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For Skinn, life of hoops has little payoff
Many players who venture overseas experience similar problems. They go without getting paid for long stretches, and some never get their money. Others receive hostile treatment because they are American.
Skinn’s old backcourt mate at George Mason, Lamar Butler, had his own problems overseas. Butler went from the most outstanding player in the Washington, D.C., region of the 2006 NCAA tournament to the obscurity of a hoops outpost in the Czech Republic.
There, Butler saw his playing time fluctuate wildly for no apparent reason and had problems with the coach. He vowed never to go back. However, when asked which former Patriots player had it worse, Butler didn’t hesitate.
“I would never go back to a country like that,” Skinn said. “I have heard horror stories. And now from firsthand experience, I have to go to a country where I know exactly what is going on — Italy, France, Spain or something like that.”
Skinn arrived home shortly before Christmas, unemployed and fed up, then finally caught a break. One of the other French teams that pursued him before he signed with Roanne — Clermont — offered him a contract. Shortly after the New Year, Skinn was on another plane back to Europe.
Finally, things turned out well: Skinn found a home for the next four months and finished the season in France. And the Clermont experience helped make up for an otherwise depressing first year as a professional.
“For a while I thought it was me, but it wasn’t,” said Skinn, who averaged 12.9 points and made 40 percent of his 3-pointers while helping the club stay out of the bottom three in the league and, therefore, in the top division. “In the back of my head I am thinking, ‘It can’t be me.’ But in the front of my head, I’m thinking, ‘It could be me.’ ”
Skinn is hoping for the best in his NBA audition but realizes he soon may be on another trans-Atlantic flight. The ex-Patriots player does not fancy himself a world traveler, but he is willing to globe trot if it keeps his hoops career alive.
“Just going over there and seeing a different culture and being a part of it is definitely a learning experience,” he said. “I can’t get mad because at the end of the day I was playing basketball and getting paid to do it.”
Except in Croatia, where paychecks apparently are optional.
By David Keene
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