By: Stephanie Cook '12
Many people refer to their time in college as "living the dream." If you asked three Catawba graduates, who are pursuing their dream of playing professional basketball overseas, their answers may be a bit different.
Rob Fields, Donald Rutherford, and Antonio Houston are three Catawba alumni from the Class of 2010 who all played collegiate basketball for the Indians and are now playing professionally in Europe. Rob and Donald are in Denmark, while Antonio is in Iceland. These three men are being paid to do what they love and are living outside of the United States for the first time in their lives. Thanks to Facebook, I was able to communicate with all three players and get some inside scoop on their experiences away from their home country.
Rob Fields from Orangeburg, S.C., is currently playing for Espergærde Basketball Klub in Espergærde, Denmark. He has been overseas for about two and a half months, having arrived in early September. When asked how the level of play is compared to the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) level of basketball, he explained, "The level of basketball compared to the SAC is similar. Compared to other countries, Denmark is really just beginning the real pro basketball protocol. Meaning bringing in other foreigners to get paid and things like that are fairly new."
Rob stated he plans to say abroad until at least April. The big question is whether he will be returning home for good or not in five months, a decision that has not been made yet. He called his everyday routine basic, waking up to eat a bit, go workout, then going to the basketball gym for about 4 to 5 hours. He did admit to playing some video games, and of course using Skype and the telephone to talk with loved ones. He will be coming back stateside for Christmas, and said he could not wait to see his family and friends as well as enjoying some of his grandmother's fabulous cooking.
After his time playing professionally overseas, Rob wants to coach basketball and feels he can offer a great deal to the game, even when he is done competing himself. He noted he has gained "a sense of direction in the area of preparation" from his time at Catawba. He said the challenges that he faced and overcame while a college student have helped him transition into a foreign country easier than he thought he would.
Another Catawba basketball standout, Donald Rutherford from Morganton, N.C., is also in Denmark. He is in the capital city of Copenhagen and is playing in the Canal Digital Ligaen conference for the SISU team. He will be overseas for about eight months, depending on if his team makes the playoffs or not. When asked about the level of play in the CDL conference, he commented, "The competition in the CDL is a step higher than the SAC. The players are more experienced and developed."
Donald admitted to missing home, but is happy to be getting paid to do what he loves. His weekly schedule consists of shooting baskets on his own, lifting weights, coaching every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week, and having team practices at night. On his off days, he enjoys relaxing and sightseeing when he has the time and energy. While at Catawba, Donald said that he was able to build a strong character, solid communication abilities, and most importantly, develop his leadership skills. After his playing days are over, he hopes to own his own business back in the States.
Antonio Houston of Charlotte, N.C., another former Catawba basketball player, was playing for a team in Iceland called Njardvik in the city of Kellavik. He did not complete the season with that team, but is now on another team in the same conference.
While he was on the Njardvik team playing, he described the level and style of play as being very different from that of the United State's style. He elaborated on how the game in Europe is played much more physically than it is in the States, and how the referees call the games differently overseas. Antonio described his typical day as waking up at 11:30 a.m., going to work out in the gym at 12:00 p.m., grabbing lunch at 1:30, going back to his room to talk with family and friends (due to the 4 hour time difference), and then venturing off to practice. After running plays and such, he would head back to his room and just try to relax to prepare for the next day of tough practices and workouts.
Houston commented that while at Catawba, he learned how to be independent and take care of himself. He said that since Catawba brings in international students and there were a good number present while he was a college student, he was able to interact with different ethnic groups, which made his adjustment to living overseas easier. He would like to use his Business Management degree to find a job, invest in a company that is doing well within the stock market, or possibly work in a field related to athletics.
Coach Baker on His Former Players
Jim Baker, the current Catawba Head Men's Basketball Coach, had nothing but wonderful things to say about these three men. He added Donzell Williams of Salem, Va., another Catawba basketball player and 2010 alumnus now in graduate school at Radford University, when describing how he felt about his former players from the Class of 2010.
"I think all four of the guys were such great people. They had very strong parents, parents who were involved with them. During their four years here, there was not one problem off the court — not anything character related, involving alcohol, or anything stupid in the dorm. They all graduated on time with their class. They all won in a big way since they had four trips to the NCAA Regionals, two regular season championships, two tournament season championships, and a 10-2 SAC Tournament record. All these are big accomplishments.
"I think they will all do well in their lives. They will play ball for a few years, explore the world, and do well when they decide to settle down and go into the real world," Baker concluded.