Here’s a monthly update on the Tar Heels playing professional basketball in Europe. You can check out what the Tar Heels in Europe were up to previously in January’s update.
I recently spoke to Joel James (UNC 2012-2016) who confirmed with me that he is now playing overseas in Turkey after his time playing professionally in Mexico, so he will be included in this update.
I’ve also talked with Justin Pierce (UNC 2019-2020) who shared footage with me during his time in Finland… keep scrolling to check this out… wow!
Here are the Tar Heels who have taken their talents to Europe.
Luke Maye – Dolomoti Energia Trento (Italy)
Who remembers chanting “MVP! MVP!” to Luke Maye during his time at UNC? Luke, walking into his 8am class the next morning after that shot against Kentucky, great memories. Since the days of the big man on campus, Luke has spent some time in the NBA G-League at the Wisconsin Herd, but has now travelled over the Atlantic and is playing in Italy where he is still receiving those chants of “MVP!”
Maye is now at Trento which is a city in Northern Italy and has been playing in the Italian Lega Basket Serie A as well in the Euro Cup (where he played against a familiar face, you’ll see who further down). Maye received the award of ‘MVP of the week’ in January with a performance of 25 points and 15 rebounds, it was a record for rebounds by a player in the Euro Cup for Trento.
Recently, the Euro Cup tweeted that Luke is the best player in Group F. Luke’s scoring has increased each month since being overseas and I think we are going to see Luke’s game keep improving in his rookie season in Europe.
Brice Johnson – Budivelnyk (Ukraine)
Brice Johnson has experienced quite a lot of professional basketball in his relatively short career, from the NBA to G-League and then to 4 teams overseas… but everywhere Johnson has been, he has performed!
Brice is now in Ukraine after some time in Puerto Rico, Italy and then France. Currently at Budivelynk of the Ukrainian Super League. Brice’s team are currently on a 5 game win streak with a record of 11-12.
Brice is the leader in blocks per game for his team and second in rebounds per game. Johnson is still very dominant on both ends and hope to see his season finish strong.
|CHORALE ROANNE (FRANCE)||2019/20||25.4||13.29||5.43||0.43|
Joel Berry II – Besiktas (Turkey)
Joel Berry II’s career at UNC will live forever in our memories and since graduating from Chapel Hill he has spent some seasons in the G-League before taking himself to Europe this year for his first time playing professionally overseas.
Joel plays for Besiktas in the top division in Turkey as well as playing some games in the Europe Cup this year. Joel is joined by former NC State player Markell Johnson (I wonder if they’re watching the UNC/State games together). Since my first update on Joel’s time overseas, his numbers have all been improving (PPG, APG, SPG) and Besiktas are 6th out of 15 in the T-BSL. The top team in Turkey is Anadolu Efes Istanbul who are 21-0 and led by Shane Larkin (who remembers him from Miami?).
Berry has taken well to his time in European Basketball and he’s just getting better and better.
Finally, congratulations to Joel and his wife Kelsey who announced on 22nd February that they are expecting their first child.
Marcus Paige – Partizan Belgrade (Serbia)
One of the most beloved Tar Heels in recent years is now playing professionally in Serbia. Paige is a major part in the rotation for Partizan Belgrade averaging 25 mpg and now in his third season in Serbia. He is joined in Belgrade with fellow ACC competitor Cody Miller-McIntyre who spent four years at Wake Forest additionally Josh Perkins who played at Gonzaga for four years (I wonder if Marcus ever mentions 2017?)
Marcus already broke the record for three pointers in a game this season for Partizan and has been playing in the Euro Cup where he will be playing against a familiar face in the same group, Luke Maye. Paige’s Partizan beat Maye’s Trento in January 71-43, their next battle is on March 3rd.
Marcus scored his career joint highest three pointers made against UNICS Kazan with 8. He hit 8 three pointers in two G-League games and the most three pointers Marcus made at UNC was 7 (against NC State, loved that game!). We know how good it is to see Marcus catch on fire with his scoring, so hoping to see more of those performances this season.
|PARTIZAN BELGRADE (SERBIA)||2018/19||24.2||10.5||3.72||1.1|
|PARTIZAN BELGRADE (SERBIA)||2019/20||22.3||9.93||1.88||0.79|
|PARTIZAN BELGRADE (SERBIA)||2020/21||26.2||9.68||2.1||0.89|
Joel James – Duzce Belediye (Turkey)
Joel James was one of the most animated players we had at UNC during his time there from 2012-2016. If you remember watching UNC during that time period Joel was always getting behind his team and coming up big when called upon. Joel played 135 games for the Tar Heels over his four years.
Since graduating Joel has spent time playing professional basketball in Mexico for two seasons, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean and landing in Turkey. Joel is a starter for Duzce Belediye and his numbers are the highest of his career since High School Basketball, now averaging a double double (by the way, Joel James didn’t play organised basketball till his Sophomore Year in HS). There are a few more games left in the division and I’m hoping to see Joel finish strong.
I spoke with Joel recently, talking about his best numbers since High School and he said:
“Yeah I’ve gotten better man. Just continued to work hard every time I step on the court in practice and in the off season and it’s starting to pay off for me.”Joel James
|RAYOS DE HERMOSILLO (MEXICO)||2018/19||27.3||12.11||9.57||22|
|CAPITANES CIUDAD DE MEXICO (MEXICO)||2019/20||22.2||10.91||6.14||6|
|DUZCE BELEDIYE (TURKEY)||2020/21||27.6||13.41||11.65||13|
Justin Pierce – Kobrat (Finland)
Justin Pierce was one of our graduate transfers from William & Mary in 2019/20 averaging 5 points per game in Chapel Hill. Although, you would have seen in my last update that Pierce’s numbers have sky rocketed since playing professional basketball in Finland for Kobrat.
Justin really set the league on fire since playing for Kobrat with a season high of 31 points. Sadly, Justin had an injury in January and I was able to speak to Justin to check in:
“I’ve been out since suffering from a significant concussion 4 minutes into our game on January 20th. I’m feeling much better and should be back by the end of the month.”Justin Pierce
By the way, can we just highlight Justin finished the dunk!!!!
With a few games left in the Finnish Korisliiga, I’m sure Justin will pick up where he left off with some great games.
Christian Keeling – Glasgow Rocks (United Kingdom)
Another of our graduate transfers in 2019/20, but from Charleston Southern, Christian Keeling averaged 6.24 points per game for the Tar Heels. Since then, Christian has been in Europe to play in the BBL for the Glasgow Rocks.
Glasgow have been struggling in the league this year, but have been performing well in the cup competitions. The Rocks are currently in the Quarter Finals of BBL Trophy with Keeling’s 19 points and 10 rebounds that led the game.
Christian is currently the team’s top scorer for the Glasgow Rocks with 16.4 points per game and in the Top 10 for points per game and minutes per game in the BBL.
|GLASGOW ROCKS (SCOTLAND)||2020/21||33.0||16.4||2.6||4.2|
Jean Pierre-Tokoto – Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel)
Air-Pierre Tokoto! If you remember watching JP, you will remember the highlights he would give us on a weekly basis. Tokoto has played professional basketball all over the world since leaving Chapel Hill early.
JP is now playing in Tel Aviv for Hapoel Tel Aviv who are currently 3-8 in the Israeli BSL. I also wrote a piece last month with the comparisons of Leaky Black and JP Tokoto, you can read that here.
Tokoto has spent a lot of his career in Israel with most of his career high numbers coming when playing over there.
|IRONI NES ZIONA (ISRAEL)||2019/20||31.4||14.21||4.14||6.29||2.21|
|HAPOEL TEL AVIV (ISRAEL)||2020/21||25.1||10.62||3.5||4.5||1.38|
Deon Thompson – Unicaja Malaga (Spain)
Deon Thompson is a part of that 2009 National Championship Winning Team and holds the record for the most appearances as a Tar Heel. Since then he has played at the top level of professional basketball all over the world, maintaining that winning tradition.
Deon is currently playing for Malaga in the Liga ACB, the top division in Spain, against the likes of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Deon’s next game is against Movistar Estudiantes, who have just recently signed former NBA veteran JJ Barea. Thompson is one of our most experienced Tar Heels in Europe, playing over a decade overseas, his career does not seem to be slowing down.
Deon was recently representing the Ivory Coast in the qualifying matches for the AfroBasket 2022 and Ivory Coast are 6-0.
Deon is a great ambassador for Tar Heels all over the world and always supporting his fellow Tar Heels overseas.
|UNICAJA MALAGA (SPAIN)||2019/20||20.8||9.11||3.23||0.89|
|UNICAJA MALAGA (SPAIN)||2020/21||18.6||8.35||3.43||0.54|
Nate Britt – Panthers Schwennigen (Germany)
Nate Britt was a part of the 2017 National Championship team and since graduating from Chapel Hill, has travelled around the world playing the game he loves. Nate has gone from the United Kingdom, to Argentina, Cyprus and now in Germany.
Nate is playing for the Wiha Panthers, who play in the second tier of German basketball and Nate has been playing some of his best basketball this season. Britt is the leader in Assists and Steals for the team, also in the Top 15 Leading Scorers in the division. There are still plenty more games left in the German Pro A league and I’m excited to keep an eye on Nate’s numbers.
|GLASGOW ROCKS |
|OMONIA NICOSIA (CYPRUS)||2019/20||33.7||14.52||3.62||4.14||1.76|
|WIHA PANTHERS (GERMANY)||2020/21||30.0||14.78||5.61||4.17||2.17|
Justin Watts – Donar Gronigen (Netherlands)
Justin Watts spent four years at Chapel Hill including a championship season in 2009 and since graduating in 2012, Justin has played all over the world… like seriously; Australia, Mexico, Japan, Uruguay, Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Lithuania, Switzerland and Philippines.
Justin is now back in Netherlands, where he has played before in 2016 after signing for Donar Gronigen in 2021. The team is currently 7-1 and 3rd in the top tier in Dutch Basketball. It’s coming up to ten years since Justin left Chapel Hill, but I for one don’t see him slowing down.
|WILKI MORSKIE SZCZECIN (POLAND)||2018/19||23.8||9.93||3.14||1.29|
|PIENO ZVAIGZDES (LITHUANIA)||2018/19||22.9||8.8||3.6||0.9|
|DABROWA GORNICZA (POLAND)||2019/20||27.6||14.67||3.33||1.0|
|DONAR GRONIGEN (NETHERLANDS)||2020/21||16.5||6.43||2.86||0.71|
Marcus Ginyard – CSP Limoges (France)
Marcus Ginyard one of the greatest defenders in Carolina History (defensive player of the year, twice!) has had quite the journeyed career in professional basketball that has gone the duration of over a decade. Ginyard’s career has seen him play all over Europe and now playing in the top division in France.
Marcus is playing for CSP Limoges in the French Jeep Elite league. They are 9th with a 5-5 record. Marcus is 33 years old and still playing at one of the top divisions in Europe, MG still has a lot more to give.
|CSP LIMOGES (FRANCE)||2019/20||26.7||9.86||3.05||1.05|
|CSP LIMOGES (FRANCE)||2020/21||20.1||7.57||2.21||1.07|
Honourable Mention: Baden Jaxen
Baden Jaxen, formerly known as Dexter Strickland, has been playing basketball professionally overseas since graduating from Chapel Hill. For me it seems like yesterday seeing Baden dunk on Dookies and being on the front cover of SLAM Magazine. Baden was the top scorer in the Cypriot League in 2017. Baden is supposed to be signed to BC Odessa in Ukraine, but has yet to play a game this season and I recently saw footage of him training in Miami.
Honourable Mention: Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson needs no introduction. An amazing career in the NBA, with some time in China, which has now led him to Europe in Greece. According to reports Lawson signed with Kolossos Rodou BC (currently being led by star player Kerem Kanter, Enes Kanter’s brother) in January 2021, but has yet to play a game for the Greek side.
I hope you enjoyed reading this update on the ‘Tar Heels in Europe’. If you enjoyed this, you should check out the update on the ‘Tar Heels in Asia‘. I will be writing a post soon about the upcoming game between Marcus Paige and Luke Maye.
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