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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette James Blackmon Jr., shown playing with the Wisconsin Herd last year, has signed a contract to play in Italy, where he hopes to prove he can still fulfill his dream of playing in the NBA.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018 1:00 am

Blackmon Jr. decides to play in Italy

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

James Blackmon Jr. is headed to Italy. 

The former Bishop Luers and Indiana Hoosiers star has agreed to a deal with Victoria Libertas Pesaro, a team in Lega Basket Serie A, the top basketball league in Italy, he confirmed to The Journal Gazette on Tuesday.

Blackmon Jr. declined to disclose the terms of his deal, citing the advice of his agent, but said he was excited to play in a top-quality league.

“It's a great step in the direction I want to go,” he said. “It's not where I thought I would be at this point in my career, but it's a great step in terms of getting that exposure, getting paid to play and being in the top league in Italy.

“It's a great step in where I want to take my game and a good step toward my ultimate goal, which is the NBA.”

Blackmon Jr.'s fellow former Bishop Luers standout DeShaun Thomas also has a new team. The third-leading scorer in the history of Indiana high school basketball, Thomas signed a one-year deal worth about $530,000 with Panathinaikos of the Greek League on Sunday.

Thomas, 26, has played overseas most of his pro career, playing for teams in France, Spain, Turkey and, most recently, Israel. He averaged 11.5 points and shot a career-best 42.5 percent from beyond the 3-point line with a Tel Aviv-based team in 2017-18.

Blackmon Jr., 23, played all of last season – his first as a professional – in the NBA G League, first for the Delaware 87ers and then for the Wisconsin Herd after a January trade. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard played 47 games overall, starting 20, and averaged 14.4 points while shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range.

He said his offers from NBA teams heading into this season were of the non-guaranteed variety. He also had offers from teams overseas and decided to go with one of them in the hope of demonstrating to NBA teams he is worthy of a guaranteed deal in the future. 

“I just wanted to make the best decision for me,” Blackmon Jr. said. “This will put me in a position to where I can show what I can do, get back to myself. I feel there's a lot more I can show on the court.” 

VL Pesaro's position in the best basketball league in Italy also played a role.

“You can't really get much more exposure and competition than that,” he said. “At the same time, I'm getting paid in a beautiful place to play the game that I love. So for me it was a no-brainer.”

Blackmon Jr.'s deal includes an option for the 2019-20 season in which he can either return to the NBA system or play for Olimpia Milano, a EuroLeague team in Milan, Italy.

Blackmon Jr., who played his first three high school seasons at Bishop Luers before playing for Marion as a senior, said he's ready to experience a different culture in Italy and knows the team has a rabid fan base.

“I did my research and this team (Pesaro), it's packed in (their arena),” he said. “It's a good environment, they love basketball over there. ... I feel that I'll get used to (the new culture) and it's something that will make me grow as a person.”

dsinn@jg.net