SHERIDAN — There are plenty of challenges at a JUCO basketball program.
Players are at the school so briefly, the team is a constant rebuilding process.
Keeping up on things like former players reaching the pros can really keep a coach going. Even in its two-year preparatory limitations, Sheridan College deserves credit in that utmost accomplishment for players.
Several former Generals are doing just that, specifically overseas in Euroleague ball, an expansive home to a large group of players outside the American giant that is the NBA.
Generals’ head man Steve Smiley is in his fifth year with SC, and with the help of social media he’s able to follow his guys nearly everywhere they go.
Last season, Smiley had four from the team’s roster sign to play Division 1 hoops, and now he can list eight that are working or have signed pro contracts at various levels.
Former General Moustapha Diarra recently signed to play with ALM Evreux-Basket, a team that plays in the LNB Pro B league in France. The squad is ranked second in the Frances Pro B league, a division of Euroleague. In Sheridan from 2007-2009, Diarra was a two-year All-Region IX defensive standout and an All-American before moving to the University of San Francisco.
“‘Moose’ has played for a few years in what’s some pretty high Euroleague stuff in France, he’s had a very consistent career,” Smiley said, naming Diarra as the best example of a growing contingent of former SC players who have taken their talents to foreign countries.
“Some of these guys aren’t making a lot of money,” Smiley explained, “but he’s a true pro in that he’s been there multiple years at a high level.”
Diarra is one of a few who has found success in leagues surrounding the Euro — there are 31 preliminary stage teams and 24 more in group stages. And while they’re lesser talked about in the states, that doesn’t necessarily mean smaller paychecks. Euroleague players make, on average, more than D-League NBA players. Their compensation also differs in that they’re afforded housing, cars and meal plans that qualify as net income, or tax free, on top of their salaries.
While the “get to the pros” mindset is beyond the developmental push of Smiley and his staff, these guys got their pre-professional start in Sheridan — in college.
Smiley preps players specifically for Division 1 schools, with on floor training plus character building that goes as far as the players want to let it take them.
“I think it’s like anything else, the cream of the crop rises up,” Smiley said. “When coaches work with us on Jarrel (Crayton), most questions had to do with character rather than ability,” he said. He talked to a coach in Iceland about signing Crayton.
“They want to weed out guys that can and can’t handle it,” Smiley said. “When you get to that level everybody can play. They ask us questions about things like work ethic, timeliness— ‘Is this a tough kid?’
“It’s not a lot about his jump shot.”
Players longevity in these leagues can vary and not all of them reach levels as high as Diarra. But Smiley said he wouldn’t be surprised if JR Cadot, who played for the Generals from 2008-’10, had a five to seven year career in the international game.
Cadot, who was third team All-American at SC, is near his third pro deal. He finished a successful two years at Texas Christian University in 2012.
Smiley noted it was encouraging to see Antoine Proctor get his second contract, also in Iceland, since that usually indicates a player is developing a reputation that lends to more signings and eventually a league career.
With social networking anything is possible, and Smiley keeps a detailed blog on his former players’ progress. He admitted that it does get tougher to keep track of his guys as more and more pass through.
Regardless of how high or for how long the players play, there’s a sense of pride for a coach back in small town Sheridan, Wyo.
“It’s awesome,” Smiley said of hearing about his guys succeeding.
“You’re not going to be a pro forever, so we stress the importance of getting a degree because it (basketball) is always going to end. But if we were at least the spring-board to your college and pro career that’s awesome,” he added.
“We take a lot of pride in the fact that, with a lot of these kids, their dream is to be a pro.”
Moustapha Diarra (at SC from 2008-10) signed to play with ALM Evreux-Basket, a team that plays in the LNB Pro B league. The squad is ranked second in the Frances Pro B league. Diarra was a two-year All-Region IX defensive standout and an Junior College All-American at Sheridan before moving to the University of San Francisco.
Antoine Proctor (2008-10) has signed with U.M.F. Tindastoll in the Icelandic Dominos League — the highest pro league in Iceland. This is his second professional contract after he played in the top league in Slovokia.
Steven Ivory Jr. (2009-10) plans to begin his pro career with Hebei Springs in the Chinese NBL — the second highest league in China.
Ivory Jr. graduated from Mayville State University in Mayville, N.D. this spring.
Jarrell Crayton (2009-11) recently finished his college playing career at MSU-Billings and earned All-GNAC honors. He spent a tough stint at Boise State after SC, but has since signed to play with Thor-AK in the Icelandic Division 1 league.
Belgium-native Idris Lasisi (at SC in 2009-10) has signed with Sint-Jan Basket Antwerpen in the Belgium Division II league. JR Cadot, Scottie Payne and Johannes Kriegereit are currently in works with their agents to finalize their professional contracts to continue their basketball careers.
Read more about and follow former SC players on coach Smiley’s blog.