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The next chapter
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After 23 years, an Iowa City native will be on the move. In mid-August, former University of Iowa men's basketball player Matt Gatens will head overseas to continue his basketball career professionally in Spain.
Gatens announced Tuesday that he has signed a one-year contract to play for UCAM-Murcia. The team is located in Murcia, Spain, which is about a half hour from the coast, located in the southeast part of the country.
"I'm excited," says Gatens. "This is a great opportunity to see the world and get paid to play basketball in the best European league they have to offer."
Based on UCAM-Murcia's schedule last season, Gatens expects to play from October to May for the same team that employed former Hawkeye Jared Reiner (2001-04) for a couple of months. Gatens also has been in contact with former Hawkeye Luke Recker (2001-02) about what to expect in Spain.
"I was picking Luke's brain on certain things, asking for advice and stuff like that because he played overseas in Spain too," says Gatens.
Gatens is coming off a two-week stint in July with the Phoenix Suns summer league team, where he practiced for a week in Phoenix and then played in three games in Las Vegas. The 6-foot-5, 212-pound guard averaged 6.3 points and one rebound in the three contests. He netted 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in only nine minutes in his final game July 20.
The former Hawkeye noticed immediately that the competition level is a step up from the college game.
"The guys are bigger, faster, and stronger at the next level," Gatens says. "While I was there, most of the time you are working on individual improvement. My goal was to prove that I could shoot the ball at that level. My ticket to that league will be to shoot it and spread the floor. I wanted to show that I could do that when I got in the game."
While training with the Suns, Gatens says former NBA player and summer league head coach Dan Majerle was a big help.
"He (Majerle) could relate to me because he was a shooter in the league as well," Gatens says. "His advice was to shoot whenever I saw space or daylight. There were also some little things on defense too."
Gatens knew he was going to have to leave Iowa City if he wanted to continue playing professionally.
"I knew this day was going to come if I wanted to continue to play basketball," he says. "I've been gone most of this summer, but this will be different. I'm excited and ready for this new challenge. I'll be able to stay in touch with family and friends via Skype."
Gatens' father, Mike, says he is extremely proud of this next step, but not surprised because of his work ethic.
"I know Matt's goal is still the NBA, and he sees this as a stepping stone," says Mike Gatens. "I'm very proud of him, and to get in the top European League right away is a tremendous accomplishment. Not making an NBA squad this fall will motivate him.
"Coach McCaffery made Matt twice the player he was defensively and offensively. Not only did Matt improve as a player at Iowa, but he's made strides since March."