After three years of success with the Telenet Giants Antwerp, Belgian basketball star Vrenz Bleijenbergh is currently in the process of preparing for the 2021 NBA Draft. Before turning pro in 2018, though, the 6-foot-10 point forward strongly considered signing with the Kentucky Wildcats.
In a pre-draft interview with Zach Schumaker, Bleijenbergh said he held an offer from Kentucky and wanted to play for John Calipari in Lexington, but ultimately decided to focus entirely on basketball at the professional level. Struggling a bit with academics in Belgium, the projected draft selection didn’t want to juggle schoolwork in America on top of practice and training.
“I was very close to Kentucky, so I would’ve picked Kentucky, I think,” Bleijenbergh told Schumaker. “… I knew I wasn’t the best student and I was not good at school. My points were okay, but I knew from talking to a lot of guys that it’s not easy. You’ve got to be mentally strong to combine practices, go to school, wake up early… It’s not that that’s really difficult for me, but if you’re not a good student here in Belgium, it’s going to be even harder over there. You’re away from family, it’s not easy.”
And while he feels he ultimately made the right decision to turn pro and sign with Antwerp, there are times he regrets not going to college and playing for Calipari at Kentucky.
“I made the decision to go pro, and I think it was a good decision because I can focus on basketball where I can get better, get stronger,” Bleijenbergh added. “I think I made the right choice, but sometimes I have a little regret that I didn’t do it because maybe it would’ve been an easier way for the draft and stuff, could’ve worked with good coaches, good players, but it is what it is.”
In 2020-21, Bleijenbergh became a regular starter for Antwerp and was ultimately named the Pro Basketball League Rising Star at the end of the season after averaging 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.3 steals per contest in 41 total games played. Now, he’s considered a fringe first-rounder in next month’s NBA Draft.
Would you have liked to see the Belgian star suit up in blue and white?
For more of Schumaker’s interviews with top high school, college and pro basketball players, head over to his YouTube channel here.