Basketball: WSU trio set to make pro debuts
It is a dream many kids have: Grow up, play basketball professionally and be in the NBA or WNBA.
But not everyone fulfills that dream. At any one time, only 400 players from around the world play in the NBA; fewer for its counterpart for top women’s basketball players.
Yet for three Raiders, it is still a dream come true to play professional basketball.
Former Wright State players Matt Vest, AJ Pacher and Ivory James will be heading to Europe in the next few weeks to begin their careers as professionals. James played a key role in helping WSU’s women’s basketball program to its first NCAA Tournament berth in team history.
Their opportunity to play professional basketball came in different ways. For Vest, it was being noticed on ESPN, for Pacher, it was having an agent who called different franchises and for James, it was having connections through WSU’s coaching staff overseas.
The leap across the pond is a big one for Vest and Pacher as both grew up in the Dayton area and stayed in their backyard to play at WSU.
Vest was the first Raider signed to a professional contract over the offseason. He signed a contract with BiG Oettinger Rockets Gotha in the German Pro A league. Cincinnati native Chris Ensminger coaches the team.
Vest, a player passed up by most Division I programs, was spotted on ESPN for his defending. Vest was named to the Horizon League’s All-Defensive Team in 2014.
“It was similar to being recruited in college,” Vest said. “They just saw me play, liked how I played and we chatted for three-four weeks. A little bit of a recruiting process and then I signed my deal. It was a pretty seamless deal.”
Pacher’s signing came more recently as he went through the NBA scouting process. After a pair of NBA tryouts, Pacher signed with Starwings Basel in Switzerland.
“I hired an agent after the season was over and continued to workout,” Pacher said. “My agent did a great job at finding different opportunities.”
Pacher said his goal is to come back to America and play in the NBA. He believes the opportunity he has in Switzerland will still give him that chance down the road.
“My agency has done a great job of putting players they have play overseas for a few years back in the NBA,” Pacher said. “That is why I signed with them. They really stay in touch with NBA teams and they really keep you on their radar. I am definitely still having dreams of playing in the NBA but overseas has great options and there are so many great players overseas.”
Pacher became a force inside for the Raiders last year averaging 11 points and five rebounds a game. He was an efficient scorer making 60.2 percent of his field goals. At 6-foot-10, he showed his shooting range at times hitting 56 3-pointers during his four years at WSU.
Fellow guard Kim Demmings may have overshadowed James over the last two years but that not stop her from being noticed. In fact, according to her coach Mike Bradbury, having the Horizon League’s Player of the Year next to James on the court made it easier for her to be spotted by a professional team.
Bradbury’s squad plays at a quick pace that should suit James well when she joins CS Phoenix Galati in Romania later this month.
“She’ll be fine there, she is outgoing, has a good personality, she can fit in anywhere she goes so she’ll adapt to it nicely,” Bradbury said. “The way they play, it is fast, it is not real physical so it should suit her pretty good.”
Bradbury said that his staff having connections in Europe helped her find this spot in Romania.
“Our whole staff has connections over there, we used those connections to talk to certain people,” Bradbury said. “The coach over there knows (James) pretty well and it made a good fit and she got a really good contract. We helped her but her ability helped her the most.”
James averaged 17.2 points and 6.5 rebounds a game in her second and final season at WSU. James joined Wright State in 2012 after spending two seasons at Monroe Community College.