Nikola Vujcic is into his second season with Olympiacos. His minutes were way down this year, averaging only 13.9 minutes per game in the EuroLeague and 12.0 in the Greek league. But this didn’t stop him producing; Vujcic averaged 7.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in the EuroLeague, and 6.8/2.3/1.3 in the Greek A1. Those are more like a small forward’s numbers than those of a 6’11 post player, but that’s Nikola Vujcic for you.
Vujcic’s minutes took such a hit partly because he’s into his 30’s now, but also because of how deep Olympiacos are up front. With Giannis Bourousis and Sofoklis Schortsanitis getting the bulk of the starts up front, Linas Kleiza getting a dollop of power forward minutes, and with Greek internationals Andreas Glyniadakis and Loukas Mavrokefalidis also in the big man mix, Vujcic had to share time with the rest of the talent (not helped by the fact he’s Croatian; Greek teams can only have a maximum amount of six non-Greeks per game, hence the roles for Glyniadakis, Mavrokefalidis and the baffling Pangiotis Vasilopoulos). Olympiacos’s front court depth is in fact so deep that even Bourousis is moaning about his minutes. And he’s the best of the bunch.
San Diego State product Wade’s first professional season has seen him rack up the air miles. He started the season with Kavala/Panorama in Greece, but was released due to poor performance after only three games. Wade had averaged 10.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in those three games, but apparently it wasn’t enough. He then went to the Philippines to play for the San Miguel Beerman, although I’m not sure if he ever did, because almost immediately after that news came out, Wade was also announced as signing in Mexico. There, for the Rayos de Hermosillo in the CIBACOPA, Wade put up 97 points in his first three games, but got injured after one minute of the fourth and didn’t play again. He then returned to the Philippines to play for the Derby Ace Llamados, and averaged 25.2 points and 12.8 rebounds in five games – remember, no one over 6’6 is allowed – but was again released to poor performance, specifically defensively. That’s the thing with second- and third-tier professional leagues; big expectations.
Wafer started out as Vujcic’s team mate in Olympiacos, but was released early due to his performances. Wafer averaged 7.7 points in his three EuroLeague games, but only 3.0 ppg in his three Greek league games, and the team decided they preferred Patrick Beverley. Wafer returned to America and played a ten-day contract with the Mavericks, but has not played this year other than that.
In 2000-01, Dajuan Wagner averaged 42.5 points per game in his final year of high school. He then went to the University of Memphis, and averaged a whopping 21.1 ppg as a freshman. This was enough to get him drafted sixth overall by the Cavaliers in the 2002 NBA Draft.
Since then, it’s been all bad. Wagner averaged 13.4 points and 2.8 assists per game as a freshman, but took 605 shots to score those 629 points, and played in only 47 games due to torn right knee cartilage. Worse still, that was the most games he played in any season of his career. Wagner played in only 44 games the following year, and his scoring halved to only 6.5 ppg on similar efficiency. Wagner needed further surgery on his right knee, but he couldn’t get it until inflammation to his liver and pancreas had calmed down; what we didn’t initially know was that that internal inflammation was more serious, and would lead to chronic and irreversible health problems.
Wagner played only 11 games the following year, averaging 4.0 ppg, a shell of his former self. The knee had improved, but his intestines had now swollen up, and he was hospitalised with ulcerative colitis in January 2005. The colitis was severe, not responsive to medication, and became life-threatening; supposedly, Wagner lost roughly 75lbs. Eventually, Wagner had to have his entire colon removed. He missed the whole 2005-06 season.
In a feel-good story, Wagner got as healthy as he could and into the best shape that he could, and returned to the NBA in 2006-07 with the Golden State Warriors. In his first game for the team, on November 11th 2006, Wagner entered the game for the final few minutes of a Warriors 32-point blowout win over Detroit. Entering those final few minutes of the game, Wagner took his first and only shot, a corner three-pointer. He made it, and smiled broadly. Wagner knew that protocol dictates that you should always act like you’ve been there, but after everything that had happened, he didn’t want to. So he didn’t. It was a good moment and remains a good memory.
Unfortunately, it was also his only basket of the season. Wagner played only one game for Golden State before they bought him out in late November. Ostensibly, it’s because Wagner wasn’t going to get any playing time, but in reality, Wagner wasn’t ready. He hadn’t had a chance to develop his skills as a player, and, with the injuries and illnesses stealing the athleticism that defined his game, there wasn’t a whole lot left for Wagner to contribute. He has not played in the NBA since. In fact, he’s played only one since then, when he signed for Polish team Prokom Sopot in the 2007-08 season. In six EuroLeague games, Wagner averaged 8.2 ppg, but was released due to a bad ankle. He has not played since.
Dajuan Wagner news since that time is impossible to find. It’s been over two years since he left Poland, and when a rumoured move to Maccabi Tel-Aviv failed to materialise, that ended Dajuan Wagner basketball news. He worked out for a while with Tim Grover, but now appears to be done with the game, and is back living in his native Camden, New Jersey. Rumour has it that he owns a restaurant there, but this cannot be substantiated.
In recent times, Samaki Walker has ‘done’ Asia. Since being released by the Bucks in training camp 2007, he has gone to a new continent, splitting his time between Syria, China, Lebanon and Korea. This year, for the South Korean team Seoul Knights, Samaki averaged 14.1 points and 9.0 rebounds in 26 minutes per game and 34 contests, before being released due to “poor performance.” They must have had lofty expectations for him; then again, since Samaki Walker is a nine-year NBA veteran.
Samaki Walker fact: Samaki Walker’s full name, Samaki Ijuma Walker, is Swahili. It translated as “Beautiful river of fish.” (….Walker.)
While we’re at it, a bonus Drew Gooden fact that I found out while Googling Dajuan Wagner information: Drew Gooden has a Finnish mother, and thus is eligible to play for the Finnish national team. In fact, he enquired about the possibility of doing so a few years ago, but eventually declined because he didn’t want to jeopardise any chance of joining Team USA in the future.
Gooden played for the US Under-21 national team back in the day, but I don’t think this is sufficient enough to prevent him from playing for Finland. Therefore, I am officially on the “Drew Gooden for Team Finland” bandwagon. With former Hawks forward Hanno Mottola coming out of retirement this season, Finland could put together a semi-decent line-up. Teemu Rannikko, Petteri Koponen, Shawn Huff, Hanno Mottola, Drew Gooden…..you know, I’ve seen worse international line-ups out there. They could beat Wales.
Former South Carolina forward and one-time Celtic Brandon Wallace started the year in Israel with Hapoel Holon. He struggled offensively, however, and averaged only 5.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in 23 minutes per game, leaving after only six weeks to join Turow Zgorzelec in Poland. There, Wallace has averaged 6.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.4 blocks and 0.7 steals per game, doing his usual thing in filling up the stat sheet. However, he still doesn’t have a shot profile to call his own beyond the dunk.
Judson “C.J.” Wallace spent another year with Benetton Treviso, where he tried to show Donatas Bumpyjunas how to rebound. He averaged 9.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in 24 minutes per game in Serie A play, alongside 9.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in the EuroCup. However, after a three game sweep by Montepaschi Siena in round one of the Serie A playoffs, Benetton’s season is now over.
Matt Walsh started the year with Union Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia, and for a while he led the EuroLeague in scoring. This is doubly impressive since he was playing for a team that wasn’t paying him. With Ljubljana’s departure from the EuroLeague came Walsh’s departure from Ljubljana, and he moved to Greece to join David Blatt’s new-look Aris Thessaloniki. His numbers in the Greek league are kind of surprising – 13.8 points and 2.9 assists per game, but with a slightly huge 7.8 rebounds per game.
Offensively, Matt Walsh can do pretty much anything. You just wish he was more athletic.
Travis Walton was the starting shooting guard for the losers in last year’s NCAA Championship game, Michigan State. Tom Izzo loved him, and Walton was certainly the kind of role player that big college basketball programs worship. Despite his marginal talents, Walton explored the possibility of a professional career, first getting a summer league spot with the Detroit Pistons due to his local ties before moving to Switzerland to play for the Lugano Tigers (who are also possibly the only Swiss team you’ve heard of, and who won the Swiss title again this season). In 13 games for the team, Walton averaged 8.9 points and 4.9 assists, before leaving the team in December. Walton returned to Michigan State to work as a student assistant while finishing up his degree, and plans to recommence his playing career next season.
Charlie Ward retired in 2004, and briefly became an assistant coach with the Rockets. However, he left that gig, and has instead found a place and a job that caters to his three biggest passions in life; basketball, American football and Christianity. Ward is now the head football coach at Westbury Christian School in Houston, Texas, as well as an assistant coach on the basketball team.
Question: if you were to ask Charlie Ward whether he regrets turning down an NFL career for his decent if not stand-out NBA career, what would he say? Genuinely intrigued by that.
Warren – the former South Carolina wingman, not the Mississippi point guard – moved to Spain this year to play for Bilbao. He averaged 8.1 points per game in the ACB, and 9.3ppg in the EuroCup.
Since their season ended, Bilbao have made a lot of changes. They have released Paco Vazquez, Renaldas Seibutis, Jerome Moiso (again) and Damir Markota. Warren, however, has made the cut. Bilbao have since chased Matt Nielsen of Valencia, but Nielsen turned them down because he knows he can get better offers elsewhere. After all, he was one of the best players on this year’s EuroCup champion.