For most people, following their dream means putting in the hard work and having the perseverance to never give up on what they’re trying to accomplish.
For former Open Door point guard Abe Valentine, following his dream means all of the above plus packing up and moving nearly halfway around the world.
The 24-year-old Valentine is headed to Barcelona to play professional basketball in the Spanish EBA, a midlevel professional league in a nation with one of Europe’s best basketball lineages.
“It was always a dream of mine to play professional basketball,” said Valentine, a 2011 Open Door graduate and two-time All-Ohio special mention selection in Division IV. “I never really thought I’d be in this position but I’ve always had great support. Even though we came from a small school, my Open Door teammates always believed in me and always supported me. They’ve always been my brothers.”
After graduating as Open Door’s all-team leading scorer — he averaged 20.2 points per game as a senior — Valentine went on to play at Division III Summit University (now Clarks Summit University), where he was a three-time Colonial States Athletic Conference honorable mention pick.
Open Door coach Todd Wright has had a front row seat to Valentine’s development from high school standout to professional athlete, having first coached him in eighth grade.
“There was no question he was a special talent, but the biggest difference with Abe was how hard he worked and how often he worked on his basketball game,” Wright said. “To this day I’ve still never seen a guy work as hard as he does.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Valentine will begin training camp with his new team Thursday and exactly one month later will begin a 35-game season that stretches into late April with playoffs to follow.
Valentine was discovered by his new team when he attended an open tryout in Chicago in May.
Since Valentine’s collegiate career ended in the spring of 2016, he’s stayed in shape by working out as many as three times a day while also working at Bendix, in Elyria, and providing training sessions for the current Open Door players.
“I knew all of the work was going to come to God’s glory,” Valentine said. “Because in my heart I knew something good would happen. There were times I was down. There were times I wondered if I was good enough but then I was always like, ‘I can do this.’”
“It’s been a real uphill, downhill and back uphill again struggle,” Valentine said. “Now that I have this opportunity I’m really trying to run with this and take it as far as I can. Maybe in a couple of years, if everything goes well, I can try out for the NBA. That’s my goal.”
Valentine started 87 games over four years at Summit, averaging 15 points and 3.2 assists. In his junior and senior years he averaged more than two 3-point field goals per game.
“I feel so happy for him, so proud of him,” Wright said. “To have Abe as an example and a role model for our younger guys and for them to see someone who has worked that hard to have that kind of success has truly been a blessing.”
There are some things Valentine has been able to do to prepare himself for the journey ahead such as brushing up on his Spanish and working on his 3-point shot, because the international 3-point line closer than in the NBA, but there are others you really can’t ready yourself for.
“The toughest thing I’m going to be dealing with is being away from family and being away from the kids at Open Door that I’ve been coaching,” Valentine said. “Those are going to be the two hardest things to deal with.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.