As the COVID 19 pandemic spreads across the globe, the U.S. State Department announced Thursday it was issuing a Level 4 travel advisory – its most severe warning – for all international travelers.
It a nutshell, it told all Americans abroad to return to the United States immediately or shelter in place.
For Matt and Samantha Vest – former Wright State athletes living in Jens, Germany where Matt plays professional basketball – there was no need to choose.
“We can’t get on a plane now, my wife’s about to go into labor any day now,” Vest said by phone. “Her due date is March 27.
“And besides, we want to keep everything just as we had it planned here. We’ve got our doctors here in Germany and we know the hospital. We’re all prepared.”
Vest, in his sixth season of pro basketball in Germany, is a 6-foot-5 guard for Science City Jena, part of the 16 team ProA (Tier 2) league. On Monday – following the cancellation of a game over the weekend in Ehingen in southern Germany – it was announced the league was cancelling the remainder of the season.
When we spoke by phone, he and Samantha – who played soccer at WSU – had just returned from an hour’s walk around their neighborhood in the university city of 130,000 in eastern Germany.
“Only grocery stores and pharmacies were open,” he said. “Everything else – the shops and bars and restaurants – have all been closed. And most companies here are trying to pull off the work from home thing.
“But the city isn’t dead. We saw people outside, though they mostly were just going for essentials. And when you go in the stores, you see some things out of stock. But I didn’t get the feeling people were panicked. And we feel safe. We have a pretty good bunch of friends we can count on here.”
That said, he does understand the severity of the situation.
COVID-19 has affected Germany more than any other European nation, except for Spain, and the heartbreakingly-devastated Italy.
But while there were 10,999 coronavirus cases in Germany as of Thursday, the death rate from it was one of the lowest in Europe – with 26 fatalities.
Experts pointed to the precautions the country has taken and its health care system as two likely reasons.
One of the biggest impacts on the Vests has been that Matt’s parents and Samantha’s mother won’t be able to get to Germany for the birth and the immediate help – and doting – afterward.
“We had expected them to be here, so that’s a little disappointing, but it’s also a blessing that my season was cancelled,” Vest said. “I know I won’t be on the road traveling for a game when the baby comes. I can be here and help and have some real quality time with my wife and our new baby.”
WSU hoops family
The Vest name is synonymous with Wright State basketball.
Matt’s dad, Mark, transferred to WSU after a season at Virginia Military (VMI), where he scored 425 points as a freshman. In three seasons with the Raiders, he scored 1,559 points and is in the Wright State Athletic Hall of Fame.
Matt’s younger brother Alan played 90 games for the Raiders from 2015-19 and his sister Sara – who had a hoops career at Western Michigan – served two years as the director of basketball operations for the WSU women’s program under then-coach Mike Bradbury.
As for Matt, after a solid prep career at Chaminade Julienne, he was a two-year starter for WSU and won Horizon League All Defensive Team honors as a senior.
He met Samantha Wilson, a defender on the WSU soccer team from Toronto, at the end of his sophomore year and they soon started dating.
After graduation in 2014, he went to play pro basketball with a team in Gotha, Germany and she returned home to Canada to work.
“We got engaged two years after college and did the long distance relationship for a while,” he said. “The last three years she’s been here in Germany full time and has a job here.”
In his six years as a German pro, the 27-year-old Vest has played for five teams: Gotha, Paderborn two seasons, Cologne, Chemnitz and now Jena.
When he was with Paderborn, he averaged 10 points per game his first season and 13.3 his next. This season he was tallying 9.8 points and 5.4 rebounds a game.
“I enjoy it here and think I have a few years of basketball left,” he said. “Every year we’ve been able to build some relationships here.
“This is our home now. We live here nine to 10 months out of the year and the rest of the time we’re either in Dayton or in Toronto, where we’ve got an apartment.”
Back to Dayton
Depending on how the travel restrictions go and their ability to get a passport for their new child, the Vests plan to come back to the States sometime in the spring.
Matt definitely plans to be in Dayton in late June.
He’s putting on what he calls his Base Basketball Camp, June 22-25, at Ascension grade school, his alma mater. It’s open to boys ages 10 to 14 and will include instructors who are pro basketball players and yoga instruction.
For more information go to the website: basebasketball.com or contact Vest at email@example.com.
As of now he said he’s not sure whether he and Samantha will be bringing a baby girl or boy along home with them.
“We decided to wait and not find out beforehand,” he said with a laugh. “We want to be surprised.”
At a time when so many surprises in life suddenly are all about sickness and death, it was nice to hear about one that was all about life.
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