HoopAlum (Cougars in the Pros)

BYU may only have one former basketball player in the NBA, but that does not mean that other former Cougars do not play for pay. In fact, BYU basketball alumni now dot the European professional landscape.

Most if not all cougar fans know that the Brazilian Beast, Rafael Araujo, is plying his trade in the paint up in Toronto as a big league big man, and that former Atlanta Hawk, Travis Hansen is lighting things up for one of Spains and Europe's best pro teams.

After these two, however, getting a handle on former byu basketball players is a bit harder. Most of these guys spend more time traveling through places only seen on the pages of national geographic than driving the lane for a layup vs teams whose names most of us would butcher worse than a Boise State fan at a bowl game pep rally.

Some of them are decently paid which means they can put a little something away and still pay the bills, while others are scraping by road trip to road trip. A couple have seen time for as many teams inside of two years that most journeymen NBA players play for in ten.

Regardless of the venue, these are cougars who for whatever reasons are driven to keep the dream alive. To play basketball as a pro.

Rafael Araujo – NBA – Toronto Raptors:
Last Win: Atlanta, win 108-102.
Stat Line: 11min, 0-6 from the field, 3 rebounds (3 offensive), 1 assist, 1 turnover and 3 personal fouls.
Next Game: Indiana.

Most die hard hoops fans regularly check their favorite sports site stat line for Araujo's latest less than exciting performance for a team that lacks leaders on the court as well as coaching off it. For some strange reason, the big Brazilian gets to start every game, but is only allowed to play five or six minutes before being required to sit down until the beginning of the second half where he proceeds to repeat the process. 12 minutes a night are precious few minutes for a Center who provides a needed physical presence in the paint and who believe it or not seems to only get into foul trouble once every fifteen games.

Unfortunately for Rafa, unless Toronto decides to cut him loose or trade him, he is stuck in the middle. Business aficionados who have read Porter know what being "stuck in the middle" is all about. It is the worst thing that can happen to a business and in this case a basketball player. What this means for a business is that you are giving your customers mixed signals concerning what your are about. Are you a discount outfit offering low prices for cheap goods, or are you a premium store with higher prices, but with the goods to back it up?

For Rafa it means confusing fans as to whether he is an offensive center with a nice stroke from ten feet out and money from the stripe, or a bruising defender who bodies up inside, takes a charge, and owns the boards. For those of us who have followed his career, we all know that his best game is as an inside offensive presence opening up the lanes for players to drive to the basket. He clears space looking for the dish he can take to the house, and of course he likes to show flash and flair with amazing no look passes at opportune times. As a pro, Rafa has shown all of this.

The problem is that Araujo has not put it all together during the regular season in a game. Of course with few exceptions, 10 to 12 minutes is not going to provide the time necessary to show these skills, which are further frustrated by young rookie players who do not take advantage of the lanes he provides. These newcomers are black holes when holding the ball and not realizing an easier shot is just a dish away. Rafa has also been hampered by a coach who has no business cutting his teeth at this level.

For Rafa's sake, those of us more religiously inclined might want to exercise some of that divine communication on the young Brazilian's behalf that he may either get a bona fide opportunity to shine in Toronto or a one way ticket to another franchise who knows what big men are all about.

Travis Hansen – Euroleague – Tau Ceramica:
Last Win: Caja San Fernando 100-67
Stat Line: 18 min, 13 points, 3 threes, 2 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 turnover.
Next Game: League leading Winterthur F.C. Barcelona

When Hansen signed the contract to play big time Euro-ball it was an adjustment. He still was not 100% back from his injuries after a short stint in Atlanta, and to top it all off, he was dealing with the culture shock of living in a foreign country, entrenched in the day-to-day grind with his family. Hansen quickly learned that Eurobasket is about fundamentals, finesse and fair play. Sure banging and bruising go on in FIBA brand hoops, but the absence of bling bling thuggism reserved for gangsta rim splitting phenoms makes it more palatable to purists who prefer basketball over streetball.

Fundamentally more sound, the team play aspect was an adjustment that had Hansen looking not so hot as a player. Of course, he had spent quite a bit of time on the bench prior to coming to Spain and so he was further challenged to shake off the rust while adjusting to the new system.

Over his first season, Hansen continued to progress and in 42 games with Tau Vitoria (Ceramica) he averaged 7.7 pts per game, and had 109 boards, 15 steals, 46 assists and 9 blocks on the season. Hansen seemed to save some of his best performances for the Euroleague games against the best of Europe, helping his team to the Euroleague championship game where they lost to Maccabi Tel Aviv.

This year things have really taken off. In 13 ACB Spanish league games, Hansen is on his way to shattering his last years stats. He averages 10.7 points per game and on the season he has already brought down 45 rebounds, 7 blocks, and 12 assists. In the eight Euroleague games so far this season, he is averaging 10.1 points per game and on the season he has 19 rebounds, 10 assists, 6 steals and 8 blocks.

If you met Travis today you might not recognize him. The trademark platinum blonde skull cap has been replaced with a dirty blonde variation of the same, complete with a matching soul patch inspired faux goatee.

Other former Cougars trotting the globe:

Mark Bigelow – Spanish LEB – Calefacciones Farho Gijon Baloncesto

Mark is currently enjoying the holidays preparing for the rest of the season which is scheduled to start January 8th. His team finished the fall with a victory over Plasencia Galco 73-66.

In 36 minutes Mark scored 10 points, had 2 rebounds, a block and a steal. Mark is an important cog for the Farho Gijon team as he logs an average of 31 minutes per game over the season so far.

Mekeli Wesley – Portugal – Benfica

After painting Europe with his aggressive play in Spain, Poland, Belgium and France, Wesley recently got an opportunity take his game to the Portuguese A league. He was originally taken on to play for Benfica as a tryout player, but the coaches have been impressed with his performance. Playing 26 minutes a game, Wesley is putting up an average of 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1 assist. . His tryout contract ended December 5th, but the coaches want him to stay until at least February.

Last night he helped his number seven rated team beat number two Oliveirense at home 84-79. Mekeli scored 7 points with 3 boards and 2 steals in 20 minutes of play. Benfica's next game will be on January 8th against league cellar dweller Santarém

Terrell Lyday – Russia – Ural Great Perm

After banging it in the French league, Terrell must have missed the snow in Provo, because he is playing with some cool company in Russia. A key cog on the Great Perm team, Terrell has at the halfway mark of the season averaged almost 12 points a game, 3.3 assists, 2.4 steals and 3.5 boards. Great Perm lost a closely contested Superleague contest in overtime vs Dynamo Moscow 84-93. Terrell scored 18 points with 3 boards and another 3 assists to help keep his team in it at the end.

After finishing the first half of the season with a 3-1 homestand, they start the next half on January 7th on the road traveling to Novosibirsk to play Sibirtelekom-Lokomotiv. All I can say about that is Novosibirsk in January? BRRRRRR! Better bring some extra clothes Terrell, just in case the bus breaks down.

Trent Whiting – Italy – CoopSette

Like Wesley, Whiting has been moving from team to team between Italian franchises and a recent stint in Frankfurt, Germany. He is back in Italy playing in the Lega2. Some of you may recognize a teammate of his who played for UNLV; Odartey Blankson.

Whiting is playing extremely well and is the 10th top scorer in the league averaging 20 points per game. In his final game before the holiday break, Whiting's team won against Premiata Montegranaro 79-70, and Trent knocked down 18 points shooting 12 of 13 from the stripe, securing 5 rebounds and 2 assists. They get to kick off the season on the 5th of January against last place Banca Nuova Trapani. Gotta love the flow of the corporate sponsored names of these teams. Sure beats having to say Denver Nuggets.

Mike Hall – France

After a stint in Turkey, Hall was able to get onto a French B league team Saint Etienne. Things seemed to be working out as he played well. In his final game on the 23rd of December against Charleville-Meziéres he scored 12 points in 23 minutes with a steal a board and a couple of assists. Saint Etienne however brought in another older journeymen American (Kelly McClure) to replace him. More information will be forthcoming as to Hall's next hoops home.

Kevin Woodberry – ABA

Woodberry has gone against the grain and decided to try his luck at home in North America. He is currently playing for ABA league Bellingham Slam in the Boone Division. His latest game that I have succeeded in getting stats for was a December 9th contest vs. Beijing Aoshen Olympians where he almost had a triple double scoring 13 points, 11 assists and 7 boards. Since then he has helped his team in competing against one of the stronger teams in his division Tacoma in a loss 95-91

His next two contests will be down south against the Dragons of Tijuana, Mexico.

I am currently looking for info on Eric Nielsen and Luiz Lemes

Ross Out-->

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