Aug. 1, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- 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 depart for 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," said 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," said 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."
Former UI men's basketball player Matt 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 on 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 said. "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 said 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 said. "His advice was to shoot whenever I saw space or daylight. There were also some little things on defense too."
Gaten 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 said. "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, said 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," said 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."
Mike Gatens said he and the family plan on visiting Spain at least once depending on Matt's schedule.
"If he comes back around the Christmas season, we would go over in February or March," said Mike Gatens. "If he isn't able to come back, we'll probably visit him in January."
If the past is any indication of what the future holds, Gatens is sure to have success professionally on the court.