MOVING halfway around the world to a US college is meant to be a difficult task.
Adjusting to life as both a student and an athlete is also a hard ask, but right now Venky Jois is excelling at both with his new school Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington.
The 19 year old from Boronia is in his freshman or first year with the Eagles and has quickly adjusted to the expectations of his classes and his basketball team where the former Dandenong Rangers forward has quickly moved from the bottom of the roster to a starting position.
After enduring the opening six months of his four-year degree and withstanding his first white Christmas, Jois spoke with the Weekly last week.
He said he was loving life in Cheney, especially after getting his first taste of snow.
"It was very cold, I'd never seen snow like that before and I got to make my first snowman," he said. "It has been an adjustment [coming to the US] — definitely being away from your family hits you at Christmas time and during public holidays, you realise you are missing things but living here has its perks as well so everything evens out."
Jois's on-court performance has impressed his coaches and those outside the program, with the athletic forward moving into the Eagles' starting line-up after taking full advantage of the opportunity to take the minutes left by players who graduated after the end of last season.
Jois said he got a chance to prove himself during the Eagles' preseason tour of Canada in which they played leading Canadian college teams. "We played seven games in 10 or 11 days, I got some minutes there and became one of the main players," he said.
"I wouldn't say the standard here is too tough for me. Playing in the South East Australian Basketball League was good in that way, itprepared me to play against players who were much stronger than me.
"But the style of game here is very different defensively and it's not as team orientated offensively.
"On defence the players are so skilled you can't leave anyone alone, they are all marksmen."
Jois has gone on to start all 16 of the Eagles games so far and is second on the team in scoring with 13.1 points per game and leader in rebounds with nine per game.
After adjusting to the need to assert himself more offensively and keep with his man defensively, Jois has found US basketball to his liking, as he has used his athleticism to make the most of the room to drive to the basket. "The type of basketball suits me," he said.
"I've always been able to get to the basket but I'd have to kick the ball out because defenders would come and help. The defense is more individually orientated here so once you are past the first guy you don't have to worry as much about the second guy coming across."
The Eagles didn't have the best start to their season, losing several tight matches, and the group struggled to gel after adding several new players during the off-season.
In US college basketball the first part of the teams' seasons involve games against teams outside of their conferences and the second half involve inter-conference matches.
The Eagles have had a tough start to conference play with a 2-4 record but Jois is confident his team can finish the season well.
"We are starting to realise our strengths as a team so we are taking better shots and performing better as a result," he said.
Off court Jois was put in an accelerated academic program which he says has been no more difficult than his accelerated year 12 classes in Australia.
"The classes here are supposed to be harder but I haven't found that," he said.