Former Latrobe stars have a map to follow for overseas professional basketball leagues


Pro basketball outside the country could be waiting for former Latrobe teammates Austin Butler and Jake Biss, but what comes with it remains a mystery for the backcourt stalwarts.

Shouldn’t they be playing in the United States…

There is the living part with suitcases. The strange towns part. The question of the language barrier.

But several other former local stars know what to expect after their overseas tours and are proof that the other half can live the good life. The hoop dreams life.

From Ben McCauley to Nick Novak, Chris Fite and Kason Harrell, the region has been well represented in the global leagues. They have answers for aspiring pros.

Killer B

Butler and Biss finished a five-year college career and began exploring opportunities at the next level.

Butler played a year at Charlotte after four years at Holy Cross, while Biss spent his entire college career at Shippensburg.

A 1,713-point scorer during his college career, Butler recently won $5,000 playing in the National Championship three-on-three Final Four weekend.

He hopes to earn a lot more playing professionally. He recently hired an agent, Shawn Gates from Entersport, and has been busy “training and staying ready”.

“I will have practices throughout the summer with teams,” Butler said. “It’s early days and a lot of things abroad aren’t resolved until the draft is over and it’s getting closer to summer, so I’ll know more in the coming weeks.

Butler also has irons in the fire for a three-on-three game.

“At this time I remain ready and let my agent work for me and when the time comes for anything I will be ready,” he said.

Confidence has never been an issue for any of the players mentioned here. It’s not for Butler either.

“I think just being consistent and proving that I can play on the same court with some of the best in the game over the last five years has really shown me that I can continue to play this game in a way professional,” Butler said. “I’ve continued to improve every year, and the best part is that I’m not even close to my ceiling. Playing professionally has always been a dream, so when I get the chance to sign that first contract, it will hit me for sure.

Butler averaged 12.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in his final college season. He started all 31 games for the 49ers.

It’s possible Butler and Biss could train with NBA or G-League teams, a possible precursor to getting their names on the proverbial draft board and attracting interest from teams on the other side. from the pond.

“It’s probably been a dream ever since I got back into the sport in my second or third year,” Biss said of playing pro. “I didn’t really get it until after my first year at Shippensburg, when I saw Dustin Sleva make the transition to the pro level. Seeing him do it professionally gave me a boost of confidence and the realization that I can do it too, if I do the job that I saw him do in his senior year.

Sleva, who played at Montour, plays for a team in Paris.

Biss has also signed with an agency, Jan Lugtenberg and his partner, Misch Engel, who are with Court Side based in Europe.

This season, Biss has led Shippensburg in points (16.9), assists (3.7), 3-point percentage (38.7), steals (1.4) and minutes per game (35, 6).

His coach, Chris Fite, also a former Latrobe player, played 11 years in Europe before becoming a coach. He played for teams in England and Germany.

Rumor has it that players don’t sign with professional teams until the end of the summer, Biss said.

“I was told there was some interest from a BNXT league team in Holland,” Biss said.

Big Ben still rings

McCauley, who was one of the WPIAL’s top scorers when playing at Yough (2,283 points), took his game to North Carolina State before making his way to the pros.

Now 35, he still plays for the Brujos de Guayama team of Puerto Rico’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional. This is his 13th season on the professional circuit.

“It’s actually hard to believe,” McCauley said of his longevity.

McCauley’s list of stops includes France (Strasboug, Chorale Roanne), Belgium (Belfius Mons-Hainaut), Spain (Zaragoza), Ukraine (BC Donetsk), Turkey (Istanbul BB and Turk Telekom), Poland (SKS Starogard Gdanski, King Szczecin and WKS Wrocław), Israel (Maccabi Ashdod), Puerto Rico (Brujos de Guayama) and the NBA G-League (Fort Wayne Mad Ants).

“The longer I’ve played, the more I realize how important the offseason is,” McCauley said. “You have to take care of your body and keep training. About halfway through my career, I moved back to Raleigh, NC so I could train at NC State during the offseason.

While some players have to turn to side jobs to make ends meet, McCauley has managed to make a living from basketball alone.

“Basketball has been my only job since I graduated in 2009,” he said.

McCauley said incoming pros need to slow down and enjoy the time they get to the next level. There are a ton of leagues, from the obscure to the big ones, but the opportunities come and go as thousands of players compete to make basketball their livelihood.

“Take it all,” McCauley said. “Don’t worry about what you miss at home. Go out and discover new places. Immerse yourself in the culture of where you play. Appreciate every moment. You only have a limited amount of time to practice a sport as a job, and how likely are you to visit Turkey, France, Spain, etc. ?

“You will always have your home and the people there. Go explore. I come from a small town in western Pennsylvania. I never thought I could visit the places I’ve been and see the things I’ve seen.

just in time

Former Franklin Regional and Pitt-Johnstown star Novak played seven seasons in Europe for five teams: SSV Lol Bernau (Germany), AD Ovarense (Portugal), SCU Craiova (Romania), Oviedo (Spain) and Vitoria SC Guimaraes (Portugal).

While he could talk for hours about his exploits, Novak remembers the glow of turning pro and how it happened in the blink of an eye.

He doesn’t want budding pros to take their opportunities for granted.

“People often get carried away by ‘You get paid to play basketball,'” Novak said. “It’s fantastic, absolutely. What you don’t realize is everything that’s going on while you’re doing this. Making friends with teammates, guys that you keep in touch with – like I could go see some guys in Europe tomorrow if I wanted to.

“You travel, meet different people and cultures. You find yourself in situations that perhaps make you uncomfortable, but you look back and learn a lot.

Novak said European fans are unique and quickly accept players, American or otherwise.

“It may seem foreign to you, but at the end of the day, it’s like you’re part of the Steelers for them,” Novak said, referring to the stardom that comes with playing on another continent. “The passion and taking what you’ve loved your whole life and being that star for a fanbase there is just unmatched.”

Novak said Butler and Biss should be prepared for anything and “just roll with the punches.”

“You’re going to be in so many situations that will have you scratching your head,” he said. “Different customs, foods or crazy apartment situations, in the moment you might be frustrated, but it’s funny now. I think back to some places I thought I hated and I’m like, man, that could have been my favorite year. Just dive in and take it for what it’s worth and adapt.

Endurance is a key concept in this equation for Butler and Biss.

“Just because you’re playing college doesn’t mean teams want to sign you,” Novak said. “Do something valuable that teams need to win games and you get your ticket.”

Kason Point

Harrell, a former Hempfield and Fort Wayne star, plays in the Irish Super League for Killestar Basketball Club.

He had a 56-point game earlier in the season and was selected as an all-star.

“The best part, for me, was just being able to travel to new places,” Harrell said. “For example, if you had asked me in high school if I thought I could go to Ireland, I would have said no. But God blessed me to be able to see more of his beautiful creation.

“My advice to newcomers is just to always keep in touch with family as much as possible. It’s hard to be out there and not be with family, especially during the holidays, so it’s important to lean on your faith and your family as much as possible for support and motivation.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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