Men’s basketball is set to return five of its top nine scorers next year – the only nine players who found a spot in a starting lineup this past season.
Aside from sophomore guard Jordan Roland, who announced his intention to transfer Saturday, the remaining three members of that group each played their final collegiate game in the College Basketball Invitational tournament in March, a relatively disappointing encore for the 2016 NIT champions.
“One minute you are in the season, you’re playing, then you lose and it’s over,” redshirt senior Matt Hart said. “It was weird for the first couple days but I’ve gotten back into the swing of things.”
Although their time in the Smith Center may be over, each member of the trio – led by Colonials top-scorer graduate student Tyler Cavanaugh – is taking steps to land a spot on a professional squad in the near future.
Along with Cavanaugh and Hart, who have now completed all four years of their NCAA eligibility, redshirt junior Jaren Sina announced about two weeks ago his decision to forgo his final year and take a shot at going pro.
“I just turned 23 years old, so if I were to stay next year I would be 24 at the end of the year. That following year, my rookie season I’d probably be 25 midway, which would be really old for a rookie,” Sina said. “Getting a degree was my number one goal. So at that point, an opportunity came up that I felt like I really couldn’t pass.”
The three players averaged 31.4 points per game this year as veteran members of a young roster.
As they wrap up their academic requirements, they all said they have gotten back into a workout routine, often training together.
“We are working out two or three basketball workouts a day and a lift. It has been great,” Hart said. “We are all kind of training toward the same goal, playing professionally, so it is good having nice company around.”
Last weekend, Cavanaugh was selected to participate in the 2017 Reese’s College All-Star game in Phoenix over Final Four weekend. He played among some of the best seniors in the country and was selected as the East player of the game after scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
“It was crazy, you dream about playing in the Final Four and obviously that wasn’t the way I dreamed about playing on the court, but it was a great experience with a lot of good players,” Cavanaugh said. “I will always remember that, I’ve never played in a place that large and I probably never will.”
The Syracuse, N.Y. native says he is looking to build off his dominant college career, setting his sights on the NBA.
Head coach Maurice Joseph has been on GW’s coaching staff since Cavanaugh came to Foggy Bottom and said he believes that the NBA is a possibility for the 6-foot-9-inch forward, despite the increased talent in the league.
“[Cavanaugh] is not the type of athlete that some of those guys are at the next level, but there are not many guys his size that can shoot the way he can,” Joseph said. “I think when you can do that, you have a chance to play anywhere.”
For the next step in his journey, Cavanaugh will participate in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament this week. The camp is an opportunity for the nation’s top 64 seniors to prove their talents to professional scouts.
Cavanaugh is looking to take advantage of the opportunity by the intangibles that make him stand out, he said.
“The scouts have already been watching me [during college],” Cavanaugh said. “It is not like I am going to turn into frickin’ Lebron James but I want to just to continue to show my skill set, how I fit into a team, be a good teammate and show my IQ.”
After Portsmouth, Cavanaugh said he hopes to garner a few NBA workouts before the draft in June and try to find his way onto a summer league roster.
If Cavanaugh’s wishes come true, he would be the second Colonial in as many years to make an NBA roster after 2016 graduate Patricio Garino was picked up by the Orlando Magic last week.
If not, he says he is planning to stay in the country at least for the first year before looking elsewhere for more lucrative opportunities.
“For next year I’d like to stay in the states and pursue the NBA, making a roster or play in the D-league for a year maybe,” Cavanaugh said. “But then obviously you have to go where the money is. It is a different mindset, as a pro it’s your livelihood.”
For Sina, who has signed with European-based agency BeoBasket and is preparing for a career overseas, American basketball was never part of his plan.
“I have never really had a dream to play in the NBA, to be honest,” Sina said. “It has always been to go to Europe.”
The 6-foot-2-inch guard has deep connections across the ocean with family in Albania, Italy and Switzerland. He was born in Portugal during his father’s 16-year professional basketball career. Sina also played with Kosovo’s national team for the country’s first-ever EuroBasket qualifiers last summer.
His Kosovan passport will make him an attractive target for teams in leagues that limit the number of American players allowed per team.
Sina said he plans to head to Puerto Rico through his agency in June to work out and prove his worth.
“The process is really just waiting on contract offers,” Sina said. “They said I had a pretty good shot at playing in some countries. We talked about Germany, Spain and France.”
Hart will also be traveling long distances to compete at camps and showcases around the country. He plans on taking part in the EuroBasket Summer League in Brooklyn, N.Y. in May before heading to a Las Vegas camp in July, he said.
The Orchard Park, N.Y. native said that his love for the game is what motivates him to keep playing and that he doesn’t want his basketball career to end anytime soon.
“Honestly, I will play wherever for any amount of money. I just want to keep playing,” Hart said.
Although in the short term he is targeting Italy as prime option because of his familiarity, Hart is hoping that someday he could get a chance to play basketball in the U.S.
“Whether I play in Italy for however many years or Spain or over in Europe whatever, eventually making it back to United States would be the top of my list,” Hart said. “To be able to come here and play at home is [my goal].”