- - Wednesday, February 20, 2019

STAROGRAD GDANSKI, Poland | With the clock winding down, Baltimore native Cleveland Melvin connected on a shot from the top of the key, pumping his fist as his late heroics helped MKS Dabrowa Gornicza to a road win in the top Polish pro basketball league.

The former DePaul player has scored more than 1,500 points in a globe-trotting pro career that began in 2014 and has included, in addition to Poland, stints in Hungary, Israel, Mexico, Thailand, Croatia and even Lebanon.

“I didn’t feel in danger,” the 6-foot-8 Melvin said of his time in the Middle East. “I stayed in my apartment and with my team. I was not in bad areas. I was more in the gym and staying in my space.”

Melvin, who averaged double-digit scoring in four seasons at DePaul, is one of dozens of basketball players from the Baltimore-Washington region now playing overseas.

Managing an international basketball career isn’t easy for the American players who choose that path, but it can be even tougher on loved ones back home.



It’s true, says Carla Arrington, whose son, Rodney Glasgow Jr., played at Good Counsel High in Montgomery County and Virginia Military Institute. Since 2014, Glasgow has played in Switzerland and Belgium, and he’s now in his second season with a team in Slovakia.

“I worry about his safety because of everything happening in the world right now,” said Arrington, who lives in Waldorf, Maryland.

It’s worth noting there were more than 150 homicides in the District in 2018 — and 57 murders in all of Slovakia.

“I can’t help it. He will always be my baby,” Arrington texted.

Glasgow, 26, and his mother are close and communicate at least once a week, using the messaging app WhatsApp. The 5-foot-11 guard averaged 9.0 points per game in his first 21 games this season for Prievidza in the top Slovakian league.

“Honestly, I’ve been fortunate to play in countries where I don’t have to worry about (my safety),” Glasgow said in an email. “The only concern is getting through customs. But I’d rather be in Europe than in my own country with all our problems being a black man and seeing what it’s done to people who look like me, or minorities for that matter.”

Omar Prewitt, once a standout at William & Mary, played in hoop-crazy Lithuania and Greece last season in his first year overseas. His parents were visiting him in Greece last season when a riot and protest took place on the street near where his parents were staying. But his parents were safe, as they watched the action up high from their apartment balcony after being tipped by a local to stay inside for a few hours.

This year, Prewitt is with a team in the Polish capital of Warsaw.

“I personally don’t (fear) for my safety,” said Prewitt, sitting in a hotel lobby in downtown Warsaw.

Ben Richardson, who helped Loyola of Chicago to its magical Final Four run last spring, is also a first-year pro in Poland on the same team as Melvin.

“The biggest thing is you to come in with an open mind,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about Poland.”

Glasgow said adapting is key.

“The biggest challenge I had playing on the court overseas, would be adjusting to the European game,” he noted. “The language barrier can also be something if you have a coach who can’t speak English really well. The same goes for teammates, he said, because every country’s teams will have their own local players on the squad.

“So respecting everyone’s culture is a key,” Glasgow said.

Many American players have to decide whether to play minor league ball at home or go overseas. The advantage to staying in the U.S. is being closer to family and friends and, if playing for a G League team, being readily available for an NBA call-up. 

But playing overseas, especially in western European leagues, China or Russia, can mean a much better salary.

“The minuses are you might not be used to being overseas. You have to adjust to everything,” Melvin said, acknowledging the lifestyle isn’t for everyone. “You have to make that important decision in your career.”

 

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