When Donta Hall was growing up in the small town of Luverne, Alabama he wasn’t thinking of pursuing a career in basketball. It wasn’t even his favorite sport, since baseball dominated his preferences.
He was still a fine high school player with his junior varsity team of the local Tigers and his father Donald was always in the gym to watch him play.
Until tragedy struck.
“He had a heart attack as soon as the buzzer went off in my last JV game” Hall told Eurohoops in a video interview. “He was sitting at the top, in the bleachers. I went to the back and was going to change and get back out. I see a lot of commotion going on upstairs. Somebody – I don’t know who – came in the locker room and told me that I better go check at my pops upstairs. I walk upstairs and I just see a lot of people surrounded. I was wondering, I was trying to get upstairs and they didn’t let me go upstairs, they didn’t let me see him. Nothing. After that, I knew something bad had happened for sure.”
The teenager Donta turned the grief of losing his father at 13 years of age into fuel. He began practicing more and viewed hoops from a completely different lens. This personal tragedy became a defining moment in Hall’s life, the catalyst that pushed him towards taking basketball much more seriously and working hard to become a pro one day.
“To be honest… before that happened, basketball wasn’t even a thing to even look forward to in life,” Hall said to Eurohoops. “After that happened in 2010, my whole perspective for basketball changed. Before it was baseball for me. Baseball, baseball, baseball. That situation happened and after that, the love for the game just changed for me. I was in the gym probably at least six-seven hours every day. Just because this situation happened. The love for the game. The love for sports, period. Having that happen during that moment, during basketball, was something that stood with me.”
After two years spent between the G League and the NBA and stints with the Detroit Pistons, Brooklyn Nets and the Orlando Magic, Hall’s journey led him to mainland Europe (he had just been to England before) for the first time in his life and with EuroLeague newcomer AS Monaco. He, a complete stranger to an overseas environment and alien type basketball at 24. His club at an unprecedented, peak moment after finally making the the top-tier European competition.
Both novices in front of challenges unlike anything they have experienced before.
You could compile quite the list with names of NBAers who have been unable to translate their game to EuroLeague. Top-level European basketball can be full of adversities for rookies who may struggle regardless of their talent, pedigree and overall capabilities.
The case of Donta Hall has been completely the opposite. He’s currently leading Monaco in PIR with 14.8, putting up 10.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks almost effortlessly during 18:04 minutes while his squad is off to a solid 4-4 start. He has assimilated into Monaco’s system, quickly building a productive rapport with his teammates on the floor.
His aerial attacks have made him a bona fide EuroLeague sensation and one of the most spectacular players to watch in the continent since he sometimes turns games into his own personal dunkathons.
“Me coming from … absolutely nothing growing up,” Hall answered when asked how he managed to adjust so quickly to the game in EuroLeague. “It’s my mentality and my mindset. Even in 2010 and having that situation with my pops. I don’t do anything different. I just work my butt off. I got that chip on both shoulders. Most people say on one, but I got it on both. And I’m gone. With that situation, my mind, my attitude coming into any basketball game, or anything like that, I’m going to give it my all for sure.”
Hall’s top performance so far was combined with one of the most stunning wins of the season in general: A Monaco comeback from 22 points down and a 17-point victory over mega-contender CSKA Moscow . The former Alabama big man delivered 17 points and 11 rebounds while playing with a broken nose to emphatically sign this triumph for Monaco.
After the game he gave a shoutout to his mother with whom he had a long and – as it turned out – pretty inspiring conversation before tipoff.
Donta Hall brought that energy…
— Turkish Airlines EuroLeague (@EuroLeague) October 29, 2021
“I talked to momma for at least 45 minutes before that game,” Hall said. “She’s always been there since what happened in 2010. She’s been there and supporting me in every way. Just somebody to talk to every day. She’s putting a smile on my face even by talking to her over the phone. Small things like that mean a lot to me. That feeling before the game, just having that love, that connection… it was good.”