Mike Smith doesn’t know much about Germany, but he will soon enough.
The former East Tennessee State basketball star has signed to play this fall for Eisbaeran Bremerhaven of the Basketball Bundesliga (BBL). He will report to camp on Aug. 6.
“It’s the top league in Germany, and it will be good competition,” Smith said Thursday from his home in Vandalia, Mo. “I just want to play well, show my talents and hopefully come back and get some workouts with NBA teams.
“It’ll be fun to see a different part of the world and get paid to do what I love. Hopefully I’ll learn to speak a little German, too.”
Smith graduated in May with a business degree. He went out with a flourish on the basketball court, earning Atlantic Sun Conference player-of-the-year honors as a senior.
He’s a rugged swingman at 6-6 and 225 pounds, and he has the range to play on the perimeter in the pros. The question is whether Smith can flourish as a shooting guard.
“In college I didn’t handle the ball as much,” he said. “At this level, with the size I have, I’ll be a perimeter player. I’m really working hard on my ballhandling and quickness this summer.”
Smith has been using the facilities at Quincy University in Illinois, about a 45-minute drive from his home. He participated in a few workouts with other NBA hopefuls earlier in the summer and also spent some time with Tim Grover at the Attack Athletics facilities in Chicago.
Grover developed the renowned training philosophy that has been used by Michel Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, among others.
“I learned an awful lot up there,” said Smith. “I’m in great shape and just want to stay that way while I’m waiting to go overseas.”
Bremerhaven, a port city in northern Germany, finished eighth out of 18 teams in the BBL last season. Smith said four Americans are supposed to be on the roster this fall, though he didn’t know any of the other three.
There will be a couple familiar faces in the league. Adnan Hodzic and Josh Slater, the former Lipscomb stars, have reportedly signed contracts with German teams.
“Talking to some other coaches, it sounds like a good opportunity,” said ETSU coach Murry Bartow, who was on the recruiting trail Thursday in Sewanee, Ga. “It’s the top league in Germany, and I think Mike is on a good club. He sounds real excited about it.”
Smith probably won’t be back this way again soon.
“I had a great stay at ETSU and made a lot of friends,” he said. “I might come back around every once and awhile.”
n The ETSU baseball staff has gotten very thin this summer.
Pitching coach Reid Casey resigned shortly after the Bucs’ season ended, and early this month assistant Clay Greene departed for a job at Memphis.
The only man currently on head coach Tony Skole’s staff is volunteer assistant Matt Landreth.
“This is the time of year where those guys move around,” said ETSU athletic director Dave Mullins, “and we’ve already gotten some good interest in those positions. Our success the last couple of years and a new stadium coming on line have certainly helped.
“I think Clay left two weeks ago Friday, and by the next Wednesday, Tony already had 90-some applications. He’s been working his way through that.”
Mullins said Memphis simply made Greene an offer that ETSU couldn’t match.
“We tried to keep him,” said Mullins, “but he felt like he had a good opportunity at a Conference USA school. It was more salary and more benefits.”
As for Casey, a former ETSU pitcher, he may have simply run his course in the profession.
“I think he had a little bit of burnout and was just looking for a new direction, something entirely different,” said Mullins. “Coaching is a lot of pressure with a very hectic schedule, and he may have had enough of that.”
- After many months of trying to visualize how a baseball stadium would look sitting on the vast development at the corner of Tennessee State and State of Franklin, some definition is finally emerging.
Work at the ballpark site is picking up pace as the adjacent University Edge apartment complex nears completion.
“In the last two weeks, things have really started moving on,” said Mullins. “They’re putting in draining lines for the field and pouring footers for the building. I think you’re going to see constant progress now.
“It’s all going to tie together nicely. It’s a great location, as we’ve thought all along, and that will become clearer as things get built between campus and the downtown.”
The plan is to be playing on the field, which will have synthetic turf, by late February.
- Fall sports are just around the corner at ETSU.
The women’s soccer team reports on Aug. 3, and volleyball follows five days later.