Palmer '93 plays pro ball in France
When former Dartmouth basketball star Crawford Palmer '93 arrived in France last August to play for the Division II team Fos-sur-mer, he didn't know a word of French.
Over the course of the season, Palmer picked up some French and managed to sneak in a little basketball here and there too.
He recently signed a $45,000 one-year contract to return to France for another year.
Last year, Men's Basketball Coach David Faucher introduced the 6-foot-10 center to his friend, an agent who deals with the European League.
"I knew they'd love him," Faucher said. "They'd love him as a person and love him as a player. He'll continue to open doors for Dartmouth players."
Faucher's friend set Palmer up with Fos-sur-mer's coach, who Palmer lived with, because he was the only person on the team who spoke English.
"None of my teammates knew English," Palmer said in a telephone interview from his home in Belmont, Mass. "I just kind of picked it up over the year."
Once he got over the language difficulties in France, he said he had a great time. He lived in a town on the Mediterranean Sea and got a chance to do some traveling while he was there.
He said he has done a lot of "deep thinking" about what his future will be after basketball. He graduated from Dartmouth as a history major and will be taking courses in France next year.
"I'd like to do it for a couple of years and put some [money] away," he said. "It's not a sure thing. I really enjoy it, but you can get hurt at any time. I'm going to milk it for now."
Palmer's said each team in Division II in France is allowed to have one "Ameri -- uh ... foreigner." Because most teams take a "big guy" from America, Palmer said he is usually playing the best player on the court.
He said there are some "great players" in his league at France, but said he would equate the quality of play overall to "the Ivy League, maybe a little higher."
Despite being matched up against a quality player almost every night, Palmer still poured in an average of 22 points and 11 rebounds, and led his team to a 17-13 record.
"We were tied for seventh out of 16 teams, four games out [of first]," Palmer said. "Unfortunately, we lost a couple games we should have won."
Basketball's popularity around the world is exploding, and Palmer said France is no exception. He said many of the younger people in France are berserk about basketball.
"They are into hoops. A lot of people follow the NBA," he said. "Our gym -- a small gym -- is just packed ... Basketball has gotten a lot bigger over the year. Basketball has made some huge gains."
Despite being one of the few Americans in the league, Palmer said he was not heckled that much.
"Not in our gym -- in away gyms there's kind of a love/hate relationship" with foreigners, he said. "They are aware that to improve at basketball they have to bring in Americans, but at the same time there are a lot of regulations."
Faucher said he thinks Palmer can stick around in France for long enough to move into Division I, where the players -- and the money -- is better.