Kelvin Torbert was, undeniably, The Man back in 2001. Coming out of Northwestern High School in Flint, Mich., the 6-4 shooting guard was named Sporting News and Gatorade National Player of the Year over future NBA classmates T.J. Ford, Dajuan Wagner, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry and Kwame Brown. Torbert averaged 26 points and eight boards as a senior, then dropped 21 points in that year’s McDonald’s All-American Game.
At Michigan State, Torbert was naturally expected to continue the legacies of Magic Johnson, Steve Smith, Shawn Respert and the “Flintstones” — the four-man crew of Mateen Cleaves, Mo Peterson, Charlie Bell and Antonio Smith that hailed from the same hometown as Torbert. However, Torbert never delivered on that potential in college. He was solid, earning a couple of All-Big Ten nods, but by his senior year he wasn’t even a full-time starter on State’s Final Four squad.
“To be honest, I think that when I got to college I came into it with the wrong mindset,” Torbert, 26, says today. “I always thought that I was good enough that I was going to be fine no matter what. I got caught up listening to the wrong outside people that were always telling me how good I was, and not listening to the people that were telling me the truth and had my best interest at heart.”
Undrafted by the NBA, Torbert played two years in France before heading to bordering nation Belgium, where he’s now in his third season. Playing for Dexia Mons-Hainaut alongside fellow American college standouts Jerel McNeal (Marquette), Justin Cage (Xavier), Dominique Coleman (Colorado), Curtis Sumpter (Villanova) and Brandon Costner (N.C. State), Torbert is averaging over 13 points per game for a squad that’s fifth-place in the league and last year went to the championship series.
From Dime #54, Torbert talks about life and basketball in Belgium…
ON THE COURT
I didn’t anticipate much going into Belgium, because I knew it was going to be something new for me, it being my first time playing in the country. But I knew that if I just go in and play the way I know how to play, I would have some success.
I think the competition is very good; a lot better than a lot of people give it credit for. It’s tougher than some leagues, especially for the size of the country, because it’s not that big. I know that Belgium isn’t maybe to the level of bigger leagues like Spain, Italy, Greece … but it’s still a very good league competition-wise. It’s not one certain style of play, because it’s so many different coaching styles. There are teams that are more of the fast-breaking, quick-scoring style, and teams that are more conservative.
I wouldn’t totally say Americans dominate the league. There are a lot of good Belgian players — it’s just that there are so many Americans. They don’t have that two- or three-Americans rule here like other countries, so it seems to be mostly American players.
OFF THE COURT
It’s pretty laid-back. It’s more of a quiet type of lifestyle, unlike the typical fast lifestyle that we’re accustomed to in America. It’s more family-oriented to me, as in there’s more stuff to do with your wife and kids. The teams provide you with a car and an apartment, and they pay you well.
I think the food is good, given that I don’t typically eat out a lot; I’m usually cooking for myself, or my wife cooks. As long as I have baked chicken breasts and pizza, I’m fine.
I live in Mons; it’s a nice, quiet, small city. The people are real good and they really love their basketball, but like any other European city, it’s still the second-most popular to soccer. Brussels is close by, so you have a lot of events that come to Brussels or Antwerp as far as concerts and shows, stuff like that. When I have family or friends visit, I usually take them to Brussels or Antwerp to usually eat or go shopping.
The weather is one of those things that some guys really can’t get used to. It can change in a heartbeat in Belgium, which was something I was personally totally accustomed to from growing up in Michigan my whole life. It’ll start with the sun coming out, then an hour later it’s pouring rain, then the sun is back out.
I’m signed to play in Mons again for this season, so right now I’m trying to improve on the season we had this past year and win a championship. After that, I don’t know. I might be in Belgium, but I’ll just have to wait and see what the future has planned for me.
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