Tar Heels in Europe – March Update

The current North Carolina Tar Heels may have finished their season, however throughout Europe there are 12 Tar Heels still playing professional basketball overseas.

In this monthly update I was able to speak with Justin Pierce in Finland, Marcus Ginyard in France and Joel James in Turkey. All players giving me more of an update on life overseas.

This is the third update of 2021 after January’s Update and February’s Update, which you can read by clicking on the links.

Follow @britishtarheel on Twitter for updates on Tar Heels Overseas.

Brice Johnson – Budivelnyk (Ukraine)

BRICE JOHNSON WITH THE SLAM!!! Doesn’t that bring back some memories?! Well, Brice is still making posters during his time in Ukraine. Brice has now played in Italy, France and Ukraine over the past few seasons in overseas basketball.

Johnson leads BC Budivelnyk in SPG and BPG and is second in RPG, it’s fair to say the former ACC All-Defensive Team member is still dominant on the defensive end. Last week, Johnson was chosen for Team of the Week for his recent performances as of late.

Budivelnyk’s most recent game was on Saturday with a 98-90 win over Prometey and taking their record to 15-14 in the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague.

Originally tweeted by George Harmer (@georgewharmer) on March 12, 2021.
ORLANDINA (ITALY)2019/2032.417.3511.180.82
CHORALE ROANNE (FRANCE)2019/2025.413.295.430.43
BUDIVELYNK (UKRAINE)2020/2122.411.697.921.04
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Joel Berry II – Besiktas (Turkey)

Joel Berry II had an amazing career in Chapel Hill and he is definitely enjoying the start of his career overseas too. Berry leads his team in steals, he is the team’s fourth highest scorer and third in assists. Berry has improved on PPG, APG and RPG each month since joining Besiktas in Turkey.

Besiktas currently have a record of 14-11 and are 5th in the league. The regular season is coming to a close soon and Berry will be playing in his first playoffs in Turkey.

Berry scored 15 points in a 98-93 win over Istanbul on Saturday. This win meant Besiktas overtook Istanbul in the standings.

BESIKTAS (TURKEY)2020/2125.910.873.41.4
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Luke Maye – Dolomoti Energia Trento (Italy)

Another Tar Heel in his first year overseas, Luke Maye is performing at high levels in Italy. Maye is second in PPG and RPG for Trento, who play in the top-tier in Italy. I recently watched one of his games and pleased to confirm Maye is still automatic with the mid-range shot.

Maye has also played this year in the EuroCup, where he was named MVP of the Week earlier on in the year. Trento did not qualify for the next rounds of the EuroCup after a recent loss to Lokomotiv Kuban.

Dolomoti Energia Trento still have a few games left in the current season with them currently on a two-win streak, with one of those wins against top of the league AX Armani Exchange Milan. Maye will hope he can help push the team up in the standings come the end of the season.

TRENTO (ITALY)2020/2125.412.56.335
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Justin Pierce – Kobrat (Finland)

Justin Pierce is having himself a season. The graduate transfer who spent one year in Chapel Hill, is now playing his first season of professional basketball – and boy is he playing!!

Pierce is averaging 16.56 PPG and starting all his games for Kobrat, who play in the Finnish Korisliiga. Pierce has had couple injuries this season, with one concussion during a huge dunk that I replayed the video of in the last update on the Tar Heels in Europe.

Kobrat’s most recent performance was in the Playoffs on Saturday against the #1 Helsinki, in which they lost in Game 4. Pierce did not play due to previous injury and it was decided for him to be rested. Kobrat reaching the Playoffs, was only the second time in the club’s history. I spoke with Justin earlier this week about coming back to play after his injury:

“We are in playoffs so I’m gutting it out but it’s really tough to play with and shoot with. Best of 7 series we are the 8 seed going up against the top team, we just lost game 2 tonight by 5. Tough one! This is my clubs second time ever making the postseason in the top league so it’s a big deal for us to even be here. Last year they finished second to last so regardless how the playoffs end for us we helped make tremendous improvement from last year.”

Justin Pierce

We also caught up about the NCAA Tournament and his predictions for March:

“Excited for UNC to hopefully make a little run. Personally, I think Gonzaga will win it all.”

Justin Pierce
KOBRAT (FINLAND)2020/2128.016.565.193.5
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Marcus Paige – KK Partizan (Serbia)

Marcus Paige is about to finish his third season overseas and all of them have been in Belgrade, Serbia. We can all remember Paige heating up from behind the arc and not much has changed. Paige is a big part of the KK Partizan team and is leading the team in 3PM.

KK Partizan were on a six game losing streak, with one of those losses coming to Luke Maye in the EuroCup. Their most recent performance was Saturday against KK Mornar, where they snapped their losing streak with a 83-75 win. Paige scored 14 points.

Paige has already broken the record for three pointers made in a game for KK Partizan this season. Hopefully we see Paige and Partizan improve on their record of 8-13 and end the season strong.

Marcus Paige interview starts 0.42
PARTIZAN BELGRADE (SERBIA)2018/1924.210.53.721.1
PARTIZAN BELGRADE (SERBIA)2019/2022.39.931.880.79
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Joel James – Duzce Belediye (Turkey)

Joel James is probably playing some of his best basketball of his career in his third season overseas. James played his first two seasons of professional basketball in Mexico and now finds himself in Turkey.

James recently had a big win for Duzce Belediye, recording 18 points and 17 rebounds. I spoke to Joel about his big performance that night and he said:

“The ball Gods were good to me last game and I’m keeping with what’s working.”

Joel James

His last game was on Friday evening, where James recorded 21 and 10, that making it his 17th Double Double of the season. On his great season in Turkey, I asked Joel about progressing up through the leagues overseas:

“I hope so, I’m trying to make the jump next season to the top league here.”

Joel James

With James’ performances he has been having lately, you can see why he deserves to be in the top leagues. I’m sure the Tar Heel Nation will be eating our invisible cereal cheering for a fan favourite wherever he ends up.

Originally tweeted by güncel TBL (@guncelTBL) on March 4, 2021.
RAYOS DE HERMOSILLO (MEXICO)2018/1927.312.119.5722
DUZCE BELEDIYE (TURKEY)2020/2127.613.3511.8717
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Deon Thompson – Unicaja Malaga (Spain)

Deon Thompson is one of the most experienced Tar Heels playing overseas and last week played his 100th game in the top division in Spain. Thompson who holds the record for the most games as a Tar Heel, doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in professional basketball either.

Thompson recently went up against Barca, one of the top teams in Spain, with the likes of Nikola Mirotic and new signing of Pau Gasol (DNP). Thompson was Malaga’s top scorer on that night. Thompson recently travelled to play in the AfroBasket qualifiers, representing Ivory Coast. During that time, he was named in the Top 10 standout players of the week by FIBA and impressed with his performances being efficient on both ends.

Thompson’s most recent performance was on Saturday with 8 points in a 85-83 win over Monbus Obradoiro.

Malaga’s run in the EuroCup has now come to an end this season (same tournament with Marcus Paige and Luke Maye), but there are still games left in the Liga ACB and Malaga are pushing for a spot in the playoffs.

UNICAJA MALAGA (SPAIN)2020/2119.28.123.450.6
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Marcus Ginyard – CSP Limoges (France)

Marcus Ginyard is another veteran Tar Heel playing overseas, now in his 11th season. Ginyard plays for CSP Limoges in the Jeep Elite League and has been providing strength coming off the bench this season.

Ginyard is currently recovering from an injury, hoping to be back soon. I caught up with Marcus recently about his 11th season overseas and how this season is going:

“Still feeling a little uneasy about playing in the pandemic and wanting to finish the season. Feeling good about the 11th year and crazy to think it’s been this long already.”

Marcus Ginyard

We also spoke about if Ginyard can watch any of the NCAA Tournament and he said:

“It all depends on timing for the tournament, but usually it’s good because there are a lot of early games. Being 6 hours ahead does make it harder for the night games. I haven’t even looked at the bracket but I have the same hopes every time for UNC… regardless of the situation. Championship!”

Marcus Ginyard
CSP LIMOGES (FRANCE)2019/2026.79.863.051.05
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Christian Keeling – Glasgow Rocks (Scotland)

Christian Keeling is having himself a pretty good first season overseas at Glasgow Rocks of the British Basketball League. Keeling is leading the team in PPG, APG and MPG. The Rocks have struggled this season with a record of 3-16 in the league, although they did make the Semi-Finals of the BBL Trophy, only to lose to London Lions (top team in the country).

Keeling just played a back-to-back and recorded 16 points in a loss to Worcester Wolves on Friday and a huge 28 points in a loss to Bristol Flyers on Saturday. Keeling is now the 7th highest scorer in the British Basketball League.

Keeling recently spoke on the ‘Rocks on Podcast‘ about his time overseas:

“This is a guard heavy league and I feel confident in myself that I can hang around with them and be considered one of top guards in the league. I think the BBL is a good league.”

Christian Keeling
GLASGOW ROCKS (SCOTLAND)2020/2132.916.412.715.35
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Nate Britt – Panthers Schwennigen (Germany)

Nate Britt has had quite a journeyed career overseas already. Nate has gone from the United Kingdom to Argentina to Cyprus and now in Germany.

Britt is the leader in assists and steals per game for the Panthers and also second in the league for SPG.

The Panthers have a record of 13-12 in the second-tier of German Basketball. Britt’s most recent performance was Saturday, where he put up 9 points in a loss to Tubingen.

OMONIA NICOSIA (CYPRUS)2019/2033.714.523.624.141.76
WIHA PANTHERS (GERMANY)2020/2129.814.125.253.922.12
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

JP Tokoto – Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel)

Jean-Pierre Tokoto was a highlight reel at UNC and since leaving school early, JP has spent quite a few seasons overseas, after some time in the G-League.

JP Tokoto is a starter for Hapoel Tel Aviv, but he got injured in the derby game against Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv on January 31st and hasn’t suited him since. Hopefully we can see JP back in action soon.

HAPOEL EILAT (ISRAEL)2018/1928.113.423.187.611.45
IRONI NES ZIONA (ISRAEL)2019/2031.414.
HAPOEL TEL AVIV (ISRAEL)2020/2125.110.623.54.51.38
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Justin Watts – Donar Gronigen (Netherlands)

Justin Watts was a National Champion in Chapel Hill 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.

Watts is now back playing in the top tier of Dutch Basketball and playing for Donar Groiningen who have a 10-3 record and find themselves 3rd in the Dutch Basketball League.

Watts hasn’t played since February 13th due to recovering from a calf injury. Watts returned Saturday with 8 points in a loss to ZZ Leiden in his first appearance for over a month.

WILKI MORSKIE SZCZECIN (POLAND)2018/1923.89.933.141.29
DABROWA GORNICZA (POLAND)2019/2027.614.673.331.0
DONAR GRONIGEN (NETHERLANDS)2020/2116.56.432.860.71
Statistics are up to date as of March 20th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

I hope you enjoyed the monthly update on the ‘Tar Heels in Europe’, if there are other news and opinions you would be interested to see on Ceiling is the Roof, you can tweet or message me at @britishtarheel.

Follow on Twitter at @britishtarheel and subscribe for updates on Current Tar Heels, Pro Tar Heels with a close eye on the Tar Heels Overseas.

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