A life in basketball has taken Roger Franklin plenty of places.
The former North Texas standout who started his career at Oklahoma State has played in arenas around the Big 12 and Sun Belt conferences, not to mention plenty of others across the country.
The game also gave him a chance to earn his degree and make lifelong friends.
What he never anticipated is the journey that begins today when Franklin will play his first game for the U.S. in the Four Nations tournament in China.
The event will feature teams from China, Canada and Latvia playing a series of nine games in 12 days in three cities. China, Latvia and Canada are preparing for international tournaments including the Asia Games and World University Games. The U.S. team features younger players who will have an opportunity to represent their country in an international event.
“Anytime you get picked to represent your country, it’s an honor,” Franklin said. “To have someone say, ‘Hey, we are picking you out of all the players in the country,’ it’s a blessing.”
The tournament is run by NetScouts Basketball, an organization that had a previous relationship with UNT’s staff, including head coach Tony Benford and assistant Bart Lundy during their time at Marquette.
“We do a lot of research,” said Chris Denker, a NetScouts executive. “We were looking for a guard-forward and liked what we saw in Roger. Once we talked to him, it was a done deal. The FIBA game is similar to college. It’s fast with a 24-second shot clock. There is a lot more of the transition game.”
Franklin averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for UNT last season, a performance that helped him land a spot on the team.
“They told me that I am one of those guys who will come in and outwork players,” Franklin said. “My talent may be the same or a little under, but the fact that I have a motor and will run and do the dirty work that others won’t is what got me picked to play.”
Earning a spot on the team will give Franklin a chance to travel around the world, which will be a new experience. The former Duncanville standout has only left the country to visit Mexico.
Franklin said before leaving for the tournament that he will take 14-hour flights to and from the tournament.
“We are going to be exposed to a new culture, new foods, and what I like the best is we will get to play in different environments,” Franklin said. “They say that their gyms are built a little different. They say it’s like playing at Duke, where the fans are right on top of you.”
Franklin will play with a group of college players and others in the early stages of professional careers, including the National Basketball League of Canada. Mike Davis, who began his career at Seton Hall, and former Appalachian State center Isaac Butts are slated to play for the U.S.
Franklin is planning to play professionally overseas and is hoping that participating in the event will improve his stock.
“We have had guys come on this trip and be picked up for the NBA summer league,” Denker said. “Guys are trying to improve their stock. China pays its players well and pays attention to the tournament. Anytime your agent can market you a little bit, it helps.”
Franklin will try to take full advantage of the opportunity while enjoying the experience.
“On a world stage like this, I am going to give it everything I have,” Franklin said. “I want to show that I am ready to make that next step and play professionally.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.