Hume City Broncos sharpshooter Lee Jeka has announced his retirement from basketball.
Jeka, who was part of the Broncos’ Big V men’s state championship grand final team, told his teammates of his decision at their end of season awards night.
The 36-year-old said it was the right time to hang up the sneakers.
“I’ve been playing for far too long,” he said.
“For me it feels a good time to have retired. It’s a weight off my shoulders, I’ve been playing professional for nearly 19 years.
“In Europe you train twice a day and sometimes three times a day.
“Big V is only two times a week … mentally I’m ready to retire.”
Long before Jeka came to the Broncos in 2015, he started his basketball career with the Werribee Devils.
It was there he came to the attention of others.
It led to an opportunity with two NBL clubs.
“I was with the Melbourne Tigers as a squad member, but I wasn’t listed.
“It was the golden era with [Mark] Bradtke, [Lanard] Copeland and [Andrew] Gaze. As a 17-year-old coming from Hoppers Crossing, rubbing shoulders with my idols was pretty awesome.
“I had a contract with the Brisbane Bullets [and that] was a good experience.”
With a British passport, Jeka made the decision to travel to Europe to ply his trade.
He would play there for 10 years in three different countries and six clubs.
Jeka captained two teams into first division, while he claimed the 2011 German Pro League’s A most valuable player award while playing for s.Oliver Wurzburg.
He is just the second person from that team to win the award. The other was NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki.
“Our careers have been nowhere near comparable,” Jeka said.
“I find it a funny situation and I joke about it.
“It feels good, but not something I tell everybody about.”
When Jeka decided to return from Europe has wasn’t going to continue playing basketball.
Then came a phone call from Copeland, who was then the Hume City Broncos’ coach.
“I got back from Europe and I decided I didn’t want to play again,” Jeka said.
“Five months later Lanard called me and got me down to train.
“I signed up and played for another five years.
“I’ve had some good times and it was good to finish on the same team for a number of years.”
Jeka has been a mainstay of the Broncos program since and he led the league scoring in 2016, earning him All-Star 5 selection.
He said this year would probably be his highlight.
He said being so close to where he grew up, it meant that his family could watch him play basketball again regularly.
“We made playoffs in my first season and in my last season. There were a lot of highs and lows.
“This season was a highlight getting into the finals series. Having the support from the club and the support from the supporters watching us at those games was amazing.”
Jeka said he was unlikely to continue to play basketball at even a domestic level, but was interested in coaching.
“Coaching is something I will look at and there’s a few options out there.
“I’ll have a couple of months to think about everything and make a decision.”