H-F High School graduate Jeremy Saffold has signed a contract to play professional basketball in Turkey. He formerly played in the Republic of Georgia and coached at H-F High School.
Jeremy Saffold’s basketball career has practically seen it all. From playing Division II basketball after high school to now playing for a professional team in Turkey, Saffold has been through a lot.
His story starts at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, where he began high school over a decade ago. That’s when he met Marc Condotti, who was, at the time, the freshman basketball coach in his first year working at H-F.
Saffold would then move onto to the sophomore basketball squad. Condotti moved up as well to coach the sophomore level. Saffold then spent two years at the varsity level. After graduation, he played Division II basketball with the Wisconsin-Parkside Rangers.
After four years playing for the Rangers, he moved on to play pro basketball overseas. He spent two years playing in Italy and in Georgia, a small country sandwiched between Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan on the south and the Caucasus Mountain range separating it from Russia on the north.
"It's fun. It's interesting. You'll play a lot of Americans that you've heard of coming up in the basketball world," Saffold said. "You'll play against a lot of European guys that you may or may not have heard of."
Saffold, 28, is very close with his parents, as well as his girlfriend and his 9-year-old son. It was difficult to keep contact with his loved ones living on a different continent. There’s an eight-hour time difference.
"It's kind of tough to stay on a consistent schedule with them because it's times where I'm going to sleep and they are in the middle of their work day. Then, I'm waking up in the morning, and then it's time for them to go to sleep," Saffold said.
There’s a huge change when you live in a different country. And it took Saffold a while to become accustomed to this new life style.
"During my first week while I was in the Republic of Georgia, I had a dream that I was at home and I was able to get up and just drive to the gym or something like that. Once I woke up, I looked outside and I was in a whole different country. When I woke up I was like, 'Damn, this is what life is,'” Saffold said.
But for Saffold, it was all about chasing his passion: playing basketball.
“There's definitely pros. I would say the pros outweigh the cons because it's an opportunity of a lifetime that not many people get to experience,” Saffold said. “You get to be paid for something that you love and that's something that you work hard at.”
He was playing the sport he loved. His next stop to play basketball was going to be Chile. Then it all changed. Saffold tore his patella tendon. He was out for a year.
“I never thought I'd be able to play ball at a high level ever again. I had to learn how to walk again,” Saffold said. “I had to learn how to bend my knee. I had to learn how to be strong. Lift weights and take care of my body in a different type of way. So it was definitely a huge wake-up call.”
After being nursed back to health by his parents, he took a break from playing basketball and reunited with Condotti, his former H-F basketball head coach who was now the varsity head coach. Saffold got to coach alongside him in the 2017-18 school year.
"He's great for kids overall, forget the basketball piece. He's just great for kids. I'm big on hiring guys that have been a part of the program who want to come back and work. They know what it's all about,” Condotti said. “They know how things are supposed to be done. He's one of the top guys to have gone through our program so obviously, when he told me he wanted to come back and coach, it was open arms."
Along with coaching at H-F during the school year, he coached for Young and Reckless, a Chicago AAU basketball team for teenagers. Saffold got to see the game of basketball from a different perspective while coaching from the sidelines.
“I had to see things on the floor that I don't normally see as a player; manage kids and do different things I wouldn't do as a player,” Saffold said. “So I think that helped me because now as I'm playing, I'm able to coach myself through things. I'm able to see things on the floor differently.”
He got a call from an old friend saying that Buyukcekmece, a pro team in Turkey, was holding a tryout.
The call came a few days after Saffold's birthday on Sept. 3. He had about a week to decide whether he would try out and possibly get the chance to play basketball at a professional level.
He decided to make the trip. He made the team.
Senior R.J. Ogom has been at H-F since Saffold came back as an assistant coach.
“I’m real happy for him. It’s a great opportunity for him,” Ogom said. “I know it’s been something that he’s been chasing for a few years. It's sad to let him go … but I’m really happy for him.”
Saffold posts to social media sharing positive and motivational messages with the hopes of inspiring others.
He tweeted this on Dec. 17: “The best part of chasing your dreams through adversity, is failure. You’ll never know what it takes to lock in and fight for something until you’ve failed or lost it.”
Saffold said: "I try always to motivate myself and tweet things like that, as well as motivate other people, because I feel like if people can read my tweets and understand what I've gone through then they can use those things and apply them in their lives and accomplish goals they need to.”
Through all of this adversity, Saffold continues to chase his passion. He believes nothing is going to stop him.
“(Remembering) when I got hurt, when I wasn't able to do different things and do what I wanted to do, that keeps the passion,” Saffold said. “Looking at my son every day and knowing that he's growing and knowing that there's things in life he wants to do, those are the things that motivate and drive me.”