Zags in the NBA is my favorite feature, but Ben is getting the weekend off for good behavior. This leaves me to again go off on a tangent and concentrate on those former Zags who are playing professionally but not in the NBA. That’ll teach Peter to leave the keys to the website just lying around.
250 miles north of Rio, in a state called Minas Gerais, you’ll find 39-year-old Joao Paulo Batista balling for the Minas team. Playing in Brazil’s top league against opponents nearly half his age, J. P. is averaging just over 12 p.p.g. and leads his team in rebounding grabbing just over 6 boards per game.
In the ancient port city of Osaka, Japan, 37-year-old Ira Brown has played 46 games this season averaging 14 points per contest and leading his team in both blocks and steals. Ira caught COVID in May of last year and thankfully suffered only mild symptoms before making a full recovery. (Go to the 2:00 on the Video)
Smack in the middle of England in a city known for its football (soccer) team (Leicester City) and its cathedral housing the remains of Richard III, is Geno Crandall starring for the Leicester Riders. Leicester is Britain’s oldest professional basketball team and Geno leads them with 16.2 points per game, 7.64 assists and 1.86 steals. Currently Leicester sits atop the British Basketball League with a 22-6 record.
Austin Daye is spending his fourth season with Reyer Venezia the Italian A-League Basketball club headquartered in Venice, Italy but playing across the Ponte della Libertà road bridge in Mestre. Austin has played in 35 games, averaging 10.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Austin stated he considers Venice his second home and will be playing there at least two more seasons.
Basketball gypsy Micah Downs whose post-Gonzaga journey has taken him to Venezuela, Ukraine, Maine and Spain among others seems to have found a home in Portugal. He started the season in Wurzburg, Germany on a two-month contract as injury replacement then inked a deal with Sporting Portugal. He’d played in Portugal the two previous years for SL Benfica. In 19 games with his new club, Micah is averaging 9.7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists per game.
Speaking of basketball gypsies, Steven Gray has played in Latvia, France, Lebanon, Greece, and Croatia. He’s continuing his tour of the former Yugoslavia by now playing in Bosnia for BC Igokea. In 31 games this season, Steven is averaging nearly 12 points and 2 assists per game.
Elias Harris spent 7 seasons with Brose Bamberg eventually becoming team captain for the Baskets. This season he’s moved to the top Spanish league to play for Casademont Zaragoza. Zaragoza is a beautiful city in Northern Spain (and former home of a NATO air base) who play their basketball games in the 11,000 seat Pabellón Príncipe Felipe arena. Elias can still fill it up at 31-years-old and is averaging 14.2 points and 4.5 rebounds over 34 games.
The Romantic Road is a highlight for tourists in Germany with its fairy tale towns and medieval forests. The town of Crailsheim sits in its heart and its basketball team, the Merlins play in Germany’s top Bundesliga. That’s where you’ll find former Rice University quarterback Jeremy Jones. Jeremy is averaging about 25 minutes per game, with 8 points and 3 rebounds over 32 contests and is becoming a bona fide star in the highest levels of European basketball.
Mathis Keita only played two seasons at Gonzaga but has been playing professionally in France for seven. This season, he’s playing in Poitiers in French B-League averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds and nearly 4 assists over 16 games.
Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, Russia sounds like the home of a Gulag. It’s much closer to Kazakhstan and Mongolia than it is Moscow but on the bright side it has been named the most beautiful city in Siberia. It is also where you will find Jordan Mathews playing for Enisey Krasnoyarsk in Russia’s top VTB league. Jordan has only played in 7 games this season but did drop 20 on Zenit last month.
In northeast Belgium, the city of Haslett is near the border of Germany and the Netherlands. It is also home of the Limburg United Basketball team and their leading scorer Silas Melson. Belgium fans aren’t familiar with the term “blackjack” when Silas hits a three, but he’s dropped 33 of them thus far this season as United’s leading scorer at almost 18 ppg.
St Petersburg is often called Russia’s most beautiful city and native son Vladimir Putin encourages tourism. If you visit, you might be able to catch the Zenit Basketball club and their star point guard Kevin Pangos. Kevin has been killing it in Europe making reported 7-figure salaries the last 3 seasons, the previous two in Barcelona. Kevin has been a star for two of the biggest European clubs and this year is averaging 12.5 points and almost 7 assists in 53 games this season.
After spending last season in the G-League and 10 days with the Golden State Warriors, Jeremy Pargo has returned to Israel with Maccabi Rishon LeZion. He’d previously stared for their rivals Maccabi Tel Aviv. In 10 games, Jeremy is averaging nearly 16 points and 7 assists per game. In non-basketball news, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports Jeremy recently closed on a $1.16 Million dollar house in the Vegas suburbs. Watch all the video below, it will be the best 3 ½ minutes you spend this off-season.
Belgrade, Serbia is one of the oldest cities in Europe and they are very serious about their basketball. Their basketball team, KK Partizan, where Nigel Williams-Goss starred post-Gonzaga is now the home of his teammate Josh Perkins. Perk is starting about half the games while getting about 24 minutes per contest. He’s averaging almost 11 points per game and a little less than 5 assists.
Speaking of NWG, he’s also in Russia with Pangos and Jordan Mathews (those Aeroflot frequent flyer miles are gold) excelling for Lokomotiv Kuban. Waived by the Utah Jazz on December 14, 2020, Williams-Goss was off to a slow start with Kuban but soon caught fire and has been averaging almost 18 points and 6 assists per game. For those keeping score on geography, Lokomotiv Kuban plays in Krasnodar, Russia near Crimea and the Caucasus Mountains.
Playing against Josh Perkins in Serbia is Filip Petrusev for a team now known as Mega Soccerbet (really) also based in Belgrade. Filip leads the team in scoring with an impressive 23.6 ppg and an equally impressive PER of 27.24. Filip is taking almost 3 three-point shots per contest and hitting 44% from deep.
I love David Stockton. I remember when knocked as “allowed to walk-on because of his last name” to becoming a solid and often spectacular four-year contributor for the Zags. He also seeming gets better every year. David is still plugging away in the G-League for Memphis Hustle and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him join Brandon Clarke and Killian Tillie with the big club at some point. David is averaging 14.2 points, 3.7 rebounds!!!, and 5.6 assists per game.
Also in the G-League is Ryan Woolridge playing for the Oklahoma City Blue. Woolridge started the season in the German Bundesliga with Medi Bayreuth, but he and the club parted ways after only seven games. Ryan is playing about 20 minutes per contest with the Blue averaging 6.6 point, 4.1 rebounds and 4 assists.
Byron Wesley in playing in the French B-league. Not impressed, try this. Byron Wesley is playing in the French B-league in Antibes, a town on the French Riviera between Cannes and Nice. That’s right, that place you’ve always dreamed about visiting, the one in the James Bond movies. Yeah, he’s getting paid to live there and to play basketball. Impressed now? Bryon is averaging almost 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists for the Sharks.
Chemnitz is in the former East Germany and used to be named Karl Marz Stadt for the founder of Socialism. Near Dresden and not too far from Prague, it is the home of the Chemnitz 99’s basketball club and their power forward Johnathan Lee Williams III. JWIII signed with the niners in February after starting the season in Turkey. He’s only averaging 15 minutes a game thus far with 4 point and 5 rebounds per contest.
Ankara, Turkey sits in the middle of the country and has a population of 4.5 million. Its basketball team, Turk Telekom currently sits at fifth in the standings of the Turkish Basketball First League. Their leading scorer at almost 19 points per game is Kyle Wiltjer. Since parting ways with the Houston Rockets, Kyle has made baskets in Greece, Spain and now Turkey.