There are five different former Princeton players currently suiting up professionally overseas. For the second straight year I asked each of them (minus Konrad Wysocki, who I still don't have contact info for) to update how things are going both on and off the court in Europe. Responses have been slowly trickling back since the start of the Tigers' exam break.
Read chronological first person dispatches from Mason Rocca, Judson Wallace, Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox after the jump, plus a brief word from Pawel Buczak.
January 16th, 2013
After four years in Milan, this year I changed teams and am now playing in Bologna with Virtus Bologna. Bologna is a fantastic city and our family has really loved living here. Our team started off well winning our first three games, but then we were hit by a slew of injuries that have really slowed us down. In Italy there are two different personnel structures that teams can have regarding the number of players under contract. Teams can either chose a 5 Italian players + 5 foreigners format, or a 5 Italian players + 3 EU players + 4 foreigners format. Our team is one of the few teams that opted for the 5+5 format. The reason that few teams opted for this structure is because this structure has two less EU players, which means that it is a much leaner roster. The motive for choosing 5+5 structure is that there are large monetary awards given to the teams that play the most Italians and use this structure. This award was created to help increase the Italians that have significant roles in the league. Our team is very proud of the fact that we have lots of young developing Italian players that are being given significant playing time. At one point in our last game our team had an 18-year old, a 17-year old, a 20-year old, a 21-year old, and a 35-year old player on the court. Can you guess which one I was? The downside to this format is that we are young, and we don’t have a deep bench, and we’ve had some injuries. Therefore after our strong start we’ve hit a slide that is now a five game losing streak, which in European basketball leagues means that we haven’t won a game for five weeks, which is a big deal. Normally a team would be getting ready to make personnel changes, but our budget is pretty tight this year (the Italian economy is not exactly thriving right now), and so we’re just trying to get healthy.
Fortunately we are still out of the relegation zone (the last place team drops down to the lower division for the following year), but we are also a game or two out of the playoff picture, which is a team goal. This week all of our injured players should be coming back, and hopefully we can get back on track. Personally, I’m having an okay season. I’m playing more minutes than I was in Milan, but haven’t been quite able to help my team like I would like to. Playing with so many young guys is a challenge at times, but it is also refreshing because they are talented, have lots of energy and want to learn (at least sometimes). I try to convince some of them of the merits of going to college in the U.S., but unfortunately these guys are already getting paid decent money, and college is not a real priority for them. Its amazing the different type of lives they live compared with what I was doing when I was their age.
I want to close up my dispatch by saying way to go Tigers and Coach Henderson by beating Penn in the Ivy League opener. Keep it up and I’m rooting for you from Bologna!
Rocca's team ended what would eventually become a seven game losing streak with an 83-80 victory over Sutor Montegranaro yesterday as Rocca scored six points in 14 minutes off the bench. - JS
January 21st, 2013
Things are going fairly well over here in Barcelona. Our season has been super strange in that we are 12-2 overall in the Euroleague and currently 3-1 in the Top 16 where our competition is supposed to be the best teams in Europe. However in the Spanish league, we are a very average 10-8 and in 6th place where we should theoretically be dominating.
To put it into perspective, we were 29-5 last year for the whole season. Regardless, strides have been made in the right direction as of late and with Copa Del Rey and other important weekends coming up, we will see how prepared we are going forward.
Personally, my production is up from last year and hopefully I will continue to improve with every game and every day. I have been closely monitoring the tweets of Coach Earl and have been wearing my Princeton Basketball shirts proudly around the city, but may need some of the updated gear sent out to me......(hint.)
Hope all is well with everyone in the Princeton basketball community.
Judson Wallace '05
Wallace had five points coming off the bench in FC Barcelona Regal's Euroleague victory over Siena, providing his team a tiebreaker at the top of Group F. You can peruse many of his statistics here. Barca is up to fifth place in the ACB with a 12-8 record and The Copa del Rey de Baloncesto starts Thursday versus Real Madrid. - JS
January 23rd, 2013
I am really enjoying my year in Italy. I started out with Sidigas Avellino on a tryout and ended up securing a full year roster spot on the team after a month or so. In early December, after three months with Avellino I was essentially "traded" to another team in Serie A, JuveCaserta. Avellino brought in some new players and JuveCaserta was in need of a new PG/SG and it all worked out so that I didn't skip a beat and played my first game with JuveCaserta one day after joining the team.
The city of Caserta is great. Not a huge city, but has a great center and some real history. The main attraction is the Caserta Palace which is conveniently a two minute walk from my apartment. Its in a pretty great location too, less than an hour from Naples, around 90 minutes to Rome and some other scenic places like the Amalfi Coast are a short drive away as well.
Our team is doing pretty well. We are in the middle of the league as of now and are definitely in the playoff race fighting for one of the top eight positions. My role when I first got here was to play the Point Guard, or Playmaker as they call it in Europe, because that was what I was playing in Avellino. However, in the past couple games I have been mainly filling the shooting guard role. The fans are awesome and support us on every road game. They have willed us through some really close ones at home!
All in all, things are going very well, I have used the couple breaks we have had during Christmas and the halfway point of the season to go to Paris, Rome and soon London where hopefully I can meet up with Kareem. I have obviously been following the Tigers every game and I am very inspired by the progress of the team and can't wait for the rest of league to play out! Go Tigers!!
Mavraides and JuveCaserta (8-10, 16 points) are in 10th place in Lega A, one spot in front of Rocca's squad (7-11, 14 points). Mavraides is averaging 21.9 minutes and 7.6 points/game off the bench since switching teams. - JS
February 4th, 2013
Our season is going well. We're currently tied at the top of the league and much like the Premier League, the team with the best record at the end of the season wins the "championship," which is the most important trophy we play for. Every game is really important, similar to the Ivy League. We made it to the BBL Cup Final last month, but unfortunately lost. The next trophy is the BBL "Trophy," which we are playing in the quarterfinals of this Friday. Lastly there is the playoff champion, which naturally comes at the end of the season.
Personally, I've moved back to guarding two-guards and leading scorers as of late which is a move I like. It's helped me stay more engaged defensively which carries over to the offensive end a lot of the time.
Of course I've been staying up-to-date with the Princeton squad! Excellent start to league play, definitely excited to see the rest. The fewer nail-biters the better though! Best wishes to the entire Tiger family, and as always, Go Tigers!
You can see game-by-game and full season statistics for Maddox here. - JS
I reached out to Pawel Buczak when I could not determine based on the WKS Slask Wroclaw whether he was still playing in Poland. Here's what he had to say...
The team didn't file the appropriate paperwork in time to remain in the league, so they were demoted to the third league. There had been problems all last year with organization so I hadn't been considering returning there anyway. I did have offers to play for other teams in Poland but I decided I wanted to play somewhere else in Europe in order to experience something different, or not at all. In the end the non-Polish options didn't materialize so I am back in the US.
Wysocki is still playing in Germany, averaging 7.4 points/game for the BBL's Oldenburg. Full stats can be reviewed here.
Finally, after playing five games and then being unexpectedly cut by the BBL's Walter Tigers last year, I have not heard word one from Davis about his professional plans. Emails sent have gone un-responded to. Beyond a second-hand mention that someone saw him at Princeton's bonfire in November (which I could not personally confirm), he's MIA.