Many Spartans represent Michigan State University in the NBA and they do it very well. Yet many others have to decide for lower levels of competition. What might come as an early disappointment for quite a few of them can become one incredible ride down the road. The opportunity to travel different countries, experience foreign cultures, meet countless interesting people all while playing the game they loved since being little kids is something many in the Spartan family have come to like and cherish with time. Of course every experience is distinct and not every overseas endeavor ends up a fairytale, far from it. Nonetheless it is interesting to check on some of Tom Izzo’s boys and how they are doing internationally.
Let’s take a look:
Morgan was a “tweener” in the latter part of his Michigan State career yet has decided on becoming a full-time frontcourt player in the pros. It has served him tremendously well as he has become a true star in Europe over the years, even if he hasn’t played for the absolute upper echelon powerhouses. His list of clubs still includes top addresses like Tofas Bursa (Turkey), UNICS Kazan (Russia) and even a very short stint at historic Panathinaikos (Greece). He played for a few years in Germany and became the league MVP in 2017 playing for ratiopharm Ulm. Now he has settled at Turkish top club Pinar Karsiyaka where he is averaging 15.9 points (on 57.5 percent shooting), 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. In an interview a few years ago, Morgan talked about how much he enjoys the European experience and especially the opportunity of traveling yet he is always happy to be back in East Lansing for the summer as well.
Schilling got a few offers from the German BBL after he finished his MSU career, not entirely surprising since his father is from Germany (where he was a pro level handball player) and with Gavin having played a year of junior ball here. Schilling decided to start his pro career out in Ulm, a picturesque village in Southern Germany with a rich basketball tradition. After an adjustment period (about which he talked in a recent interview with The Only Colors), and almost two years as a valued reserve Schilling really came on during the playoff tournament last year. He started six of eight games and averaged 8.0 points (on 64.3 percent shooting) and 4.4 rebounds, upping his averages in all major categories. He signed with the Löwen Braunschweig for this season, following his former coach Peter Strobl. Under Strobl’s guidance, he has truly emerged as a premier player in the league, averaging 11.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Matt Costello initially found some success with the San Antonio Spurs, even participating in four regular season games during the 2017-2018 NBA season for Gregg Popovich’s squad. He then moved to Italy and signed on with Sidigas Avellino in the beautiful mountains of Campania. His LBA season was cut short, though, because of an ankle injury that required surgery and limited him to 10 games. After some time in America, where he, among other things, helped out at MSU during the Final Four run in 2019, he signed with Herbalife Gran Canaria in Spain. His time there has been a great success and he has become a steady performer for the Liga ACB club. After averaging 10.8 points (on 52.2 percent shooting) and 7.6 rebounds per game his first season, he signed a two-year extension in June 2020. He now has become a serious outside threat for Gran Canaria, shooting four threes per game at 39.3 percent during league play.
After spending time with the Atlanta Hawks during the 2019 NBA Summer League, where he played well, Ward signed his first professional contract in Israel with Hapoel Gilboa Galil. He only played there in one preseason game and left after three weeks for Fethiye Belediyespor of Turkey’s TBL, the country’s second level league. In four games he averaged 22 points and 6.2 rebounds per game before going back to America again. After a solid season with the College Park Skyhawks in the G League, Ward went back to Turkey. He participated in four games for Istanbul Basket (also in the TBL where they currently sit in last place with only one win on the season) averaging 21.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He has even made three out of 11 three pointers on the season. Lately, though, he has not been active for Istanbul and it looks like he has come back to the United States, but that is pure speculation. From his social media channels it looks like he’s still in close contact with the Hawks and has started a cleaning business on the side recently.
After going undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft and some game action with the Denver Nuggets during that year’s NBA Summer League, Kenny Goins’ pro career has taken on a similar trajectory like his playing career in East Lansing. He started out far away from the limelight in Italy’s second division Serie A2 Basket, but he seized the opportunity and quickly made a name for himself. In 24.6 minutes per game he averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds for Pallacanesto Trapani and that performance earned him a promotion in competition. He signed with Kolossos Rodou in the well-regarded Greek Basketball League, one of the better leagues in all of Europe. Here he has secured a starting role for a middling team (five wins, seven losses) and continues to perform solidly. He currently averages 10.6 points (on 54.8 percent shooting) and 5.6 rebounds per contest while also shooting over 40 percent from three point range (on over four attempts per game).
Another well-travelled Spartan guard is former Big Ten Player Of The Year Kalin Lucas. He has played for seven different teams internationally and also spent plenty of time in the lower levels of American basketball. He also managed to participate in two NBA games (one for the Memphis Grizzlies and one for Detroit Pistons), scoring a lone basket for the Pistons in 2019. With Olympiacos Piraeus (2011-2012) from Greece and Crvena Zvezda (2020) from Serbia he has participated on the highest level of European basketball in the Euroleague. His other stops include Banvit Bandirma (Turkey), for which he played very well for two years between 2011 and 2013, TED Ankara Kolejiler (Turkey), Hapoel Jerusalem and Ironi Narahiya (both Israel). Lucas played brilliantly for Narahiya, averaging 21.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists, before he changed teams within the Ligat haAl and is now a member of Maccabi Haifa.
After some time in the G League, Tom Izzo talked Travis Trice into trying the international circuit at a wedding and it turns out it was solid advice from his former coach. Trice started out in Australia, where he averaged 14.6 points per game for the Cairns Taipans and also became team MVP in his first season. The next year he moved to the Brisbane Bullets and upped his scoring average to 15.5 points per contest while also dishing out 5.1 assists. After that he went on quite an odyssey, playing in Dik El Mehdi (Lebanon), Oshkosh (Wisconsin), Austin (Texas), Bursa (Turkey), Strasbourg (France) and Brescia (Italy) over the next few years. Recently he signed on with Galatasary Istanbul in Turkey’s premier BSL, one of the best and most fiercely competitive leagues in Europe. In four games he has averaged 12.5 points (on 40.9 percent shooting), 2.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
After spending two years in East Lansing as a grad transfer Ben Carter has found a new home in his old home: Israel. Carter was born in Tel Aviv, where his father Mike played 13 seasons of professional basketball before going back to the United States and settling in Las Vegas. Now his son is following in his footsteps. First, he played for Hapoel Jerusalem and is currently active for Hapoel Eilat in the Ligat haAl. In 22.8 minutes Carter, who possesses dual citizenship and is Jewish, is very proud of his Israeli heritage, is averaging 7.7 points (on 44.2 percent shooting), 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
And a few more
Marvin Clark has become a star in Belgium, playing in his second season for the Kangaeroes (based in Mechelen) while averaging 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Matt McQuaid spent last year playing in Germany for the Fraport Skyliners in Frankfurt. Drew Naymick most recently played in the second division in Japan after bouncing around and playing for a total number of 15 different professional clubs around the world. Eron Harris had some success in Scandinavia, playing in Finland and Norway, before spending a year in Macedonia for MZT Skopje.
Good luck to all of the former Spartans playing professional basketball!