By Jamie Newell
HOFFMAN ESTATES – At this time last year, Windy City Bulls forward Alfonzo McKinnie was playing for a basketball team that was a long way from where he grew up on the west side of Chicago.
Fresh off a four-year college career, that was split in half between the first two years at Eastern Illinois and the second two at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
When the offers to play professionally in the United States weren’t forthcoming, McKinnie knew that to continue his basketball career. He had to leave the country and go overseas to play.
McKinnie found a team called the East Side Pirates, who play in the second division in Luxembourg.
“There is a major difference between playing here and in Luxembourg,” McKinnie said “In Europe, you play once a week. Here, we may play three or four games a week. We also practice every day and that has been the biggest difference.”
McKinnie also inked a contract with Rayo de Hermosillo of Mexico before finding his way back into the United States and into the training camp for the Windy City Bulls.
The 6’-8” 215-pound forward was rewarded for his hard play by making the team’s final roster.
So far, in his first season with the Bulls, McKinnie has played in all 12 games and is averaging over 12 points per game in 26 minutes of game action and is one of the first players that coach Nate Loesner calls off the bench and sends into the game.
“I don’t really look at it as coming off the bench,“ McKinnie said. “I just try to come into the game and try to keep up the good work that the guys have started. I just try play my role and do what I can to get a win.”
McKinnie has been a beast on the glass as he is averaging 8.8 rebounds a contest.
“So far I am enjoying my time with the Bulls,” McKinnie said after a recent shoot-around. “Since I am a Chicago kid and being able to be not so far from home and being able to have my family and friends to come and see me play, is awesome.“
McKinnie did see a familiar face when he started training camp. Windy City Bulls center Alec Brown was a teammate of McKinnie’s at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“I played with Alec (Brown) in college,” McKinnie said. “It has been interesting playing with him. Just to play with a guy that you are familiar with and played with in college for a couple of years. Having him as a roommate and a teammate on the professional level has been pretty cool.”
Like any player in the D-League, McKinnie’s goal is to make it to the next level and into the NBA.