After months and months of anticipation, former Wildcat standouts Nathan Taphorn and Sanjay Lumpkin have both signed contracts to play professional basketball overseas.
Lumpkin has signed to play a full year for the Leuven Bears in Belgium, while Nathan Taphorn has agreed to a trial contract with KK Zadar in Croatia. Both Lumpkin and Taphorn announced their signings via social media.
Headed off to start my career off with a trial contract with KK Zadar in Croatia.. We will see how it goes!— Nathan Taphorn (@NU_nate32) September 5, 2017
Lumpkin announced his signing early last month. This past summer, he played with the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Summer League but only saw limited minutes on the court. He also played summer basketball with other NBA prospects in Minnesota before making the decision to head overseas.
While Lumpkin grew as a player each year on the court at Northwestern, it is difficult to see his true success from looking at his stat-line...mainly because his role extended way beyond the court. As a fifth-year senior, Lumpkin led the team and continued to help others grow and develop on and off the court.
While playing in Belgium, Lumpkin will have the opportunity to learn from established players and continue to score the ball more frequently. If he can prove his worth on both ends of the court with his new team, he may be able to make an NBA Summer League roster again in 2018.
In five games with the Pelicans’ Summer League team, Lumpkin scored just seven points on 25 percent shooting (2-8).
Nathan Taphorn’s contract is different from Lumpkin’s. Taphorn just arrived in Croatia on Monday, and his deal with KK Zadar seems like it is the equivalent of a partially-guaranteed deal in the NBA. He will have the opportunity to showcase his skills and work towards a long-term contract, but for now, he is there on a trial contract. He will have a certain amount of time to showcase his skills and work towards making an official team roster.
His initial contract will last a month. After it runs its course, KK Zadar will decide whether or not they will sign him to a deal for a full season, or cut him from the roster.
Taphorn’s success at Northwestern was primarily as a three-point shooting specialist off the bench. He shot 41.4 percent from deep over his four-year career, making 101 of his 244 three-point attempts. On the flip side, his defense does need some work, despite showing gradual improvement at Northwestern. As a small 6-foot-7 forward, he has struggled to stay in front of quicker athletes and guarding bigger forwards.
As for the coming season, it’s obvious that Taphorn has a real test ahead of him if he wants to make a professional roster. Yet, if he performs well, particularly from deep, KK Zadar could sign him for the full season.
Taphorn and Lumpkin both left their marks on Northwestern, as they lead the Wildcats to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. Taphorn and Lumpkin join former Wildcats Drew Crawford, John Shurna, Tre Demps, and Alex Olah, who are also playing professional basketball overseas for the 2017-2018 season.
It is exciting to watch players who had success on the court in college achieve their dreams professionally. While rookie contracts overseas are just the start of a long journey, these former Wildcats deserve a lot of credit for even landing on the professional radar.