Michigan to Iceland pipeline

April 17, 2012 in Cover Story, Professional

Giordan Watson and J'Nathan Bullock have a chance at a championship in Iceland.

By Patrick Hayes

Once high school and college careers end, there are ample opportunities for basketball players to play professionally. Knowing that, it’s still a bit surprising to see the random corners of the world where some guys end up playing. Case in point: Iceland.

Five players with Michigan ties have been playing in the Icelandic Basketball Express League this season.

J’Nathan Bullock, a Flint Northern graduate, has averaged 20.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game for Grindavik this season. He’s also written some blog posts for ProBasketballOverseas.com about his experiences. In January, Bullock wrote about what led him to Iceland:

The opinions on visiting Iceland yet alone playing Professional Basketball there tend to cross the board. What about the flight, is it long? Not necessarily, a six hour flight isnt that bad but this was the Lords test of patience for me. To seal the deal, the delays turned a day of travel unto 46 hours of travel landing me in Iceland with enough time to take a nap eat some pizza and play in my first game since December 2010. Oh, of course again the wait begins but hey I made it to Iceland! Up next, life in Iceland stay tuned!

In February, he wrote about the crazy winter he experienced:

By now, each day held at least one if not all three of these elements; darkness, snow or wind storms that bullied us senseless It never really crossed my mind that tons of snow storms and the occasional wind storms could lead to a winter wonderland.

Bullock, a star college player at Cleveland State, has been playing professionally since the 2009-10 season, including a stop in Australia. He was also in training camp with a NBA D-League team and tried out for the New York Jets as a football player.

Bullock’s teammate with Grindavik is former Central Michigan and Birmingham Groves player Giordan Watson. Watson is averaging 17.7 points and 6.8 assist per game this season. He has also written about his overseas experience:

It’s honestly, truly a blessing to be on a team where guys don’t mind who scores or takes the shots. We’ve been focusing on getting defensive stops, and playing together on offense, and we’re putting ourselves in position to win games that way. We have a great coach here in Helgi Jonas. You can tell he is a former player, a former point guard at that, and I love that about him. He does a great job of keeping our guys motivated and preparing us for games. We have a pretty deep team, and coach has done a great job of utilizing all of our players. I think a lot of coaches/teams want that deep roster, but to manage that is not always easy, so respect to coach Helgi on that.

Watson was a two-time All-MAC player at CMU. Grindavik recently took a 2-0 series lead in the second round of the playoffs.

Former Detroit Southwestern and Clarion University standout Lloyd Harrison also had a great season in Iceland, playing for the Skallagrimur club. He averaged 21.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.a assists per game. Earlier this month, the Clarion website wrote a story about Harrison:

The 6-foot-1 point guard from Detroit, Mich., who helped Clarion to the PSAC semifinals in 2010, averaged 24.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game in five playoff games and ended the season averaging 21.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.

“The entire experience was great,” Harrison, who was named the league’s Guard of the Year as well as a first-team All-League selection, said. “From the beautiful country, to the people and playing ball was fun. I loved it. The fans are wild and always support you and always show you love when they see you around town.”

Two former Mott Community College players, Richard Field (Port Huron) and Terrence Watson (Detroit Murray-Wright), also saw time in Iceland this season. Field had previously played in the Czech Republic and this was Watson’s first stop as a professional player.

Former University of Detroit and Detroit DePorres standout and Mr. Basketball runner-up Brandon Cotton played three games in Iceland this season, averaging 35 points per game from the Snaefell club.