Hungry Jack's NBL
Net Gains Through Big Losses: Robert Franks Lets the Work Show
Written for nbl.com.au by Tom Hersz
Change is hard.
Especially making a life-altering change, but often that’s exactly what is needed to get the most out of yourself. That was certainly the case for Robert Franks.
A talented three star recruit coming out of high school in the state of Washington, Franks found it tough to find success early on in his college career. Playing just eight minutes a game as a freshman at Washington State, Franks needed to find a way to unlock his potential.
“I would say I was a versatile, skilled big man, that was just out of shape at that moment, but had the characteristics of being a really good player,” Franks told NBL Media on Saturday of his game coming out of Evergreen High School.
It turns out he was absolutely right. Franks was not only out of shape, he was overweight and after his freshman year, he decided that needed to change.
“I stepped on campus at 270 pounds,” he admitted.
“And then from my freshman to sophomore year, I lost around 15 to 20 pounds. So, as a sophomore I was around 245 to 250 pounds.”
Franks played a little more as a sophomore and found some success, averaging 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 16 minutes a game, but he was still playing exclusively as a reserve. He wasn’t done transforming himself.
He continued to drop weight and at media day ahead of his junior season, he publicly set himself the goal of winning the Most Improved Player award in the Pac-12 Conference.
“My sophomore to my junior year is when I really made the leap [down] to 225 pounds,” Franks continued.
“That’s when I got most improved of the conference and really started to see the work show and reap the benefits.”
Franks entered the starting line-up that season and erupted to become one of the best players in the conference. He averaged 17.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 block, while shooting over 40 per cent from long range. He won most-improved and was also named an honourable mention All-Pac-12.
Franks set a school record with 10 made threes in one game on his way to a season-high 34 points. But he wasn’t done there.
As a senior, he led the conference in scoring with 21.6 points per game, ranking top 10 in boards (7.2 rpg) and was named to the All-Conference first team. Transformation complete.
If you’re counting at home, Franks went from averaging 2.2 points a game as a freshman to leading the conference in scoring, whilst dropping nearly 50 pounds in weight.
Since then, Franks’ weight has barely fluctuated. He’s exceptionally disciplined about what he eats and works extremely hard in the gym to keep that weight off and continue to get the most out of his body.
“It’s really been maintained at around 220, 225 pounds,” Franks explained of his weight.
“I just changed my whole diet. I don’t eat red meat or pork. I’m pretty much vegetarian and pescatarian. So, really just trying to maintain it and be a pro’s pro.”
Franks went undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft, but signed a two-way deal with the Charlotte Hornets, playing for their G League affiliate the Greensboro Swarm.
The following season he signed with the Orlando Magic, but did not make their final roster. He spent the season with their affiliate, the Lakeland Magic, where he teamed with new Cairns Taipans import Tahjere McCall. The pair helped Lakeland to the G League championship; Franks averaging 12.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.5 made threes per game.
At the conclusion of the G League season this past April, he signed a couple of 10-day contracts with Orlando and played in seven games, averaging a very respectable 6.1 points in 14 minutes. His best game coming against Indiana with 11 points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
Franks then played at Summer League with the Dallas Mavericks before signing with the Brisbane Bullets for #NBL22. After being on the cusp of making it in the NBA, it was an interesting decision to come to Australia, but like many others, he now knows that the NBL is a legitimate pathway to get to (or back to) the NBA, and Franks felt it was an opportunity to have a different experience and expand his game.
“I just felt like for my career and where I’m trying to go, and where I’m trying to build to, I just thought it was time,” he explained.
“I had two years – and last year winning the G-League championship – I felt it was time to explore different options. And Brisbane and the NBL came across my table and I felt like it was a great opportunity to go showcase my talent and see where this can take me.”
Since arriving in Australia, Franks has already made an impact. Filling the role left vacant by Vic Law on the Bullets roster, Franks has begun to showcase that versatility.
In the Bullets’ first three pre-season games he averaged 14 points, six rebounds, two assists, one block and three triples per game, while shooting 57.7 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from long range. The Bullets did not lose any of those games yet either.
Along the way, Franks started to get a sense of how the NBL is played, how the game is called and how it differs from what he’s used to in the G League.
“The biggest surprise is just the physicality; how the refs let you play more physical here than in the States,” he admitted.
“And it’s a bit more of an up and down league. Everybody talks about overseas them valuing every possession, but I feel like here it’s a bit more of an up and down, more run and gun play style, so that was more of a surprise.”
Franks has been enjoying it so far and doesn’t think he’ll need to adjust his game much to fit into how the NBL is played.
“I honestly don’t think I have to do much of changing my game,” said Franks.
“Me just being a versatile big who can shoot, play-make, rebound, play inside and outside, I think it fits my game perfectly. Especially with what JD [James Duncan] is trying to accomplish here in Brisbane, I really think it just complements the both of us.”
While his teammates, coaches, the referees and his opponents are new to him, there is one familiar face that Franks connected with while being in Tasmania for the Blitz. And that’s McCall.
Just eight months removed from winning the G League title together, the two were able to catch up and chat a little.
Both are new to the league and both will be based in Queensland, so it was a chance to check in and see how they’re both settling in, adjusting and discuss what they hope to achieve during NBL22.
“Yeah. We have run into each other on a couple of occasions and played against each other last game,” Franks said.
“We were just talking about life in Australia, how our teams are faring, how we’re liking it and just really trying – both of us – to get the best out of this year. And just really talking about our goals and what we want to get accomplished.”
Of course the Bullets fared a little better than the Taipans and Franks’ new team got the better of McCall and Cairns on Wednesday, but Franks is aware that Brisbane have slightly under-achieved the last few seasons.
Now they have a new coach, some new imports, an in-shape Lamar Patterson and a point guard who is coming off a near-MVP season. They certainly have a lot to be positive about and Franks agrees.
“I think it stacks up really well, especially on paper,” Franks explained.
“We’re really talented. As our GM Sam [Mackinnon] would say, ‘it’s the big three of Brisbane’. I think the deciding factor for us is to all get on the same page. We’ve only played three preseason games and it’s going to be a long season. There are going to be a lot of adjustments that teams are going to throw at us, so the quicker we get on the same page with top notch chemistry, I think that makes it better for us.
“Like you said, all three of us are really talented and on paper we’re going to be more talented than a lot of teams. I think we’ve fared really well, especially with the teams that we’ve faced, but just getting the chemistry at the ultimate heights is going to be the goal as quickly as possible.”
Joining a new team is never easy, but when two of that big three have played together before, it makes it easier. Nathan Sobey is a fairly quiet guy and mostly leads by example, while Patterson can be a bit more vocal.
For Franks, having two guys who can help him learn about the league and help to figure out how they can all succeed together is a big plus, and they’ve already begun that process of building chemistry.
“It’s going well, it’s going well,” he admitted.
“We’ve had a lot of chats, a lot of film sessions, just explaining each other’s strengths, what’s going to work and what’s not going to work, so I just think to keep maintaining that communication within the three of us is going to be huge.
“But, to start it off, it’s been awesome and I think we’re all accepting of each other and that’s the biggest thing.”
Franks has a track record of setting lofty goals and then achieving them, as he did with the Pac-12 Most Improved Player award. While his ultimate personal goal is obviously to maximise his talents and hopefully get another chance to stick in the NBA, for now, he’s focused solely on how he can help his new team.
He’s not chasing any awards. He’s not going to declare that he’ll do this or average that. He just wants to find team success.
“I honestly don’t have just an NBL goal in mind, besides winning the championship,” Franks confessed.
“But individually, I just want to go and have a great year like I know I can. I worked my tail off this summer to prepare. I don’t really want to chase accolades, especially being my first year here; I really just want to win. But I’ll let the accolades fall wherever they will.
“I just want to go out there and be consistent and play at a very high level every game, and then just let the work show. The last couple of years, I’ve put in the work and the results have come, so I’m just really ready to do the same thing.”
When you have to overcome personal obstacles to achieve your goals, you tend to appreciate things more. When you’ve had to work that hard for what you have and nothing is given, you learn to enjoy your surroundings and your teammates more. It becomes about the journey or the experience more than the individual accolades.
Franks had to transform himself just to have a chance at finding success within basketball and he’s had to continue to work to build a successful pro career.
Having had a taste of a championship last season with the Lakeland Magic, he is hungry for more team success and he believes his natural personality and playing style lends itself to that.
In fact, he believes Brisbane Bullets fans will quickly learn that about him.
“I’m very selfless,” he explained.
“A lot of people they tend to see that he’s a shooter, he’s versatile and what-not, but the biggest thing for me that I think a lot of people don’t really give me credit for is my selflessness on the basketball court.”
Franks might not be playing basketball today if he hadn’t made a change in his life. He put in the work to drop all that weight and that big loss was a huge net gain for his career, helping him make it all the way to the NBA.
Now the Bullets are the ones that will gain from that this season as Franks continues to put in work. From what we’ve seen so far, that work already shows.