Many college students — even Division I basketball players —
have a window of time around Christmas to travel home, see their
families and press pause on the motion and stress of life at
Baylor freshman Jeremy Sochan did not have that
Sochan's mother, stepfather and brother live in Milton Keynes, a
medium-sized city in the United Kingdom. Between the short break
(Baylor men's basketball played on Dec. 20 and Dec. 28), the long
flight and the surging COVID-19 pandemic, a homecoming simply was
Instead, the highly-touted prospect bought a ticket to finally
see his first NBA regular-season game, tagging along with Baylor
assistant coach Bill Peterson and a couple of Peterson's friends to
watch the Dallas Mavericks host the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 23.
The freshman was enthralled. He lingered in the American
Airlines Center well after the game ended, soaking up the
"Afterwards he just kept saying, 'Coach, I can't thank you
enough,'" Peterson told BasketballNews.com in a phone interview.
"He just had a different appreciation for it. Because he was from
another country, going to an NBA game wasn't something he did all
Soon, Sochan will live those moments almost every day. The
6-foot-9-inch forward is headed to the 2022 NBA Draft as a
sure-fire first-round pick and a possible lottery selection.
Sochan's journey to June 23 includes crisscrossing the globe for
basketball, and in his NBA Draft Combine interview, he aptly
proclaimed himself a "citizen of the world."
"My family's from all over the place — Poland, America, and I
lived in England most of my life — and it's hard to answer the
question when someone says: Where are you from?" Sochan told
BasketballNews.com over the phone. "Because you don't really have
one specific place. So I try and explain it that way."
In the past five years alone, Sochan has suited up for five
different elite basketball programs, beginning from his home in
England and traversing through Poland, the United States (twice)
and Germany. But the takeoff started in his hometown of Milton
Keynes, where Sochan grew up after being born in Oklahoma and
living briefly in Southampton.
After playing for his local club, the Milton Keynes Trojans,
Sochan spent one season at Itchen College in Southampton as a
high-school-age freshman. (Sixth-form colleges in the UK are
somewhat like private high schools in the U.S.). Sochan adamantly
states that basketball is on a serious rise at the youth level in
England, and he might be right.
According to an article from Vithushan
Ehantharajah of The
Independent, basketball ranked as the second-most
popular sport at the recreational level behind only soccer, and
over 1.3 million people said they hooped at least once a week in a
study between 2018 and 2019. Per the same 2021 article, the United
Kingdom is ninth in the world and first in Europe for NBA League
In Sohan's estimation, the problem is a lack of funding that
limits the ceiling of player development. It's part of the reason
he moved on from UK programs.
"Unfortunately, I feel like it's not funded well enough, and
there's not a lot of exposure or resources for basketball," Sochan
said. "So at times, it's difficult. It's difficult to rent a court.
It's expensive, and you'd have to have a massive group of people...
But there's a lot of potential, and it's a country with a lot of
immigrants [and] a lot of people around the world. So if they put
money in it, and resources, it's gonna be a great place for
basketball, for sure."
As Sochan made waves in England, his mother, Aneta Sochan, was
leveraging her connections abroad. Aneta is Polish and played
Division II basketball at Oklahoma Panhandle State University
before her own professional stint with Polonia Warszawa in Poland.
She moved to England with Sochan's late biological father, Ryan
Williams, as Williams pursued a professional career, and later
settled in Milton Keynes with her current partner, Wiktor Lipiecki.
Sochan's holidays were typically spent with Aneta's extended family
in their home country.
Aneta sent emails and film to the Polish Basketball Association,
looking for inroads for her son. Eventually, they came in the form
of development camps in Poland and Spain, and persuading Dawid
Mazur to allow him to compete for a spot on the Poland U16 National
Sochan exploded in his second year with the program. He put up
16.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 3.0 assists per game in
the summer of 2019, leading Poland to the European Class B title
and winning MVP honors in his tour de force through the
Sochan had proven himself on one of the largest European stages.
But as his name reached scouting circles in the United States,
Sochan transferred to La Lumiere High School, a national powerhouse
program in Indiana. It featured a loaded roster that fielded some
of the country's top prospects, including draft classmate Jaden
Ivey and Louisville commit Kamari Lands. Sochan's third high-level
team in three years — and three countries — tested his resolve as a
"It was interesting because I feel like there's differences, of
course, between European basketball and American basketball,"
Sochan said. "In America, I feel like the players are a lot more
confident... just more confident and free, and at first, it was a
little bit difficult for me to understand that. But I feel like as
time went on, [me] building confidence and my teammates believing
in me, it got a lot easier."
A barrier to entry exists whenever an athlete joins a new team.
For international players like Sochan, that barrier can feel
thicker and taller, particularly with the stereotypes that persist
surrounding European hoops.
Later on at Baylor, Peterson wanted Sochan to challenge the
"I would joke with him a lot about [how] one of the monikers in
the NBA is that European guys are soft, or they're wusses. That
goes around the NBA," Peterson said.
"So he would say to me, 'I do not want to be a wuss. I'm not a
wuss,' he would always say, and I said, 'I know.' Sometimes when
guys hit you, you gotta hit 'em back. You gotta stick 'em on an
offensive or defensive boxout. You gotta hammer 'em on a screen. It
sends a message."
Time and again, Sochan demonstrated his physical toughness and
determination. He did it by solidifying himself as a four-star high
school recruit at La Lumiere in 2019-20, becoming the youngest
player in Poland men's senior national team history in 2021 and
smothering opponents with the Bears in 2021-22. Sochan also charted
his own course when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted his
Sochan returned home for school vacation in the spring of 2020
as a high school junior at La Lumiere. Then, the school told Sochan
to stay in Milton Keynes for an extra week as activities paused.
One week became two weeks, then a month. Sochan ultimately never
returned. As the United States reeled from the impact of the virus,
Sochan pivoted back to Europe and settled on Orange Academy, a
development program under German pro team Ratiopharm Ulm.
"Germany was pretty good with the COVID situation, and also,
they were one of the only clubs to offer me no contract, so I could
be eligible for college," he said. "So it was a great
Sochan verbally committed to Baylor in the summer of 2020 before
he headed to Germany. But the pandemic and travel hurdles kept him
from visiting campus after he committed; all of his conversations
with coaches came via phone and Zoom. And after never seeing his
family while at La Lumiere, Sochan had to leave them again for
another year when he took off for Orange Academy.
"Of course it's difficult; you can be a little homesick," Sochan
said. "But I think, as of an early age, I always used to go to
camps in Spain and Poland on my own. It was an easy adjustment for
me. Personally, I am confident, just knowing the reason I'm leaving
home. [It] helped me stay on course and keep on working every day.
I'm doing this for my family, of course, and myself — to get
better. I feel like that motivated me to keep on going,"
Peterson recalls receiving a video from Sochan while the
then-17-year-old was at Orange Academy. It was 30 seconds of Sochan
alone on an outdoor court in Germany, laughing and smiling while
drilling himself on ball-handling exercises that Peterson had
"Coach, I'm working on this. How do I look?" Sochan would ask
him. "Am I getting better?"
The grind has powered Sochan through those lonely nights away
from home. He celebrated his 19th birthday on May 20 with dinner at
an Italian restaurant — and by working out in front of teams on the
final day of the Combine. Though he may be surrounded by new
teammates, new coaches, new audiences and new cultures, he knows he
has two constants: family and basketball.
"I feel like it's just understanding where you came from — your
family — and just being able to stay present," Sochan said. "Just
being able to get better every day is what I feel like grounds me.
And I think it's important for me to just get better every day and
just keep on learning — whether it's through basketball on the
court, off the court, mentally, physically."
Many Polish goods, are things that I will be
missing on the 24th for the 3rd time in the row. More importantly I
will be missing the physical presence of my family, I’ve had it far
from perfect but nobody has so I’m just like you. We all sacrifice
something for the greater good. pic.twitter.com/KmlRBIVmG7
At Baylor, Sochan and Peterson developed a bond over their
travels. The 65-year-old Peterson made several stops at the college
and NBA level before arriving at Baylor in 2017. He served as a
player development coach and scout for the Dallas Mavericks from
1999-2000, coached six seasons as an assistant for the Milwaukee
Bucks from 2007-13 and spent three seasons at the helm of the Erie
Bayhawks in the G League (formerly known as the D-League). With
those positions, plus other coaching roles in the collegiate ranks,
Peterson collected experiences and stories from his trips across
Europe and China.
The two met frequently for lunch around the Baylor campus.
They'd chat about Premier League soccer (Sochan is a noted Arsenal
fan) and EuroLeague basketball. Peterson learned that Sochan's
grandmother lived about an hour from a clinic he once hosted in
"It was fun because he could relax and realize, 'Hey, Coach
Peterson has been over there and kind of knows where I'm from [and]
some of my background anyway, because he's traveled there a lot
more than maybe some of the other coaches on the staff,'" Peterson
As Sochan acclimated to his fifth elite program, his confidence
started to shine. He formed close friendships on the Baylor team,
specifically with fellow draft prospect Kendall Brown and promising
injured freshman Langston Love. Fans saw Sochan's energy radiate
from his colorful hairstyles and powerful slam dunks. Meanwhile, in
practice, he wowed Peterson with his quick and willing inclination
to move the ball around, displaying the court awareness of someone
who had played with and against veterans — which Sochan had, of
course, in Poland.
"He has a great understanding of how to play for a kid [who's]
18 years old — like, really understands offense, how to move the
ball and make the next pass, and do it in limited dribbles,"
"He plays like a pro. I mean, he plays like a guy that's 10
years older than his age."
If a teammate withheld a pass, Sochan wasn't afraid to call him
out or ask the coaches about the play afterward.
"Occasionally he'd go, 'Hey, come on, man. Let's move the ball.'
You would expect a senior to be saying that, not a freshman,"
Peterson said. "He has that instinct about him to feel that and
help that happen on the floor."
Along with his quick processing on offense, Sochan's defensive
toughness and versatility have not just pushed back on his European
stereotypes — they've become hallmarks of his game and a sales
pitch as a prospect. BasketballNews.com's Senior NBA Draft Analyst
Matt Babcock remembers watching Sochan on Jan. 29 against Alabama,
when the forward posted 17 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals for the
"During that game, Sochan displayed his defensive versatility
and potential," Babcock said. "He also showed flashes as a player
that could stretch the floor and be an effective slasher."
Sochan has steadily risen on draft boards throughout the spring;
Babcock most recently slotted him in at No. 15 overall to the
Charlotte Hornets in his latest BasketballNews.com NBA Mock Draft. Babcock said
that the lottery is definitely within reach for Sochan, and that he
likely won't stick around past the teens of the draft order. He
noted that, in addition to wielding an archetype built for today's
NBA, Sochan carries a journey that should favorably position him
for the professional lifestyle.
"Similar to the advantages that experiences on the court create,
off-the-court experiences also provide learning opportunities. It's
all a part of growing up, and from the sounds of it, Sochan has
seen and done a lot, which I think will help him transition to the
NBA," Babcock said.
Peterson believes that playing for five programs in five years
doesn't just help Sochan on the court; it also teaches him how
different team cultures can each be uniquely successful.
"If you work at IBM, and everybody in IBM wears a suit and coat
and a tie, and then you move and you go work for a grocery store
chain [like] Kroger, H-E-B or whatever, and everybody there just
wears a polo shirt and nice slacks, you're not going to keep
wearing suits when you go work at Kroger or you're gonna look like
an idiot," Peterson said. "That's not the culture they have. You
have to adjust somewhat to what their culture is and what their
program's about. And he's had to do that five different times."
The NBA has a small but noteworthy history of English and Polish
talent. James Donaldson, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Michael Olowokandi
and OG Anunoby are players with English ties who have played over
300 games in the league. Marcin Gortat is the lone Poland native
with over 100 appearances.
Sochan aims to be a beacon for both countries.
"I think it's really exciting," he said. "I think it's a great
opportunity for me, personally, to connect these communities to the
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