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Midwestern Collegiate Conference

by Vince Pellegrini Jr.

February 15th, 2003

        Great distances have been traveled by three young men to get to where they are today. Their roads have led them to Atlanta, Seattle, and Gary, Indiana. The path has been long and grueling but there is enough tread on their shoes to get them even farther. The one and only thing that each of them has in common is that they played in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League).

        In the spring of 1996, Vitaly Potapenko left Wright State University after his junior year to turn pro. He became only the second player in league history to leave school early to enter the NBA Draft. Evansville's Parrish Casebier left the Aces in 1993 to join the professional ranks. Potapenko was drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers. "V" was traded to the Celtics during the 1998 campaign. The Ukraine native joined the Seattle Supersonics before this season began. He has only played in seventeen games. Vitaly is averaging 17.5 minutes and 4.2 in both points and rebounds per game.

        Alright so Vitaly traveled a long ways to get to Dayton, Ohio from Kiev for his college career to begin but Potapenko was given a contract by an NBA team right off the bat. That is something that Bryant Notree and Jermaine Jackson were not so fortunate to have happened to them when their college stints came to an end.

        Jackson was a vital part of the Detroit Titans' NCAA Tournament teams in 1998 and in 1999. Detroit just didn't make the tourney. They won a game each year by beating power houses, St. John's and UCLA. The Titans made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in twenty seasons in '98. Jackson was a huge reason why. After graduation, the 6'4 guard had to become recognized by NBA scouts and coaches. In April 2001, Jermaine found himself playing in the United States Basketball League for the Kansas Cagerz. He made first team All-USBL by averaging 21.8 points per contest and leading the league in assists (9.6). Jackson did so well in the USBL and in the NBDL that he wound up in Toronto for training camp. He was, unfortunately, released prior to the 2002 regular season. After his release, he played under former Iowa State star Jeff Grayer with the Great Lakes Storm of the Continental Basketball Association. Playing in Birch Run, Michigan was a far cry from competing in front of tens of thousands of fans each night on the NBA level. On November 20, the Raptors recalled their explosive guard. Jackson played in twenty-four games for Lenny Wilkens but was released in mid-January. He would have to start over and go back to work for his old club, the Storm, on January 18. Some of his teammates on Great Lakes may ring a bell. Try former Rhode Island point guard, Tyson Wheeler, who played a big part on the regional final team of 1998. Also on the squad was former Duke forward Ricky Price ('97) and Justus Thigpen of the Iowa State Cyclones ('93). On January 30, however, Jackson received another call from the bigs. This time it was the Atlanta Hawks. Since the call up, he has played in three games for his new ballclub.

        Bryant Notree plays guard for the Gary Steelheads of the CBA. The former Illinois of Chicago star leads the Steelheads in scoring with an average of 22.5. He has competed in thirty-seven games and has started thirty-four of them this year. The 6'4 guard puts together a stat sheet filler every night. Notree is averaging 5.2 caroms, 4 assists and 1.2 swipes per contest. The former Flame also averages just over thirty-eight minutes per outing. Like Jackson, he has some famous teammates as well. Few can forget Arkansas big man Oliver Miller ('92). After a lengthy stint in the NBA, Oliver played in the USBL among other leagues. He is trying to get another shot with an NBA team. Former Jayhawk and first round pick, Darrin Hancock plays for the Steelheads also.

        Notree has put together a season that would make him ideal to any NBA franchise. It's getting that call that Jackson has received twice this year that seems elusive right now. Notree doesn't want to make Gary, Indiana his place of residence but a stop in his journey.

        For these three and the many others who are playing basketball professionally find out that the road can be unpaved at times. It's sometimes curvy. It can be full of hills, dips, and valleys. But, the greatest satisfaction can be found when you, as a player, reach that plateau where only a select few get to the National Basketball Association. Still, like Vitaly and Jermaine found out, you never can be too comfortable at the top. You must work for the privilege to stay afloat there.

        Some say college is the best years of your life. For most college basketball players how true are those words.

E-Mail the Author: Vince Pellegrini Jr.




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