a shooter,’” Kansas City head coach Calvin Thompson said. “So we’d start running and he’d pass up a shot and I’d have to tell him, ‘No, you shoot the ball well. Catch and shoot.’ He was actually tired of shooting the first two days of practice. Imagine that. I don’t want him to think he’s selfish shooting every time. Anyone can shoot, but ‘You are my first, second and third options.’
“So every time he’d pass up a shot, the team would have to run, so the message got across quickly.”
How does Greenberg think the experiment has gone?
“I have been trying to work more on my catch and shoot,” Greenberg said. “In college, I could probably get by anyone one-on-one, but out here, guys are bigger, faster, stronger, so I can’t do that most of the time. For the most part, I am trying to catch and shoot and be aggressive every time I get the ball.
“(On defense) it’s more about keeping them out of the paint. A lot of guys are quicker, faster, and it’s about helping on defense to keep them out of the paint. It’s about doing the little things.”
Greenberg looked around for a pro job after graduating last spring, entertaining possibilities with pro leagues in Spain and Israel before the NAPB became real and the KC squad came knocking.
“I had a chance to watch Grant play (several) times last year – my son plays at Ottawa – so I knew him and my goal was to keep him from going to Europe,” Thompson said. “I knew how tough he was from watching him play in college and he is one of the toughest players on our team – especially in practice. He has done everything I’ve asked, he plays extremely hard and he is reaping the benefits right now.
“He’s extremely coachable. Even when I ride him, he wants more, he wants discipline. He’s a sponge, he soaks everything up. When I challenge him in practice he rises up. He has the biggest heart on the team.”
His teammates would agree with Greenberg’s importance.
“Grant’s great, he’s our first option and our second option,” said Tornado teammate Kevin Young, a KU alum. “We have to get him the ball more every night. He’s a phenomenal player. He can score the basketball multiple ways and his change of direction is unbelievable. He’s learning a lot more now, because it’s a different level and pace of the game. He’s sitting down and he’s watching and taking everything in.
“He is more aggressive. At first, he was a little timid because he didn’t think we’d accept his role on the team, which is to score the basketball. But we are pros now and we all have to understand our roles so we want him to shoot the ball. I tell him every time he touches it, shoot it.”
Greenberg couldn’t be happier as he tries to learn and hopefully parlay his experience for a potential bigger and better opportunity.
“(Europe) didn’t really interest me, so it was frustrating going through the process and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” Greenberg said. “Then this opportunity popped up and coach called me to see if I was interested and I jumped on the opportunity. Especially here where I am still living with my family and friends and they can still watch me play. Not a lot of people can do that right out of college.
“I still have access at Saint Mary and so I can go and get up shots when I have time. If I was overseas I wouldn’t be able to be with family and friends, so I am definitely more comfortable and relaxed playing basketball in Kansas City. It can’t get much better than that. This is perfect right here and I am not looking back.”