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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Update on Badgers Abroad

With the signings of Josh Childress and prep baller Brandon Jennings by European league teams, playing overseas was a hot topic this summer. Dozens of former college stars continue to pop up in professional basketball leagues throughout the Old World, in countries like Italy. It would make sense that former Badgers would get these same opportunities, now that the program is churning out quality players each year.

It was nice to see fan favorite Mike Wilkinson get mentioned in's preview of the Russian League as he tries to remain with Khimki despite an injury. As you might recall, Wilkinson gained Macedonian citizenship after college, which makes him potentially valuable in leagues where a limit is placed on the number of American players a team can have. Wilkinson has previously played well in the Greek leagues.

Since many of us will be checking out a new generation of Wisconsin players tomorrow night, how about a quick look at where last year's seniors are playing professionally this season:
  • Brian Butch - Jiangsu Nangang Dragons (China): After initally signing with a Spanish club, the Polar Bear is allegedly the highest-paid rookie in CBA history. Not bad. See what a master's degree can get you?
  • Greg Stiemsma - Oyak Renault Bursa (Turkey): Stiemsma seems to have landed in a nice situation with two other rookie Americans on his team. All three are playing significant roles for this Turkish team that moved up to D1 two years ago.
  • Michael Flowers - New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig (Germany): Not sure if Mike is still on the team or not. He has played in four games this season, with minimal impact. Flowers is not listed on the team's "current roster" anymore.
A couple of former Badgers are still going stronger than others overseas. I thought I would see if there were any new developments since some of those previous reports came out:
  • Jason Chappell is lighting it up in Austria, where is is averaging a double-double early in the year for the Gussing Knights.
  • It does not appear that Andreas Helmigk is still playing hoops in that league.
  • Kammron Taylor has moved on from Spain to Turkey and plays in the same league as Stiemsma now, with Kepez Bld Antalya.
  • Zach Morley didn't latch on in Spain for another season either. His whereabouts are unknown.
  • Same goes for Ray Nixon in the German Bundesliga, who does not appear on his former team's roster this season despite winning the league's slam dunk contest last year.
So while not everyone can have the good fortune or incredible talent of the NBA's Devin Harris or Alando Tucker, Kirk Penney is living the dream as well as any former Badger. As you probably know, Penney is a kiwi hero after playing for his homeland in Olympic and World Championship competitions since leaving Wisconsin. He was an All-NBL first-team pick in 2008 and is currently leading the New Zealand Breakers -- and the entire league -- in scoring at 28.3 ppg.

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