Sadly, Ross Neltner has hung up his jersey. Neltner, the former Commodore forward who could be counted on to show up huge for 3 games per season - two against Kentucky and one against LSU - has called it quits on his basketball career to move into the consulting world. You can find him now at Cumberland Consulting Group in Nashville, putting in corporate work after a basketball career that spanned four countries in two years.
Neltner's LinkedIn profile suggests that he "excelled" in all four leagues, and it's tough to argue based on his stats in his last stop with Kouvot Kouvola in Finland's Korisliiga. Check out his performance in a blowout win against Torpan Pojat Helsinki - 28 points and 12 rebounds. He also had 17 and 17 against Uu-Korihait Uusikaupunki. And let's not forget 19 and 14 in the team's season opener versus Pyrinto Tampere. On the season, Nellie averaged 15.4 points and 8.3 rebounds against some of Scandinavia's best players.
Ok, so it isn't the most impressive competition, but Neltner went out on top. After stops in Turkey, Poland, and Uruguay he put a hurting on some dirty Laplanders and came back to the states a triumphing hero. Of course, he isn't the only player from those mid-2000s teams playing professionally. Derrick Byars is still cutting his teeth in the NBA's Developmental League after being the Chicago Bulls' last player cut in 2009. Shan Foster has drifted to Belgium. A.J. Ogilvy is sharing the spotlight in Turkey with Allen Iverson (when healthy). In all, Kevin Stallings's former recruits have become a presence overseas.
Today, we'll look at three former 'Dores who are still playing professional ball and hoping for a call-up to the NBA. Though Neltner has retired, his old teammates are pressing on without him. Players like...
Jermaine Beal (left in 2010)
After a two game stint in Sopot, Poland, Beal came back stateside to play for the San Antonio Spurs affiliate Austin Toros of the D-League. His rights are currently unowned after being cut by the Miami Heat in the preseason, so his best bet to make it to the NBA will be to be signed by a point guard starved team (perhaps the Cavaliers?). However, Beal hasn't been much of a distributor in his backup role for the Toros, averaging 7.3 points and 2.7 assists in just over 20 minutes per game.
Best Game: at Springfield - 13 points, eight assists, and three rebounds in 27 minutes.
A.J. Ogilvy (left in 2010)
After declaring for the NBA Draft in 2010, Ogilvy wasn't selected and instead signed on with the Chicago Bulls where a lackluster performance led to an early cut. The Australian scored just three points in three games and shot a paltry 1-7 before heading overseas to play in Turkey. After a rocky start, the Australian Sheik has averaged 17.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks over his last seven games.
Analysts familiar with Ogilvy's play in Australia suggested he was better fit for the international game, and he's beginning to prove these pundits right. Ogilvy is having a bigger impact on his team than Allen Iverson had and has proven to be an effective and efficient scorer in the paint. It will be interesting to see whether he stays in Turkey after this season or if he's drafted up to a more prestigious league in Europe.
Best Game: vs. Turk Telekom - 24 points (8-11 shooting), nine rebounds, one block.
Alex Gordon (Left in 2008)
Gordon has developed into the sixth man for the best team in France's premier division, Chorale de Roanne Basket. He was able to parlay his previous success (and gunning, yelling, jersey-popping) in Turkey and apply it to a higher level of ball, although now as a key reserve rather than as a star. Gordon has been his team's microwave off the bench and like Ogilvy is getting better as the season wears on. He's averaged 11.5 points and 2.5 three-pointers per game in 21.5 minutes per game over his last six outings.
While Gordon is still a gunner at heart, his instant offense from the bench has been an asset for Roanne, who are 12-3 on the season and 6-1 in games where he plays 18 minutes or more. Though his play doesn't put him in line for a NBA callup anytime soon, it's clear that he's developing a clear value as a European player.
Best Game: vs. Le Mans - 20 points (11-11 FTs), three rebounds, two assists
Beal, Ogilvy, and Gordon are all experiencing different degrees of success in 2011. Beal is probably the closest to a NBA call-up, Ogilvy is producing the most, and Gordon is playing for the most successful team. Of course, they aren't the only former Commodores kicking around Europe and elsewhere. Stay tuned during basketball's slow weeks for reports on guys like Shan Foster, Derrick Byars, Alan Metcalfe, Dan Cage, Matt Freije, Dan Langhi, and other memorable Vandy alums.