Tuesday had to feel like the longest day of Barkley Falkner’s life. The former Oxford High basketball standout left the United States on a plane bound for Denmark to begin the next chapter of his career.
Falkner recently signed on to play professional basketball with the Aalborg Vikings, a team based in Aalborg, Denmark, after his Texas-based agent was able to work out a deal with the team that competes in one of the better known European leagues and the top league in the country.
The 6-foot-8 Falkner, who finished his career at Stephen F. Austin, said he was excited about making the trip across the Atlantic Ocean, but also nervous because he had never left America and never been on a plane for eight hours.
“It will be different being away from home for the next seven months. But it’s also a dream come true,” Falkner said last week as he prepared himself for the big move. “They asked if I could come sooner, but I told them that (Tuesday) was as soon as I could come. The first game is Sept. 25 so I will have five weeks to get ready for the season.”
Falkner’s contract runs through the end of March, but if he helps the Vikings make the playoffs, he will remain on salary on a week-to-week basis and even earn incentives based on his play.
“The team is paying for my flight over, paying for an apartment, my utilities, paying for everything really,” said Falkner, who will play center and power forward for the Vikings. “I get paid once a month and the only thing I have to buy will be my food. They said there are busses and trains I can take to get around, so I don’t have to worry about a car.”
An injured knee has kept Falkner out of competitive basketball since last May. He said his surgically repaired knee is feeling better and that he was as healthy as he has been in two years.
“It has taken me two years to get 100 percent healthy. It’s been a long struggle, a tough rehab,” Falkner said. “My knee feels good. It was just as tough mentally as it was physical but I’m ready to go.”
OLE MISS RECRUITING: Ole Miss is off to a great start in football recruiting and a big reason for that early success lies with the great job recruiting coordinator Chris Vaughn has done organizing this year’s attack. The Rebels currently have verbal commitments from 15 players, a high number for any school three weeks before the season begins, and an extremely high number for Ole Miss, a program that has typically seen most of its commitments come after the year ends.
Vaughn said that he and the rest of the staff haven’t done anything different to garner the high number of commits, but he did think a big difference this year compared to others is the fact that the staff has done a good job with building relationships with the players, especially in the state.
“The numbers are pretty good right now. We haven’t changed our recruiting philosophy. It just kind of happened. But we’re not upset about it,” Vaughn said. “Those are the positives but the negative is you have to hold on to them.”
Vaughn said he prefers to be on the hunt for top players rather than protecting them as the year goes on. So in order to remain in good standing with a player that has already committed, he tries to work even harder to enhance the relationship.
“It’s just like your wife. What you did to get her, you better do to keep her. It’s the same thing with recruiting. What you do to get them, you better keep doing to keep them,” Vaughn said. “Your antennas are up. Back when a commitment meant they were solid and not taking any other visits, you could say ‘we got that one in the boat.’ It doesn’t work like that anymore. A commitment now means I really, really like you a whole bunch today. (But it could change) if you don’t stay in hunting mode.
“Recruiting has become it’s own sport and the kids understand that. They can go on the Internet right and read what a reporter has written about them and they like that. It’s got a picture of them and quotes and they like that,” Vaughn added. “When that stops, they like to get that generated again. That’s just part of the monster, part of the machine, and until it’s not an interesting subject anymore, I think that’s the way it will always be.”
Building relationships in Mississippi hasn’t always been easy for the staff since they were used to recruiting in Arkansas and other places in the past. However, Ole Miss currently has seven players committed to it that hail from the state, a fact that indicates the message about winning championships is starting to resonate with Mississippi players and their coaches.
“One thing that is different about the state of Mississippi is there are very defined lines in certain places that are very, very hard to break through at times. You better be working it every day because there are obstacles,” Vaughn said. “Now all of the schools in the state have those obstacles so it’s not something that is just an Ole Miss thing. But I’m pretty sure that the other institutions in the state say ‘boy, if a guy likes Ole Miss, it’s pretty hard to fight that.’ There are just those things you have to deal with. Kids grow up liking one school because of the area that they are in, so you have to try and change their mind. It makes for a complex situation.”
WVHS JAMBOREE: Water Valley will hold its annual “Meet the Blue Devils” jamboree Friday night at Bobby Clark Field. Activities will begin at 7 p.m. with the introduction of the team and cheerleaders. The Blue Devils will then play Vardaman in their first live action against another school at 7:30. (August 11, 2010, Page 9)