The NBA is the planet‘s gold standard for professional basketball and almost every good basketball player alive dreams of making it to the big show once in their lifetime. Yet many players will have to settle for a different road and pursue an international basketball career once their college days are done. Let‘s take a look at some former Michigan State Spartans, where they are scoring their points these days and how they have fared travelling around the globe:
After being selected by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2nd round of the 2015 NBA Draft, Branden Dawson left a good impression during the Summer League and in the G League. He even made it onto the Clippers roster at times and competed in six games, scoring a total of five points and grabbing four rebounds. After a domestic violence arrest in 2016 where no charges were filed afterwards Dawson settled for an international career. He signed a contract in Israel with Hapoel Tel Aviv and then moved on to the Sun Rockers Shibuya from the Japanese B.League.
He only spent one year at Michigan State (averaging 6.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game) but the Slovenian center probably carved out the most impressive international career of all former MSU hoop stars. After starting out in Italy with Fortitudo Bologna, Lorbek went on to play for some of the best programs Europe has to offer. His list of former teams includes powerhouses such as Unicaja Malaga, CSKA Moscow or FC Barcelona. He starred regularly in the EuroLeague, where he won the title in 2010 with Barcelona. A three time All EuroLeague selection, he also represented his country well in international competition. He was the MVP of the Under-20-European-Championships in 2004 and helped Slovenia win the gold medal, just one year after leaving East Lansing. Today, Lorbek is 35 years old and is finishing his career in his home country playing for Olimpija Ljubljana.
Morgan is now 30 years old and has found a lot of success on the European hardwood. He is currently competing for UNICS Kazan in the VTB United League in Russia and after a second place regular season finish they are about to face Khimki Moscow in the postseason semifinals this week.
After his MSU days Morgan started out his career in Israel and Turkey, mostly with second tier clubs, but more prominent teams quickly took note of his progress. While being a combo forward at MSU, Morgan committed to playing the power forward and even the center position full time overseas. After a knee surgery in 2013 he unfortunately missed an entire season, yet his career really took off in 2014 when he joined BG Göttingen in the German BBL. After a great season of All Star level play in Germany Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos signed Morgan for the last two months of their season. After that Morgan returned to Germany for two years and played for ratiopharm Ulm where he became the League MVP and scoring champion in 2017, averaging 18.2 points per game. In an interview at the time Morgan said: “I really enjoy the international experience. It is a great opportunity to see many different places, different countries and meet a lot of new people. I can basically travel the world for free while playing the game that I love.” After dominating in Germany Morgan also played in Turkey for a year, averaging 16.4 points and 6.1 rebounds for a Tofas Bursa team that reached the league Finals that year. They lost in five games to Fenerbahce Istanbul.
First Travis Trice bounced around the NBA G League for a while but soon started to think about going abroad for a new playing experience and opportunities. When he was at a teammate‘s wedding in 2016 he pondered the idea of playing in Australia to play in the NBL. “Turns out I meet Tom Izzo there,” remembers Trice. “He encouraged me and talked me into going.” Trice didn‘t regret the move to the Cairns Taipans, where he averaged 14.6 points per game and was voted team MVP. He returned to Australia the next season and increased his scoring average to 15.5 points for the Brisbane Bullets. After a short stint in Lebanon Trice signed a deal in April with Tofas Bursa, Raymar Morgan‘s former club in Turkey. In five games for his new team the combo guard is averaging 12.2 points and 6 assists while shooting 39.1% from three point range.
After working his way up in the San Antonio Spurs farm system, Matt Costello played in four NBA games during the 2017-2018 season (four points, nine rebounds). He became a G League champion with the Austin Spurs in 2018 but decided to take his next basketball step in Europe. He signed with Sidigas Avellino of the Italian Serie A in August and made the most of the opportunity early on. In five league games he averaged 10.4 points (on 68.8% shooting) and 6.2 rebounds and he also collected two double doubles for his side in the Champions League. Unfortunately Costello suffered an ankle injury which later forced him to have surgery. He returned to the US, came to East Lansing for his rehab and even became a big man coach for Tom Izzo‘s coaching staff. “I watched film with the guys and tried to help out wherever I could,” says Costello and adds that he might now think about coaching after his playing career is over. He hopes to catch on with another NBA team this summer.
Schilling has returned to his native country of Germany and signed with ratiopharm Ulm last year. The transition hasn‘t always been smooth as Schilling is mostly used in a reserve role (29 games, four starts) and is only playing a little under ten minutes per contest. In those limited minutes Schilling has averaged 2.4 points (on 50% shooting) and 2.8 rebounds though and has added his usual strong position defense. He‘s currently competing in the league playoffs with the “Spatzen” against ALBA Berlin.
The former first round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves never really could get going in the NBA and is now looking to carve out a new career overseas. In 2018 he played for a great Greek team in Panathinaikos, yet among numerous injuries he mostly was reduced to a reserve role (3.5 points, 4 rebounds). He then signed with Nanjing Tongxi Monkey King (yes, that‘s a team name) in China and averaged 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. He returned to Panathinaikos in January 2019 and helped them win the Greek Cup. He still couldn‘t find a regular role though and moved on to ASVEL Basket in France. Here he again won the Cup (it‘s kind of becoming a thing for him) after only being in the city of Lyon for a couple of weeks. Payne has earned a starting role for the league leaders and is teammates with former Buckeye David Lighty. The team is owned by club president and NBA superstar Tony Parker. Nicolas Batum, who also owns a share in the club, is the president of basketball operations.
Many will remember the gruesome injury that Harris suffered during his last year at Michigan State. The injury forced him to go through a long rehab process in which Tom Izzo let Harris use all MSU facilities even after he had already graduated. “It truly was a blessing. I soon realized that I wanted to pursue a professional career and that basketball has always been my true love,” remembers Harris. After a short stint in the G League his agent got him his first “job” in Finland and Harris signed with Tampereen Pyrintö. He considered the team from Finland‘s third largest city Tampere a “great way to start off and get myself prepared for a long professional basketball career”. His first impressions included playing soccer before every game and only having six hours of daylight in he Finnish wintertime. On the court Harris averaged 12.3 points per game (34th in the Korsliiga) and shot 46.5% from three point range. Tampere lost 0-3 in the first round of the playoffs though against Kouvot Kouvola, a squad that featured former Romulus High School and Rhode Island star E.C. Matthews. Harris still remains very upbeat, has embraced the international experience and is looking forward to new adventures in the future.
Summers, who is now 30 years old, started his international career in 2011 and has moved around plenty since then. He has played in Hungary, France, Israel, the G League, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile and Argentina. In 2018 he signed with Kauhajoen Karhu in the Finnish Korsliiga and became the top scorer of that league. In 14 games he averaged 22.9 points per game on 50.9% shooting before being signed by the BBL‘s Eisbären (polar bears) Bremerhaven from Germany. The club was fighting against relegation and hoped Summers could help them stay in the best German league. Summers never really got going though after the midseason move, only averaged 7.9 points per game on bad shooting numbers and couldn‘t keep his team from relegating with the league‘s second worst record.
“When I came out of college I thought about playing maybe four or five years in Europe,” says Drew Naymick about the start of his professional basketball career in 2008. “But I stretched it out and I‘m happy to still keep it rolling.” Today, at the age of 34, the North Muskegon native sports a bushy red beard alongside his trademark ginger hair and it turned out his career would last much longer than he anticipated. He took his talents to Poland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Greece, Germany, Australia and is now playing in Japan for the second time in his career. His career highlights include a training camp invitation from the Los Angeles Lakers (which he calls “the pinnacle of my career”), winning back to back championships and cups with Czech powerhouse CEZ Basketball Nymburk in 2012 and 2013 and leading the highly regarded Greek League in blocks while playing for Aris Thessaloniki in 2015.
Suton was a late bloomer for Michigan State and capped off his career (in which he scored 1081 points) with a great Final Four run in 2009. The Utah Jazz drafted him in the second round of the NBA Draft yet cut him in preseason that same year. In Europe though it wouldn‘t take long for Suton to find a home. He started out in Russia for Spartak St. Petersburg before moving to Italy for a season with Angelico Biella. He then starred for big time Croatian clubs Cibona and Zedevita Zagreb in the next three years and won a championship with each team before moving to the ACB League in Spain. After playing two years for Joventut Badalona Suton suited up for Moviestar Estudiantes in Madrid. Throughout his entire career he has posted solid numbers in league and international play. His best year was probably 2014-2015 with Badalona as he had averages of 10.7 points and 6.3 rebounds. Lasts season the 33 year old averaged 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds while still remaining with Estudiantes.