With the exception of University of Pennsylvania senior Ugonna Onyekwe, this year’s graduating class of Ivy League basketball players has little hope of playing in the NBA. However, several Yale basketball players are considering playing overseas to prolong their basketball careers after college.
Ime Archibong ’03 said he is hoping to play in one of the upper-level European leagues, possibly Italy, Spain or Greece. The 6-foot-3-inch, 225-pound guard/forward is currently preparing a videotape of personal highlights to send to some European teams. He also said that he is talking with a couple of agents overseas who have been recommended to him by friends.
“If you have it on the plate in front of you, it’s an opportunity you can’t pass up,” Archibong said. “Experiencing a new culture and lifestyle, doing something you love — I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to do that.”
Other major draws of signing with a team overseas include the pay, as well as a place to stay and a car both payed for by the team.
The 2001-2002 team captain, Archibong said that he does not plan on playing much longer than two or three years.
“I’d like to be back before I was thirty and eventually go to business school, start a career, settle down,” he said.
Archibong’s teammate, guard/forward Matt Minoff ’04 said he is also thinking about playing overseas after he graduates next year.
“It’s a thought for me,” Minoff said. “I’ve still got another year.”
Like Archibong, Minoff said he sees it as a great opportunity to extend his basketball career “for as long as possible.”
“I’ll have the rest of my life to get a job or go to law school,” said Minoff, who plans to take the LSAT’s this year.
Archibong and Minoff said they had heard of salaries between $20,000 for rookies and a couple million dollars for superstars. On the team’s Italy tour last summer, Archibong said he spoke to some rookies on Italian teams who were making between $50,000 and $300,000.
In their four games against four different Italian league teams, Archibong, Minoff, and several of their teammates showed that they could compete with their professional opponents. In their first game, the Bulldogs handily defeated a third division team 91-73, with Minoff scoring 18 points. Although the squad lost its next three games against higher level teams, Archibong scored 20 points and Minoff scored 13 points against a second-division team in an 85-80 loss, and Archibong scored 22 points in a 109-79 loss to a first division team.
Still, both players are working hard to improve their skills for the next level. Archibong said he expects to play a small guard position, which will require him to improve his ball handling skills.
However, he has already shown his quickness on defense against opposing guards such as Brown’s Earl Hunt, the Ivy League scoring leader.
At 6-foot-6-inches and 225 pounds, Minoff offers good size for a player with guard skills. After playing in the NCAA-sanctioned Nike Pro City league in New York last summer, Minoff realized that several aspects of his game need work if he is to succeed at the professional level.
“Something I need to work on is my one-on-one skills — taking guys off the dribble, pull-up [jump shots], and taking it to the rim,” said Minoff, who will be competing in the Nike league again this summer along with center Justin Simon ’04.
One of the players Minoff trained with in New York was former Yale hoopster Ted Smith ’00. Smith, a 6-foot-6-inch, 200-pound guard/forward, is now captain of the Reading Rockets, one of the top teams in England’s highest league. The Rockets will play for their Conference’s Playoff Title Sunday, May 4. Smith played the guard/forward position at Yale and ended his senior year with 1999-2000 season averages of 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds coming of the bench.
Although Smith made it onto a roster after a modest career in the Ivies, most international teams are looking for American players with flash and athleticism to complement the typically fundamental style of international players.
“The premiere leagues — like Italy’s top league — want mostly [former] NBA players or players from big-time schools,” Archibong said. “We’re definitely at a disadvantage Ivy League-wise — All the guys over there, the Europeans, are very skilled, [so] when they get Americans, they’re normally looking for tall, athletic players.”
Archibong and Minoff were two of the more athletic players in the Ivy League this season, sparking the Bulldogs with breakaway dunks and solid defense. Despite the scarcity of professional players from the Ivy League, their performances in Italy show they have the ability to compete at some level of international play.
Besides Archibong and Minoff, teammates have said that starting point guard Chris Leanza ’03 and starting center T.J. McHugh ’03 are also considering playing overseas.