Pawtucket native Rakim Sanders, pictured here during his senior year at Fairfield University, will play in Germany this season.
Even on the phone, the unbridled enthusiasm in Tyrone Naredâ€™s voice was readily apparent.
A new basketball season on foreign soil beckons for this Woonsocket native, and judging by the synopsis Nared provided mere hours before embarking on a near 15-hour flight that would take him to his roundball address for the next several months, the outlook appears bright.
According to the 24-year-old Nared, he is joining the top-tier pro hoops league in the Republic of Macedonia, located in Europe and bordered by Serbia to the north and Greece to the south. Lirija is the specific name of Naredâ€™s team â€“ according to EuroBasket.com, heâ€™s the only American listed on the roster.
â€śItâ€™s definitely a blessing because when I come back to Woonsocket, thereâ€™s not a lot to do,â€ť said Nared upon being reached last week. â€śI worked out all summer and spent time with the family, but to be able to continue to do what I love for a living, Iâ€™m pretty fortunate.
â€śIâ€™m just glad to get away again. Basketball is my getaway â€“ it keeps me focused, positive and levelheaded about life. Plus itâ€™s helping me to travel around the world,â€ť continued Nared.
You wonâ€™t hear Nared complain one second about being a stranger in a strange place. The 6-foot-8 forward has taken quite the basketball road upon graduating from Woonsocket High in 2007, making stops at CCRI and New Yorkâ€™s Monroe College before heading out west to the University of Oregon, where he played for two seasons and graduated in 2012 with a sociology degree.
A year ago at this time, Nared was prepping for life as a Pro B participant in a German League. His stay with the UBC Hannover Tigers lasted four games before relocating to Spain, where a more prominent role beckoned. A starter from Day 1, Nared went on to average 12.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals in 19 games for Grupo Inec Zamora.
His output as the Tigersâ€™ go-to guy did not go unnoticed as EuroBasket.com placed the former Villa Novan on the Spanish EBA All-Import team.
â€śI was actually on a lower-level team in Spain, but now Iâ€™m moving up to a top league,â€ť Nared gladly shared. â€śIâ€™m so elated because that shows hard work can pay off. If you perform well in games, teams will find you no matter where youâ€™re playing. You can be anywhere if youâ€™re productive.â€ť
Nared chalked up his 2012-13 campaign to a comeback tour that came on the heels of a knee injury that limited his effectiveness during his senior year at Oregon.
â€śI wasnâ€™t the same player when I came back,â€ť said Nared, noting that he had little choice but to wear a brace in order to support the tender spot. â€śFortunately, I was able to get a contract because I had a good junior year (at Oregon in 2011-12, one that saw him play in all 39 games, starting the final 21 outings with averages of 5.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and nearly one block).â€ť
In Israel-based agent Daniel Ravitz, Nared had someone who recognized his ability to fill up the stat sheet, a trait that in turn made him a desired commodity. In terms of adjusting to life outside the United States, Nared said he was able to master enough Spanish so that he could conduct basic conversations and better understand his newfound surroundings.
â€śItâ€™s a different culture â€“ you go from the regular stores youâ€™re familiar with to stores you never heard of before,â€ť he noted.
Getting used to the European basketball scene marked another period of adjustment that proved to open Naredâ€™s eyes.
â€śThereâ€™s so many things in America that you canâ€™t do over there. You have to adapt or youâ€™ll become frustrated,â€ť said Nared before providing concrete examples. â€śWhen you do a triple-threat move, you have to put the ball down or itâ€™s a travel. You canâ€™t catch a ball on a fast break and take two dribbles â€“ you have to put the ball down immediately or itâ€™s a travel. Sometimes, you canâ€™t do spin moves because they might be travels.â€ť
Nared inked a one-year deal with his Macedonia employer. The 18-game regular season opens Oct. 12 and ends March 15. There are no games between Dec. 15 and Feb. 15.
â€śI feel that Iâ€™m getting close to my dream and thatâ€™s to one day play in the NBA,â€ť Nared expressed. â€śIâ€™m not going to cut myself short, not when I have a shot like this.â€ť
Nared isnâ€™t the only area product slated to lace up the high tops across the Atlantic Ocean. Two Pawtucket natives, Jeff Xavier and Rakim Sanders, also have jobs on Euorpean clubs.
Xavier, 28, is set to enter his fifth professional season â€“ all of which have transpired in Spain â€“ after graduating from Providence College in 2009. The former St. Raphael Academy product will suit up for Autocid Ford Burgos in the LEB Oro league. According to the teamâ€™s depth chart, Xavier is listed as the backup point guard.
Last month saw Sanders, 24, sign a two-year deal with the German team Brose Baskets. The former Boston College and Fairfield standout spent the bulk of the 2012-13 campaign in Israel, averaging 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 28 games.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
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