Jack Cooley traveled more than 7,000 miles from his suburban Chicago hometown and proceeded to crush it.
Jerian Grant traveled barely 20 miles from his suburban Washington hometown and rediscovered the swagger that earned him first team All-American honors as a college senior.
And now closer to 40 years old than 30, Torin Francis just keeps playing. In another country. For another basketball season. One that now has Pat Connaughton carrying the flag for Notre Dame at the game’s highest level, in its most competitive league that plans to soon restart. There, Connaughton will be the first former Irish men’s basketball player with a chance to win an NBA championship ring since John Paxson knocked down the decisive wing 3 for the Chicago Bulls in 1993.
Following is a rundown of how former Notre Dame men’s basketball players fared last season (or what passed as a season before the coronavirus pandemic cut short everything) in their respective professional leagues. A few spent the year close to home. Most were halfway around the world. All kept chasing their hoop dreams, not yet ready to get a “real” job.
For them, basketball is their job. Still.
l TIM ABROMAITIS (2008-12)
Record: Finished 8-20 overall, including 8-10 in United League play and sixth place in the 13-team VTB (highest level) league.
Stats: Averaged 7.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.5 steals in 17.7 minutes over 27 games. Abromaitis shot 57.1 percent from the field. 40.8 percent from 3 and 78.4 percent from the foul line.
Noting: Following four pro seasons in Spain, Abromaitis wrapped his first in Russia for the team located in Saint Petersburg. He was one of four “import” players from the United States on Zenit’s roster.
l ZACH AUGUSTE (2012-16)
Record: Finished 16-7 and fourth place among 16 teams in the BSL (highest level) league.
Stats: After taking a team-high 192 shots, Auguste averaged 12.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.5 steals in 23.0 minutes over 23 games. He shot 60.4 percent from the field, was 0-for-1 from 3 and 51.0 percent from the foul line.
Noting: This was the second season in Turkey for Auguste, who has spent the last three years on NBA summer league squads. His teammates in Turkey this season included former Kentucky standouts Aaron Harrison and Alex Poythress.
l V.J. BEACHEM (2013-17)
Country: United States
Team: Windy City Bulls
Record: Finished 17-26, fifth place in the Central Division and 13th in the G League’s 15-team Eastern Conference. On June 4, the G League officially canceled the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Stats: The Fort Wayne native averaged 5.8 points, 1.9 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 16.5 minutes over 42 games for Chicago’s G League affiliate, who play their home games in northwest suburban Chicago. Beachem shot 37.4 percent from the field, 33.6 percent from 3 and 79.2 percent from the foul lines.
Noting: Following four seasons with three G League teams, Beachem told his 2015 Irish teammates during a Zoom call last month that it was “definitely going to be my last year” with Windy City.
l AUSTIN BURGETT (2012-16)
Team: BC Lulea
Record: Finished 26-7 and second place in the 10-team Basketiligan (highest level) league.
Stats: Averaged 7.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 20.0 minutes over five games. He shot 75 percent from the field, 31.8 percent from 3 and 66.7 percent from the foul line. Burgett also played one game for Terme Olimia in Slovenia where he scored eight points with four rebounds and an assist in 28 minutes.
Noting: Burgett’s second pro season ended in January after he suffered a broken right foot. Last season was Burgett’s first as a professional. The 27-year-old plans to return to Europe again this fall and hopes to play at least seven more years.
l BONZIE COLSON II (2014-18)
Record: Finished 13-10 and sixth place in the 16-team BSL (highest level) league.
Stats: Averaged 12.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.4 steals in 21.7 minutes over 23 games. Colson shot 55 percent from the field, 36.8 percent from 3 and 90 percent from the foul line. He shot a team-high 70 free throws.
Noting: Listed on the team’s web site as the starting shooting guard at 6-foot-6, the former college power forward left Darussafaka late in the season to pursue other professional avenues.
l PAT CONNAUGHTON (2011-15)
Country: United States
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Record: With the NBA season scheduled to resume in late July in Orlando, Fla., the Bucks are in first place in the Central Division and first in the Eastern Conference with the league’s best record (53-12).
Stats: Connaughton is averaging 5.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 18.1 minutes per game. He’s shooting 45.6 percent from the field, 32.1 percent from 3 and 75 percent from the foul line.
Noting: Finishing his fifth pro season and second with the Bucks, the 6-5, 27-year-old Connaughton will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
l JACK COOLEY (2009-13)
Team: Ryukyu GK
Record: Finished 27-14 and first place in the six-team West Division. Tied for fifth overall in the 18-team B1 (highest level) League.
Stats: Averaged 18.4 points, 13.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.2 steals in 31.2 minutes over 40 games. He shot 54.5 percent from the field. 8.3 percent from 3 and 76.7 percent from the foul line.
Noting: In his first season in Japan, the 29-year-old led the team based in Okinawa in scoring, rebounding, field goal attempts, field goals made, free throw attempts, free throws made and minutes played. He earned second team all-league and is scheduled to return to Ryukyu for the 2020-21 season.
l MATT FARRELL (2014-18)
Country: United States
Team: Northern Arizona Suns
Record: Finished 8-34 and last place in the Pacific Division (fifth) and Western Conference (13th).
Stats: A member of the Phoenix Suns’ G League squad, Farrell averaged 9.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 20.4 minutes over 14 games. He shot 48.6 percent from the field, 46.9 percent from 3 and was 0-for-1 from the foul line.
Noting: The 24-year-old Farrell also appeared in 21 games for the G League’s Austin (Texas) Spurs, where he averaged 6.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 22.4 minutes. Farrell was traded to Northern Arizona in mid-January. Undrafted out of college, he’s with his third G League team and played last July with the Bucks’ summer league squad.
l TORIN FRANCIS (2002-06)
Record: Finished 10-15 overall and 17th place in the 20-team LaLiga (highest level) league for a team based in Formosa, Argentina.
Stats: Averaged 11.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 0.4 steals in 25.9 minutes over 25 games. Francis shot 57.8 percent from the field, 60.7 percent from the foul line.
Noting: Francis led his team with 206 field goal attempts. The former Irish power forward, who turns 37 in July, has played professionally in eight countries. He lives in New York City in the offseason.
l MARTINAS GEBEN (2014-18)
Team: B.C. Zalgiris Kaunas
Record: Finished 22-2 overall and first place in the 10-team LKL (highest level) league.
Stats: Averaged 8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 16.0 minutes over 24 games. Geben shot 72.2 percent from the field, 20 percent from 3 and 84.7 percent from the foul line.
Noting: The 25-year-old native of Lithuania, Geben was one of five starters from Lithuania for Zalgiris last season. He’s spending the summer in Nashville.
l JERIAN GRANT (2010-15)
Country: United States
Team: Capital City Go-Go.
Record: The G League affiliate of the Washington Wizards finished 22-21 overall, second place in the Southeast Division and seven in the Eastern Conference.
Stats: Averaged 16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.4 steals in 33.3 minutes over 39 games. Grant shot 46.9 percent from the field, 43.5 percent from 3 and 83.5 percent from the foul line.
Noting: The last Irish to be a first-round NBA draft pick (No. 19 in 2015), Grant was selected by the Wizards. He’s had his rights held by five teams in his five years and has been traded four times. This was the first year that he didn’t play in the NBA.
l LUKE HARANGODY (2006-10)
Team: Joventut Badalona.
Record: Finished 9-14 and last place in the 12-team Liga Endesa (highest level) league.
Stats: Averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 0.8 steals in 22.9 minutes over 23 games. Harangody shot 51.1 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3 and 100 percent (11-for-11) from the foul line.
Noting: A former second-round NBA draft pick, Harangody left Joventut after two seasons. The 32-year-old also has played in the G League and overseas in Germany, Russia and Turkey.
l DEMETRIUS JACKSON (2013-16)
Country: United States
Team: South Bay Lakers.
Record: The G League affiliate of the Los Angeles Lakers finished 19-25, fourth place in the Pacific Division and 11th in the Western Conference.
Stats: Averaged 10.0 points, 1.0 rebound, 5.8 assists and 0.8 steals in 26.6 minutes over four games. Jackson shot 51.9 percent from the field, 46.2 percent from 3 and 100 percent from the foul line.
Noting: Having spent his four professional seasons with four organizations, the 25-year-old Jackson was released by South Bay in February after suffering a foot injury earlier in the year.
l ERIC KATENDA (2012-15)
Team: Umifn Njarduik
Record: Finished 13-8 and fifth place in the 12-team Dominos (high level) League.
Stats: Averaged 4.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 1.0 blocks in 11.5 minutes over four games. Katenda shot 47.1 percent from the field and 25 percent from the foul line.
Noting: Having played professionally in Sweden and Iceland, Katenda is a free agent next season. He lives in his native France.
l STEVE VASTURIA (2013-17)
Team: Rasta Vechta
Record: Finished 12-10 overall, including 6-8 in the Basketball Champions League, for seventh place in the 10-team BBL (highest level) league.
Stats: Averaged 13.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 30.0 minutes over 21 games. Vasturia shot 48.7 percent from the field, 35.9 percent from 3 and 90.3 percent from the foul line. He led Vechta in free throw percentage, assists and minutes and was second in scoring. He also attempted a team-high 117 shots.
Noting: The 25-year-old Vasturia signed in April to play professionally next season with B.C. Zalgiris in Lithuania where he’ll reunite with Geben, his former college teammate.