Yale men’s basketball forward Justin Sears ’16, a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, has signed a contract with the Giessen 46ers, a professional team in the Basketball Bundesliga league in Germany.
Sears bolstered the Elis’ frontcourt for four years and graduated in May with a host of honors, including the 2016 William Neely Mallory Award, awarded to the best male athlete at Yale; three First-Team All-Ivy nods; and an invitation to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division I College All-Star game.
He also left his mark on Yale’s record books, as he ranks third in school history in points scored, second in blocks as well as free throws made and fourth in rebounds.
“I think being at Yale has prepared me tremendously for a professional basketball career,” Sears said in a Yale sports publicity press release. “Playing under Coach [James] Jones and his staff has given me an understanding of the importance of the mental side of the sport as well as the small details that can lead to success on the court.”
Standing at six-foot-eight and boasting a wingspan of over seven feet, Sears started 102 games in his four years in New Haven. During Sears’ career, Yale amassed a 78–48 record and went 41–15 in conference action.
He averaged 15.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in his senior season and was an integral part of the strong frontcourt — fellow starting forward Brandon Sherrod ’16 is also pursuing a professional career overseas — that led Yale to its first NCAA Tournament berth in 54 years.
“Justin is a quirky kid and a different kid. He is not like everyone else,” Jones told the News in February. “Reaching Justin was a little different than reaching some of the other guys on the team, but he has always wanted to be the best that he could be.”
In Yale’s two games on college basketball’s biggest stage, the Plainfield, New Jersey native combined to shoot 12–19 from the field and score 30 points. His March Madness performance, paired with the various invitationals he attended in subsequent weeks, helped draw attention from teams both in the United States and abroad.
Sears worked out for the Boston Celtics in May, according to the press release, and he still hopes to receive an invitation to play in the NBA Summer League, which will take place between July 8 and July 18. Additionally, an opt-out clause in his contract with the 46ers will allow him to attend an NBA team’s training camp.
Barring such an offer from an NBA team, Sears is scheduled to leave for Germany in early August.
“Giessen seemed like a great spot to start my professional career,” Sears said in the release. “As a rookie, I’ll be playing in a high profile league and given the opportunity to further develop as a player. The coach [Denis Wucherer] showed heavy interest in me and can help my game develop. The BBL is considered the second best league in Europe so it will afford me the maximum exposure and the chance to play against the best competition in Europe.”
Sears joins guard Javier Duren ’15 and forward Greg Mangano ’12 in Europe, as Duren just finished his rookie season with Aris Leeuwarden in the Netherlands and Mangano completed a year with the Kangoeroes Willebroek in Belgium.