Several Europeans Heading Home | Monday, June 18th, 2007

Several Europeans Heading Home

The New England rankings in the class of 2007 can be a bit deceiving at first glance as it appears as if there are still several quality players left on the board, when in reality that is not necessarily the case.  One of the biggest reasons for this, in addition to players who are planning to attend prep school or junior college, is a trend that is showing quite a few European players opting to head home instead of staying here to play college basketball. 

For example, the highest rated unsigned player in the class of 2007 is Phil Wait, the 7’1 center from Proctor Academy.  With his size and soft touch around the rim, the big man was generating significant interest from programs in the Big East in addition to receiving some scholarship offers from Atlantic 10 schools.  But instead of pursuing any of those opportunities, he has decided to return to his native England where he is said to be considering going directly to their professional leagues. 

Another Englishman, Caleb Butler, has also taken a pass on college basketball in order to return home.  The talented guard who starred for Tilton this year was receiving a wide variety of interest from division II and III programs before opting to return to Europe. 

Similarly, 6’11 forward Ilija Milutinovic from Worcester Academy is also headed home next year.  The one time Oregon State commit will return to his native Serbia, although he is said to be eyeing a return to the states in the fall of 2008 when he hopes to be able to play college basketball. 

The big question is why is this trend developing?  And there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer.  In fact the motivating factors appear to be unique in all three of these cases.  From home sickness, to problems with the NCAA clearinghouse caused by the language barrier, to a desire to play in the less competitive European professional leagues, there is just no one answer. 

But while the causes may not be clear the effects certainly are, as college coaches will unfortunately lose out on the opportunity to recruit and coach some of the top prospects the New England region has to offer.