Friday, September 20, 2013
Ah, the joy of a man who loves his job.
Eight such men graduated from Rider University with degrees in Communication, Accounting and Marketing. All eight are currently enjoying successful, professional careers overseas.
Eight graduates from the Rider basketball program are making a living doing what they love and seeing the world. Who could ask for more?
Mario Porter ’02 and Jon McClark ’01 earn a living playing basketball in France.
Jerry Johnson ’05 plays basketball in the Republic of Kazakhstan, while Ryan Thompson ’10 is playing in Belgium, Justin Robinson ’11 and Novar Gadson ’12 are playing in Italy, Brandon Penn ’12 is playing in Denmark and Jon Thompson ’13 plays in the Czech Republic.
“It brings me so much joy to see so many of our former players who I have coached as an assistant and now as head coach still playing professionally,” said Rider’s second-year head coach, Kevin Baggett. “Having the opportunity to still play this wonderful game of basketball professionally while being paid to do so is a blessing.”
A Rider Athletics Hall of Famer, Mario Porter plays for Mulhouse in Eastern France near the Swiss and German borders. Porter was drafted while still at Rider by the Pennsylvania Valley Dawgs of the United States Basketball League in 2002, but stayed at Rider to complete his undergraduate work. Upon graduation, Porter signed a major contract with Orleans of the professional basketball league in France and has also played in Angola, Finland and Spain. The majority of his professional career, however, has been in France.
The 2001-02 Rider male athlete of the year, Porter was an honorable mention All-American, one of just 52 players from more than 300 teams to earn All-America honors. He was the first Rider basketball player ever to compile both 1,700 points and 700 rebounds, before being joined by fifth-year Sacramento Kings forward Jason Thompson ’08 of the NBA.
Along with all of these honors, Porter became the first member of his extended family to earn a degree, in Marketing.
Jonathan McClark is playing for Clermont in Central France, the home of Michelin tires. He has spent his entire professional career in France, playing in Charleville, Bourg, Rouen, Maurienne and Levallois.
As a Bronc, McClark graduated ninth in career rebounds with 642 and scored close to 900 points before graduating with a degree in Communication.
Jerry Johnson is playing in Central Asia in the Republic of Kazakhstan, which borders Russia and China, for the BC Astana.
A Rider Hall of Famer, Johnson graduated second in career points and was just the second Bronc and ninth New Jersey Division I player to ever score 2,000 points during his time on campus.
He averaged 17.6 points per game for his career, the fifth best ever at Rider, and guided the Broncs to a pair of regular season MAAC titles (2002, 2005). Perhaps Johnson’s most remarkable statistic is that despite all of those points, he also graduated fifth in career assists with 421, averaging 3.6 per game, seventh best ever at Rider. Johnson drained a Rider record 102 three-point field goals as a senior, and was a three-time first-team All-MAAC and second-team All-MET selection.
Johnson’s first three seasons playing professionally in Europe were with mid-level teams in Poland, Turkey and France. He had a good rookie year playing for Polpharma in Poland and moved up a level in Greece. He then went to Buyuksehir Belediyesi in Turkey and played his third year in Clermont, France.
Last year he had the third best scoring average in his current league of 18.7 points per game, leading his team to first place in the Group L. He also ranked among the league leaders in assists. Johnson has played in Lithuania, France, Cyprus and Turkey, each time moving up to a higher level of play.
Ryan Thompson just signed a two-year contract to play in the Kingdom of Belgium for Ostend, the largest city on the Belgian coast. Thompson, the younger brother of the NBA’s Jason, played for Okapi Aalstar and averaged 18.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the Ethias League, also in Belgium.
Thompson completed his collegiate career fourth on Rider’s scoring list (1,879), sixth in assists (3.1 per game) and seventh in rebounding, the only Bronc to rank in the top 10 in all three categories.
Upon graduation Thompson played in the NBA’s Developmental League for the Utah Flash, averaging 11 points per game in 42 contests, before going to Italy. For Centrale del Latte Brescia, he played 28 games and averaged over 13 points per game. In Belgium he first played for Okapi Aalstar before recently moving up a level.
Justin Robinson is playing in Italy for Vanoli Cremona after most recently playing at Uppsala in Sweden. In seven games in Sweden he averaged 6.1 points and 1.4 assists. Robinson also played in the BC Kyiv Superleague in the Ukraine, averaging 11 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 33 games. He also played in Greece.
While at Rider, the London native also represented United Kingdom at the Qualifications to the European Championships in 2011. Robinson graduated with a degree in Communication and finished 10th in career scoring at Rider with 1,480 points and was sixth in career assists.
Novar Gadson is now playing in Italy for the Blu Basket Gruppo Remer Treviglio. Gadson previously played in Lebanon for Antranik, where he played eight games and averaged 25.5 points per game. He shot 56.6 percent from the field and made 12 three-pointers. He grabbed 37 rebounds, averaging 5.9 caroms per game.
At Rider, Gadson ranked 10th in career rebounds and 12th in career scoring and graduated with a degree in Communication.
Brandon Penn is now playing in Denmark for Bakken. Penn last played in 52 games for the Takamatsu FA team in Japan, averaging 12.6 points and 19.8 minutes played per game.
As a Rider senior, Penn ranked in the top 10 in the MAAC in three-point field goal percentage, three-point field goals made and in rebounding and ranks among the top 20 in the conference in scoring. He graduated with close to 900 points, 150 three-pointers made, and a degree in Communication.
Jon Thompson played his first game recently for Nymburk in the Czech Republic. Nymburk is a town just east of Prague.
The point guard played 29 minutes and scored seven points with five rebounds and five assists. Thompson graduated eighth in career assists and his 128 games played tied for third most ever at Rider. Thompson graduated in May with a degree in Accounting.
Eight Rider graduates. Eventually they will have to hang up their sneakers and begin to put their hard-earned degrees to work, but for now, they are enjoying life, traveling the world, and playing basketball for a living.
As it is written in the Bhagavad Gita, “They all attain perfection when they find joy in their work.”