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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Three seniors to take a shot at European basketball

When he entered Dartmouth, Kenny Mitchell '97 never thought that Dartmouth's language proficiency requirement would serve him later in life. Four years later, however, Mitchell will be getting out his pocket sized traveler's dictionary, trying to remember how to ask where the basketball court is.

Mitchell will be traveling around Europe, not just to see the sites, but to play at them as part of a basketball league in Europe. Joining Mitchell will be fellow seniors Sea Lonergan and Brian Gilpin.

A three-year starter at guard, Mitchell is Dartmouth's all-time assists and steals leader. This past season he broke the College's single season records in both categories, tallying 203 dishes for points, while garnering 70 takeaways. Mitchell's numbers attracted national attention, as he posted the second-highest assists-per-game ratio in college basketball, and was in the top 25 for steals.

While Mitchell was making his way to the top of the leaderboard, Gilpin was shattering a school record of his own. The standout center already held the Dartmouth title of most blocked shots in a season, but swatted away another 70 this past season to earn the distinction of most blocked shots in a career.

Regardless of his newsmaking ability on the court, Gilpin will also be making news at his wedding, scheduled for shortly after graduation.

Lonergan's decision to play pro ball is the most surprising of the three. A three-time first team All-Ivy selection and winner of more honors than that kid in your high school that went to Harvard, Lonergan and his 3.85 GPA have a bright future ahead in medical school. Honored after the 1996 season as a GTE First Team Academic All-American, the four-year starter at guard was named to the 1997 Playboy All-American team earlier this year.

On the court, Lonergan defines consistency. His point totals over the last three seasons have differed by no more than 11. Lonergan's scoring work this past season moved him up to second among the all-time Dartmouth scoring leaders.

"It provides a great little break between college and med school," Lonergan said. "I'm not going to fool myself in thinking I'm going to the NBA."

Lonergan isn't ready to dismiss the dream of playing on native soil as impossible.

The NBA "would be a pretty tough thing to turn down ... that's every kid's dream from when they're five years old, including mine," he said.

A chemistry major, Lonergan realistically sees going to med school within five years, but until then, "I can't give up the dream yet ... I'm excited to keep playing."

If things don't work out for Gilpin he'd like to go into Christian ministry or into teaching, while it's always been a dream of Mitchell to use the chalkboard for a different purpose.

"I'd like to get into coaching," Mitchell said. "It's always been a dream of mine to coach."

In their quest for fame, fortune and a few more years of playing the game they love, Gilpin, Lonergan and Mitchelll have hired Arrow Sports to represent them. Though they will all go over to Europe as free agents, meaning that they can sign with any team they want, it appears very unlikely that any of them will end up in the same league, let alone on the same team.

Lonergan "and I were trying to get on the same team in England, but it didn't work out," Mitchell said.

While Gilpin had decided early on that he was definitely going to go to Europe, the decision for Lonergan and Mitchell wasn't quite as easy.

"I don't know if I would have gone over if [Mitchell] wouldn't have," Lonergan said. "I think the same goes for him, as well."

Each European country has its own basketball league, and many countries have several professional leagues for different levels of competition and talent.

Though playing in the NBA would be a dream come true for each of them, Gilpin, Lonergan and Mitchell all understand they have a long road ahead before playing on the American hardwood.

"We'll see where my own personal development leads me," Mitchell said.

Gilpin, an Indiana native who was recruited by infamous Hoosiers coach Bobby Knight, said playing for his homestate Indiana Pacers isn't his motivating force.

"Though [the NBA] would be the ultimate goal, I'm just going to take it one year at a time," Gilpin said. "I'm playing just 'cause I love the game."

Though the NBA is out of reach for these three today, they weren't forced to go abroad to play pro ball. The United States' lesser-known basketball league, the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), doesn't pay as well as international leagues, nor does it offer the cultural opportunities of Europe.

"I prefer the enrichment that going someplace abroad would provide," Mitchell said.

"I love this game and I'd love to have the opportunity to travel and see a different culture," Lonergan added.

Describing the team's preseason trip to Portugal in the fall, Mitchell commented, "Some players stayed in their rooms and watched movies. I was thinking that it was a waste of such a great opportunity."

The players aren't worried about the language difference, but they are prepared to adjust.

"I think at first there's definitely going to be a language barrier," Gilpin said. "Say if the coach wants to call a huddle."

Referring to the language difference, Mitchell described it as "unavoidable. That's the kind of thing I'm really looking forward to. You're forced to become immersed in the culture."

These senior standouts will be joining Dartmouth grad James Blackwell '91 who's playing for Antibes in the French A League.

Blackwell had the fifth-highest assists-per-game ratio in the league (5.6) this past season, while his Dartmouth record for steals in a season was surrendered to the quick hands of Kenny Mitchell.