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Latter-day Saint returned missionary is ready to play pro basketball in Germany, become a father

After a year of playing in NBA Summer and G-Leagues, former USU Aggie Justin Bean has signed with Euroleague’s Alba Berlin

Growing up, Justin Bean always assumed he would learn a foreign language as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It turns out it wasn’t necessary when Bean served in Reno, Nevada, from 2015-2017.

But the former Utah State basketball star now has an opportunity to learn German.

Bean recently signed a three-year contract to play professional basketball for Alba Berlin, a team based in Berlin, Germany, that competes in the highest levels of European basketball.

“I always told myself growing up that I wanted to learn another language and had assumed that it would be my mission that did that for me, not professional basketball,” Bean said. “I’ve already started learning German. I spend about two hours a day practicing. I want to be able to adapt as quickly as I can to life in Berlin. ... We’re excited. It will be an adventure for sure.”

Bean’s top goal is still to play in the NBA, but the move to Germany will help him continue developing as a basketball player and provide some financial stability before his wife gives birth to the couple’s first child in November.

The 6-foot-7 forward talked about his first year in the trenches of developmental professional basketball, his opportunity to play in Germany and his feelings on starting a family on foreign soil in a recent interview with the Church News.

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Where has Justin Bean been playing?

After finishing his senior season at Utah State one year ago, Bean signed to play for the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Summer League, a pre-season tournament where incoming rookies and returning young players showcase their skills and hope to impress coaches and team executives.

Immediately following that, Bean received a training camp/preseason deal with the Memphis Grizzlies and played for their G-League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle, during the regular season.

While playing in Memphis, Bean said he and his wife attended a Latter-day Saint branch with less than 30 active members.

“We came to be close with all of them. I think that’s probably the thing we’ll miss most, those people and the relationships that we formed,” Bean said. “Only spending a year there, it’s not a lot of time to really connect with people. But I think the thing that I was really grateful for was having those relationships and realizing that basketball isn’t the only reason that I’m there.”

At the end of the season, the Boston Celtics called and invited Bean to play on their summer league squad and compete for a main roster spot. He appeared in all five of the Celtics’ games in the Las Vegas Summer League and averaged 7.8 points and 3.8 rebounds.

A year with these developmental teams and leagues, often playing in front of fewer than 100 fans, is not how Bean envisioned his life as a professional basketball player. Sometimes he questioned if it was worth it. But he continued to be assertive and learned to not take any opportunities for granted. More than ever he wants to prove the critics wrong.

“I’m happy with how I’ve been able to overcome adversity since the pre-draft process began [last year],” Bean said. “I’ve learned that in this business nothing is guaranteed and that you have to go out and earn every dollar, every minute and every eye from every scout and executive out there. I’ve just trusted in my work and listened to my family for advice.”

How Justin Bean signed with Alba Berlin

Alba Berlin was already interested in Bean before he played for the Celtics this summer. Negotiations began after two games, and an offer was soon extended.

Bean accepted Alba Berlin’s offer when he realized he would not make Boston’s roster.

“I want to be clear that my goals haven’t changed, I’m still trying to make it to the NBA,” he said. “I believe that playing at the highest level in Europe can really help me do that.”

Ross Aroyo, Bean’s agent, said his client’s work ethic and style of play has been noticed by people in all circles of professional basketball. Aroyo said Bean finished in the top three of the 2022-23 NBA G-League sportsmanship award.

“Justin, on the court, has continued to make vast improvements year over year,” Aroyo said. “His intangibles continued to shine as those not only close to him, but also on the periphery, have gotten to know how hard of a worker he is, how great of a leader, teammate, friend and husband he is and how his tenacity, grit, toughness, IQ and competitiveness all translate to success, not just on the floor, but in all walks of his life.”

Former BYU players and friends Yoeli Childs and Elijah Bryant have advised Bean on everything from phone plans to how to adjust to life in Europe. He has also received some valuable tips from former Aggie great Spencer Nelson, who recruited Bean to Utah State.

Latter-day Saint and former Utah State basketball star Justin Bean and his wife Claire hold images of their baby, which is due in November 2023.
Latter-day Saint and former Utah State basketball star Justin Bean and his wife Claire hold images of their baby, which is due in November 2023. | Provided by Justin Bean

“I think the biggest piece of advice I’ve gotten is to not try and make it America. You’re not going to change Europe,” Bean said. “And make the most of the experience you have. Take everything for what it is and just learn to adapt to new cultures and just enjoy it.”

‘Challenge of parenthood’

The Beans will leave for Germany on Aug. 21. His season with Alba Berlin will begin late September.

Along with adjusting to a new team, new country and new language, Bean and his wife, Claire, who served a mission in Brazil, will soon be parents. She is expecting to deliver a baby boy in Germany in November.

The young couple is excited for the adventure and has faith that everything will work out, even if they don’t know all the specifics yet.

“Moving to a different country and taking on the challenge of parenthood is something we’re looking forward to doing together,” Justin Bean said. “I think the baby will be a bigger blessing to us than we even realize right now.”

‘Rely on the Lord’

Bean has always been inspired by Elder Hugh B. Brown’s talk and story about “The Currant Bush,” which conveys a message about trusting in Heavenly Father’s divine guidance.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told the story at general conference in April 2011.

The message continues to resonate with Bean as a professional basketball player.

“I have learned to just rely on the Lord more than ever,” he said. “Over time, I feel like the Lord has taught me to be patient, not only with myself, but with my situation. ... In this situation, I can’t control what a coach or a general manager thinks of me. So I think just worrying about myself and how I can improve and trusting that God is going to put me in a situation to perform well, and to be able to financially provide for my family. That’s the most important thing.”

Bean continued: “Obviously, making it to the NBA is still a goal I hope to reach one day, but at the end of the day, to be a good husband, and soon a good father, and honor the priesthood, those things are the most important.”

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