Happy new year to all you out there in Orangeland. The fruits of the Syracuse basketball program are spread far and wide across the globe, and from time to time we extend our cybertendrils and draw them in from the far corners all to one place. In other words: the whole world is Cuse Country.
Boeheim likes to complain about
reporters Greensboro the RPI the NCAA’s rating system that doles out program penalties based on athletes’ student-athletes’ academic progress, or lack thereof. His contention is that if a basketball player gives up school to pursue a professional playing career, then his program has prepared that person for a career and a life just as well, if not better, than a college degree would, and isn’t that the whole point? And he should know, because there are currently TWENTY-ONE former Orangemen getting paid to play someplace. (It would be twenty-two, except that Jonny Flynn’s bad hip acted up again so he got cut from his Chinese team before the season even started. Once again: screw you Kurt Rambis!) And we’ve got info on all of them, including photographs, interviews, a surprising number of highlight videos, and all-around general amazement.
The four guys in the NBA should be well-known to you: Dion Waiters, Wes Johnson, Michael Carter-Williams, and of course Saint Carmelo. Syracuse.com has been providing daily updates on these four guys, along with local legend Andray Blatche, and their notable news stories have been thoroughly (and punctually) covered on TNIAAM, so I’m not going to get into their seasons in this space. Chances are you already have a good idea of how things are going with each of them. That’s good, because that gives us more time to delve into the rest of the guys.
I almost never start these things out by looking at the ABA. The league is kind of a joke. It barely meets the minimum standards for “organized basketball league”, and there are tons of new teams each year replacing the tons of old teams that lost money and folded, often mid-season. However, I couldn’t bury this news at the bottom. Check out who is on the roster of the South Florida Gold:
Now, I can’t tell you anything about his stats, or even whether he gets any playing time, because there are no stats published for ABA games. Presumably the teams keep track internally, but can’t be bothered to post the information for their tens of fans. But damn if the kid isn’t drawing a paycheck of some sort on a professional basketball team. Good on ya, Brandon.
Okay. From there, let’s jump back up, much closer to the top levels. There are two leagues these days that tend to house the NBA-possible talent. If you’re young and ambitious, you play in the D-League. If you’re older and want to get paid, you play in China.
The D-League is currently home to three Orange alums. Arinze Onuaku is back with the Canton Charge after his brief early-season stint with the Pelicans. He quickly got back to crushing the opposition, with a string of four double-doubles in five games in December (and 9 boards in the fifth game), showing the skills that got him on the Pelicans’ roster in the first place. He was 11-11 from the floor in one of the games. Presumably he took no shots from more than 3 feet, but who knows? Maybe he’s got a little jumper now too. Unfortunately he bruised a knee and has missed the last two weekends of games, one of which was the big D-League showcase in Reno. Another setback — you feel for him — but hopefully he comes back strong. James Southerland, cut from the Charlotte Bobcats after a few weeks and only one appearance, is launching threes off the bench of the Los Angeles D-Fenders. He’s only hitting 21% of his 3-point attempts, though, which does not speak well for his chances to get back into the Association. In his most recent game he did score 21 points: he was 1-6 from deep but 8-9 inside the arc. Maybe he’s trying to round out his game. Not a bad idea. Finally, Scoop Jardine is D-leaguing with the Tulsa 66ers. But he hasn’t played yet due to a knee injury. He tweeted on Wednesday that his rehab schedule has him about 3 weeks from playing. Here’s hoping.
In China, we’ve got two lanky guys who were in the NBA last year but couldn’t stick with a team this fall. Both Hakim Warrick and Donte Greene are presumably hoping to get back to the pros next season, if not later this year. Warrick is playing for Liaoning, whose team name is the Panthers, or the Hunters, or perhaps the Flying Leopards, depending on what source you believe. He’s played in only seven games but he’s averaging 21 points and 9 boards per game. His stats are here, and here is your photographic evidence:
If you squint, it looks like he’s on the Lakers.
As for Donte Greene, he’s playing for the DongGuan Leopards (not to be confused with Warrick’s Flying Leopards, or maybe this is why they have so many aliases). His numbers are just below Hak-level, at 19 points and 7 boards a game. Unlike Warrick, he has been on the team all year and has played in 23 games. True to his nature, about 1/3 of his shot attempts have been three-pointers, though he’s made only 30% of them so far. Here he is taking it to the hole, while being distracted by the camera flash:
In case you are wondering, these two teams did in fact face each other recently. On New Years’ Day, Warrick and Greene faced off, after undoubtedly chatting pre-game about SU’s win over Eastern Michigan earlier that morning. Warrick’s team won by two. Hak had 28 points and 12 rebounds; Donte had 14 & 10.
While we’re in those far eastern time zones, a quick look at the season of Josh Pace in Australia. He plays for the Townsville Crocodiles. That’s right, there is a real place called Townsville. It’s a suburb of Cityburg, I think. Josh played in New Zealand during the spring and summer (as he has done for several years now) although it’s fall and winter there, of course. But Australian basketball schedules follow those of the rest of the world, so their season runs from October through March. Josh has played in 11 games for the Crocs, averaging 16 points and 5 boards per game. He shows up on this highlight reel dishing a couple nice assists. Make sure to watch after the highlights to the “kid vs kid” promotion they have. “Dress Like An Orange” has nothing on this:
And here’s an interview from the preseason in which he gives some props to SU’s 2003 title:
Though: “36 or 72 teams”? Sounds like he has been living in Oceania for too long.
OK, back to the Western world. There are six guys currently playing in Europe. Two are in France. Kris Joseph joined Elan Chalon after getting cut at the end of Orlando Magic training camp and immediately turned their fortunes around. They are 6-2 since he joined the squad, and though he is only averaging 12.4 ppg, that number is depressed by a game in which he hurt his knee early and was therefore scoreless. It looks as if he’s playing through the pain, because his stats are down across the board since that injury. They haven’t had a game since December 27, though, so hopefully the rest has helped him. Chalon also plays in the Eurocup, and went 3-2 in their five games with Joseph on the roster. Unfortunately for them, they had been 1-4 without him, and so were unable to advance beyond the first round of group play. He shows up in this game recap video (#32 in red) hitting a three at the 1:20 mark.
Know who else is in that video? Paul Harris. #13 in white, playing for Nancy. You can see him run into a hard screen, and later get schooled on a step-back jumper, trying to defend Chalon’s point guard. But if you’d rather see him dunk, here you go — first highlight on the reel:
Overall Paul is averaging 12 points and 5 rebounds for Nancy. He’s had a very inconsistent season. For instance, he was in the starting lineup for his first game, and was scoreless. Next game, therefore, he didn’t start, and promptly scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. His whole season is kind of like that; he’s scored in double figures in just 8 of 14 games, but he did hit 30 points once.
Next door to France, Andy Rautins (and his oddly red beardlet) is playing in Germany for Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt. He’s one of the league’s top outside shooters, hitting 42% from deep, and has been selected to participate in the BBL All-Star Game. He’s averaging over 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. He has missed the last two games, though, due to some injury, the details of which I have been unable to track down. Hope he is healthy in time for the All-Star game on the 18th. I did find this article from October which has one of the better headlines I’ve seen: The Explosive Andy Rautins Show Eclipses The Fraport Skyliners Past The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven 88-72. When his playing career is over, I hope he moves back to Syracuse and hosts “The Explosive Andy Rautins Show” on Time Warner Cable Sports. Sponsored by Burdick Kia.
About 400 miles south of Frankfurt, Brandon Triche is the starting shooting guard for Aquila Basket Trento, currently 12-4 and in first place in Italy’s “DNA-Gold” league (their second division league). He’s averaging around 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. His team bio page is a little “getting to know you” interview, in which he declares that his “Libro Preferito” is “la biografia di Michael Jordan” and among his hobbies are “al cinema, al ristorante, al bowling”. And they got him to smile — at least, as much as he is probably able:
Better than that, though, are the highlight videos. You saw, at the top of this post, the clip of Brandon making a bid for his own Italian league poster. Somewhat worse, and therefore better, is this promotional video from the team’s website titled “Super Brandon Triche!” which appears to be little more than a selection of generic plays in which he was involved, spliced together, with a beat underneath. The highlights include not one but TWO free throws. Super!
You also have got to like the mini-fro.
Darryl Watkins is playing in Belgium for Belgacom Spirou Charleroi. The former Sacramento King (remember that?!) is only averaging 8.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in league play. He’s the first of the former Orange on this list that is not averaging double figure scoring (well, except maybe Brandon Reese). He’s had some decent games but nothing exceptional. His best was 16 points and 7 boards in the first game of the year. Spirou was also in the Eurocup, and Mookie did a little better there, posting averages of 11.2 ppg and 6.4 rpg. Coincidentally, Spirou was in the same 6-team group as Kris Joseph’s Chalon squad. They played twice in the round-robin, though Joseph was only on Chalon’s roster the second time around. And just like Chalon, Spirou failed to advance out of group play. Oh well. Here’s Watkins taking it right at some Belgian dude.
Watkins’ classmate Demetris Nichols is playing in Russia, for a team in Samara which is included in the part of Russia that counts as Europe. So he’s on our Europe list. He plays for Krasnie Krilya, who have perhaps the most communist-looking basketball logo I’ve ever seen (so far). They play in Russia’s top league, which includes a number of fringe NBA guys. (For instance, one of Demetris’ teammates is point guard Aaron Miles, last seen getting lit up by Gerry McNamara in the first half of the 2003 title game.) Nichols is averaging 14.6 points and 3 rebounds per game. He’s come on strong lately, with four of his top five scoring outputs occurring in his last four games, with a high of 28. He’s shooting 40% from deep, which seems about right. Here is the highlight reel from his last game. He hits a three early, and has a sweet baseline drive and dunk around the 2:20 mark; most of the rest of his appearances involve him getting scored on, which is why he isn’t in the NBA anymore. He also commits a charge. Good times. Ah, but the Russian cheerleaders make up for it, more than a little.
Demetris’ team is also playing in this year’s EuroChallenge, which is like the EuroCup but for cruddier teams. (And EuroCup itself is for second-tier teams; the top squads on the continent are in the Euroleague.) He averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds per game over six games. Unlike Watkins or Joseph, Nichols’ team has advanced out of the first round; the next stage begins in a few days. Finally, before we leave Russia, here’s his name in Cyrillc:
A quick note: missing from the list of European ballers are some familiar names. Preston “Mert” Shumpert has finally called it quits after a long and highly successful career in Turkey, where he was an all-star several times and won the MVP award one year, and eventually became a dual citizen. Prior to Turkey, he also played in Italy and France. Also, the great Elvir Ovcina seems to have taken his last ill-advised three-pointer. He had played in Germany for the past few years, and several other European nations before that. Last year he averaged 12 and 7; you’d think he’d be able to get a job if he wanted one (and if he’s healthy). If he is indeed done, he leaves behind a legacy unmatched in Cuse Country Pro Update history. Namely, this promo photo from Belgium, 2007:
Man, that never gets old. Elvir’s departure from the scene leaves Warrick and Pace as the elder statesmen of the group, each from the Syracuse class of 2005. Shumpert was 2002 but Elvir was 1999! That’s a 14-year career, bitches.
Back to the land of the living. There are two former Orangemen kicking it in Israel. Rick Jackson is doing work for Altshuler Shaham Gilboa Galil. He averages 14.4 ppg (leads the team, 13th in the league) and 7.6 rpg (leads the team, 9th in the league). He’s also 11th in the league in dunks, at 0.7 per game, which is an official statistic. (Or, as our illustrious founder Tim would say, “two point dunk shot”.) Here he is, about to put up one of those patented reverse lefty layups:
And this is… something else… that was at the game… and now haunts my nightmares…
Also playing in Israel is Eric Devendorf… well, sort of. He’s got a herniated disk in his back and returned to Central New York for treatment after just six games. He was averaging over 20 points per game for Hapoel Afula, who are in the second-tier league in Israel (so he would never face Jackson’s first-division team). Hopefully he gets right and then gets back to ballin’.
Finally, we come back to the good old USA. You may have seen the recent item that Lawrence Moten was named coach of the Rochester RazorSharks of the Premiere Basketball League (a step up from the ABA, consisting of teams that used to be in the ABA but were too well-run to maintain their affiliation there and formed their own, reasonably managed league a few years ago). And, as TNIAAM first reported, he has two former Orangemen on his team: Mookie Jones and Louie McCroskey. (Yes, I know McCroskey transferred to Marist and Jones left early. They’re still sons of the program.) Rochester does me the magnificent favor of posting game stats on their website (only for their team though; let the opposition keep their own damn stats). They have played three games so far. I’ll do the full breakdown. In the first, Mookie had 7 points, one rebound, and two steals, while Louie had 5 points, 7 boards, and one assist. In the second, Mookie had 7 points, 2 rebounds, and one assist; McCroskey was scoreless but managed one board, one assist, and three turnovers. In the third game, Mookie had 3 points and 4 boards, while Louie had 4 points, 4 boards, 1 assist and 1 steal.
That’s it. That’s the list. Twenty-one guys, from Carmelo Anthony to Brandon Reese, playing professional basketball. Hope you enjoyed this whirlwind run through the world of international major- and minor-league hoops. Now that you know where everyone is playing, we’ll update you from time to time as the season progresses, picking out the interesting bits. In particular, I’m now aware of the proliferation of overseas highlight videos and will continue to comb the tubes in search of the most Syracuse-centric content I can find. (Super Brandon Triche indeed.) So stay tuned - and thanks for reading!