- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tony Skinn’s career had a promising enough start.

Not long after helping George Mason through an astonishing run to the Final Four in 2006, the point guard signed a $100,000, no-cut contract to play in the top basketball league in France.

Skinn signed early, passing on offers to go elsewhere. The French team placed a huge picture of Skinn on the main page of its Web site to promote its new acquisition. At George Mason coach Jim Larranaga’s camp last summer, Skinn was all smiles as he talked about his promising future.

“It started out I had a good deal, nice money in Roanne,” Skinn said. “It was an offer I couldn’t turn down. I took it. I didn’t bother with the [NBA Development League] or anything like that because I had a son and the NBDL doesn’t pay anything. And I was playing in one of the better leagues in Europe, France Pro A.”

The outlook still may be bright, it just won’t have anything to do with Roanne. Skinn and the coach didn’t get along, and the guard left before the start of the regular season.

That began a roundball odyssey for Skinn, who then went to Croatia but quickly left after the club failed to pay him the money he was promised. It wasn’t until another stop in France that Skinn found a good — and paying — situation.

“I am going to keep playing basketball until I can’t run and jump, no matter where,” Skinn said. “If you have the opportunity to do something you like, you have to take advantage of it while you can. You could be out here working 9-to-5 doing something you don’t like to do. And you are not making $100,000 doing it or even $50,000 doing it.”

The undersized — Skinn is listed as 6-foot-1 — and ultra-quick guard is back home this summer getting ready for the next phase of his career. Later this week, he will participate in an NBA summer league camp with the Orlando Magic.

Skinn knows he is a long shot for the NBA, but he says his ball-hawking defense, exceptional quickness and offensive outbursts give him a chance. If he doesn’t make it to the world’s top league, Skinn is prepared — though not excited — to go abroad again.

“I am not a fan of Europe,” he said.

Skinn failed to make it past the preseason in Roanne, where he said the coach went out of his way to abuse him, treating each day like a tryout. The coach barely said a word to him while trying to change the shooter into more of a pass-first guard.

“It was just problems from the jump,” Skinn said while taking a break from his basketball camp at his old high school, Takoma Academy. “The first day I got there my agent was calling. I just knew something was wrong. It had little to do with me or my game. It was a real uneasy feeling. I think the team financially wasn’t ready to pay me that much money. They just signed me to that kind of money for whatever reason.”

He left Roanne after five weeks and flew home in late September to regroup. Skinn soon agreed to play in Croatia. While the level of competition was great — he played alongside several Americans on Toni Kukoc’s old club, the well-regarded KK Split — Skinn soon discovered another problem.

“They loved my game, but they weren’t paying me my money,” Skinn said. “My contract had [said] if I wasn’t getting paid within 30 days, I could leave and sue for the whole thing. I was patient with them. After 30 days, I didn’t get paid. I didn’t want to have to leave.”

After nearly seven weeks with no income, Skinn again exited Europe. He eventually received his salary for about a month.

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