Marist College has a unique history with former athletes making the jump to the professional level. As a particularly small Division One program, Marist doesn’t produce a high percentage of athletes to the major sports here in America. The most successful and talked about former Marist College athlete is Rik Smits, who was the second overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft. Marist has come a long way since then producing a lot of athletes overseas and some currently making an impact in the National Football League.
Two former stand-out Men’s Basketball players, Adam Kemp and Chavaughn Lewis had the opportunity to play in the National Basketball Association’s summer league this past summer. Adam Kemp played for the Detroit Pistons, where the General Manger is former Marist men’s basketball head coach Jeff Bower. Chavaughn Lewis played for the Philadelphia 76ers where assistant coach Eugene Burroughs is a former Marist assistant. Lewis, who also had the chance to play for the Toronto Raptors this summer, is the all-time leading scorer for Marist College. Both Kemp and Lewis will be playing overseas this upcoming season, Kemp in Kazakhstan and Lewis in Lithuania for the BC Juventus team. Adam Kemp played his 2014-2015 season for a team in Macedonia and I was able to catch up with Kemp and Lewis about the summer league and their professional overseas careers as well.
While talking about the NBA summer league, Lewis and Kemp both felt the experience was amazing in itself. Kemp talked about the relationship with former Marist head coach and current Detroit Pistons General Manager Jeff Bower saying “He definitely still had to fill his role as GM first and foremost so I didn’t get Any special treatment or anything like that just for being his former player but after the practices and when we had some extra time we would talk about what I was doing well, what to work on, and just different things to look for since he obviously knew this was my first time at that level.” Kemp knows that this season is going to be an important one for him in order to improve and have another shot at the NBA next summer. The relationship Kemp has with Bower is important because even though he isn’t currently in the NBA he can always have the guidance of an NBA executive on how to reach that level. Improving now in Kazakhstan is important to reach the level of play in the NBA and Kemp understands that saying, “I’m looking forward to having a great season and then hopefully trying out for their summer league team along with others this upcoming season.” Confidence and a positive mental attitude are important while being an athlete and trying to improve to the next professional level which Kemp understands. Adam may not have been at his best but he knows it’s a grind saying “I didn’t play as well as I thought I could in the games this past summer but I definitely showed myself, at least in practice, that I’m not far off from being able to play very well at that level.” Look for Adam Kemp to make a splash in the summer league next year and don’t be surprised when he grabs a roster spot for an NBA team.
Kemp also went on to discuss his experience overseas and why he continued to play basketball keeping it in his life. “There are tons of reasons to continue playing for me I think first and foremost just because it’s what I love to do.” Continuing to play basketball has done much more for Adam than just fulfilling a dream of his. Kemp went on to tell me that, “without basketball I know I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see a lot of the places I have and experience these cultures so that alone is a blessing.” While playing abroad allows him to do what he loves for a living, it also allows him to improve on a personal level as well as an athletic level. Adam also continued to explain about the league he plays for in Kazakhstan and how much different it is than Marist College basketball. One of the main challenges Kemp was explaining is that they play the toughest team from a lot of the bigger countries in Europe. The level of competition is different but he said one of the main differences from Marist was the travel time which used to be “3-4 hour bus rides but now we have 8-12 hour flights all over Europe.” Professional International sports provide tough physical but also mental tolls on the players but Kemp is welcoming the challenges.
Chavaughn Lewis also took part in the NBA summer league for the Philadelphia 76ers which he explained as an “amazing experience,” and playing for his “favorite players team (Allen Iverson) made the experience much more intense.” Being the all-time leading scorer for Marist College, his strong point is being able to go hot streaks to provide a spark to his team. Lewis explained the summer league experience as having to “come out and bring your best everyday whether it was in practice or game regardless.” Lewis just played his first game of the regular season in Lithuania, but his seventh game overall including pre-season. In his first game, Chavaughn had 15 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 steals shining in his professional debut.
Marist College is certainly able to produce professional athletes and more athletes are on the cusp of American professional sports putting Marist on the map. Some other athletes that Marist College has produced are:
Joey Jordan who is the only former Marist College basketball player to be drafted, when he was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 45th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Jordan is now playing in France for JDA Dijon.
Some former Football players Terrence Fede, Jason Myers and Marist basketball player Menelik Watson, turned Florida State football transfer all play on Sunday now in the National Football League.
Terrence Fede was the first Marist College football player to be drafted in the NFL where he was taken in the seventh round by the Miami Dolphins. Fede is currently a second-string defensive end for the Dolphins and has enjoyed some success in his early career. Jason Myers was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars where they felt so comfortable with him as the starter they traded long-time kicker Josh Scobee.
Menelik Watson is an interesting story in Marist Red Fox athletic history because he was a stand-out basketball player. So how did he end up in the National Football League? Watson eventually transferred to Florida State as a right tackle and was so impressive the Raiders took a chance on him in the second round of the 2013 draft.
I was also able to talk to Alyssa Gates, the Director of Student-Athlete Enhancement about the amount of athletes from Marist College transitioning to a professional athlete. Gates told me it is mostly men’s basketball players that play abroad but also includes women’s basketball and men’s football. Gates has talked with the athletes about their futures in athletics saying “I typically encourage them to take advantage of opportunities to play abroad or professionally.” Marist College athletes are successfully performing at the professional level and have support from faculty in athletics as well as family.
The success of former Marist College athletes can only be good news for current Marist College athletes that want to continue their career after college.