The dream for so many College Athletes is to step onto the courts of the NBA.. but it is well known that only the best of the best can get there. There are currently 13 Tar Heels playing in the NBA, but they’re not the only professional athletes making a living from playing ball.
The Tar Heel Times announced that we have 25 Tar Heels who are playing professional basketball internationally. There is University of North Carolina Alumni hooping on the four corners of the earth and here is an update on the players who have taken their talents to Europe;
Brice Johnson – Budivelnyk (Ukraine)
We were lucky enough to have Brice at Chapel Hill for his whole college career and he was a monster on the boards (tying Psycho-T’s rebounds in a season) and had such a connection with Paige throughout his time at UNC. Brice got drafted to the NBA with the LA Clippers, but since 2018 he has had 9 different teams on his resumé from the G League to across Europe, now finding himself in Kiev the capital of Ukraine.
Budivelnyk have the most championships in the Ukrainian Super League, but had to withdraw from the league due to debt issues. But this season after two years out they’re back and finding themselves 7th out of 11. Brice is still getting boards and had a season high of 19 points in October. There is still 5 games left of the season, I wonder if Brice and Budivelnyk could push higher up the table by the end of the year.
|CHORALE ROANNE |
Marcus Paige – Partizan Belgrade (Serbia)
Marcus Paige is one of the most loved Tar Heels in recent years (he’s in my top 5 players, that’s a conversation for another time). I don’t want to talk about it, but…. he nearly had the greatest shot of all time, could have been bigger than ‘82, but then.. Jenkins.. still not over it. Since then Paige has spent some time in the G League, he had a two-way NBA contract before heading over to Serbia in 2018.
Marcus Paige for THRREEEEE.. who can remember that? Nothing has changed. Paige broke the team’s record for most three pointer’s in a game this season and Paritzan Belgrade have made it into the Euro Cup (second biggest tournament in European Basketball). He’s still got ice in his veins!
Joel Berry II – Besiktas (Turkey)
Joel had an ‘Outstanding’ Tar Heel career including a National Championship and MOP at Final Four. I still wonder if he stayed in the draft in 2017 would his draft stock have been higher after the championship.. either way, thank you Joel you brought us memories that will last a life-time.
Since leaving Chapel Hill, Berry spent time in the G League at South Bay Lakers and Greensboro Swarm before flying to Europe to play for Besiktas in Turkey (yes that team Deron Williams played for during the lock-out). Joel is the new starting PG since joining November 2020 and about to head into the FIBA Europe Cup. Joel Berry II is a champion and let’s see if he can win some more silverware in Europe.
Luke Maye – Trento (Italy)
“MAYE FOR THE WIN… NORTH CAROLINA… INCREDIBLE SHOT!!”, yes that shot over Kentucky is a long-lasting memory and what a career Luke had at UNC including a National Championship. Remember the videos of him in class the next day too, what a player. Luke was picked up by Wisconsin Herd in the G League after graduating and then last year heading over to Europe to get some Italian sun.
Luke Maye was just announced the Euro Cup MVP of the Week, so it’s fair to say his first season abroad is going quite well. He just had a 25 point and 15 rebound game. I know we have Drake Maye stepping onto campus next year, but Luke is still making noise.
Deon Thompson – Baloncesto Malaga (Spain)
A NCAA Champion, a Slovenian Champion, a German Champion, an Israeli Champion, a Serbian Champion, an ABA Champion, a Lithuanian Champion.. Deon Thompson is a CHAMPION!!
For the past 10 years Deon has played across Europe including in the EuroLeague (the top league in Europe and my opinion seconds best professional league after NBA). With the amount of championships Thompson has won, at 32 years old I do not see him slowing down.
Baden Jaxen – Odessa (Ukraine)
Baden Jaxen, or likely known to Tar Heel fans as Dexter Strickland, has had quite the career. He played on a stacked team with Barnes, Marshall, Henson, Zeller (got on a SLAM Magazine cover) and then went through heartbreak with his torn ACL in his Junior Year.
Baden went undrafted in 2013 and then took his talents abroad, he went back to the US for some time in the G League (D-League back then), but has been playing internationally ever since. After wanting to change his life after witnessing a bunch of events (reason behind the name change) and feeling more inspired, Baden now finds himself in the Ukrainian League and will go up against Brice Johnson soon.
Christian Keeling – Glasgow Rocks (United Kingdom)
Christian spent most of his college days at Charleston Southern, but became a Tar Heel when he transferred in his Senior SZN.
Now you can find Keeling in Scotland, playing in the British Basketball League for the Glasgow Rocks (same team Nate Britt played for). On his debut he had 26 points and is now averaging over 16 points a game in his first 5 games, CK has really taken to the U.K. and I personally hope to see him play this year if we can get to any games due to the pandemic.
Jean-Pierre Tokoto – Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel)
AIR-PIERRE!!!! THE HUMAN HIGHLIGHT. JP Tokoto had some great years for the Tar Heels. Since leaving UNC early to go into the NBA Draft, JP has played professional basketball all over the world with most of that time in Israel.
JP now finds himself with Hapoel Tel Aviv (the same team Nate Robinson played for a few years ago). You can still see him leading in the stat columns with a 20-10 game at the end of year. The team is currently 2-5 but Tokoto is still performing as a professional basketball player and still ending up on the highlights.
|IRONI NES ZIONA|
|HAPOEL TEL AVIV|
Nate Britt – Panthers Schwennigen (Germany)
Nate Britt (NATIONAL CHAMPION) has enjoyed quite the career so far in professional basketball, playing in the United Kingdom, Argentina, Cyprus and now in Germany.
Britt is playing in the second tier of German basketball for the Wiha Panthers Schwennigen and has started the 2020-21 season strong. Nate is averaging over 15 points and over 5 assists a game, there’s no doubt that Nate has a long career ahead in professional basketball.
Justin Pierce – Kobrat (Finland)
Justin Pierce was another Senior transfer with Christian Keeling after spending most of his college days at William & Mary. Pierce averaged 5 points a game in the Carolina Blue, but my oh my has he taken to professional basketball.
Justin signed for Kobrat in the top Finnish league and was fourth on the leading scorers charts with a season high of 31 points. Sadly, the scoring has been put on hold due to the amount of games that have been postponed in Finland, lets hope Pierce can get back to shooting form when the games are back.
Justin Watts – Donar Groningen (Netherlands)
Justin Watts (NATIONAL CHAMPION), Justin was a freshman when we won the 2009 championship and then played his full four years at Chapel Hill. Since graduating Justin has travelled A LOT and enjoyed playing professional basketball all over the world.
He was an All Star in Japan, a champion in Australia and now recently in 2021 has signed to play for Donar in the Dutch Basketball League. At 30 years old Watts is not slowing down and expecting to get more championships under his name.
|WILKI MORSKIE SZCZECIN|
Marcus Ginyard – Limoges CSP (France)
Marcus Ginyard (NATIONAL CHAMPION) a lockdown defender for the Tar Heels during his time with us, defensive players of the year… twice! Since graduating Ginyard has had a successful professional basketball career playing in countries like; Germany, Israel, Poland, Ukraine, Greece, Macedonia, Romania and now finding himself in France.
Marcus is currently playing in the top division in France and coming off the bench averaging 18 minutes a game with Limoges with a 4-4 record.
Ty Lawson – Kolossos Rodou (Greece)
NCAA Champion, Bob Cousy Award Winner and ACC Player of the Year, there’s no denying Ty’s time at UNC was legendary (I don’t use that term often), then he enjoyed a solid career in the NBA. Now coming to the end of this time on the court, but not wanting to slow down, he’s still balling but now internationally finding himself in the Greek Basket League.
Ty was dropped by his Chinese Basketball Associaition team due to social media posts, but now finds his next adventure in Greece (with Enes Kanter’s brother on his team) and said in a recent interview hoping his team will make the playoffs.
Honourable Mention: there was rumours Raymond Felton signed for a team in Czech Republic, but Felton listened to an offer but never officially signed and then due to the COVID-19 pandemic he stayed at home in Houston.
Honourable Mention: North Carolina Mr Basketball 2016, Will Graves, has been playing professionally in Europe and was last playing in Cypriot League, but currently does not have a team.
Hey Tar Heels, are any of your favourite players now overseas? Tweet me.