Former UMD basketball player pursues hoops dreams in Portugal

BY AUSTIN RUSH | The Statesman Brett Ervin’s post-grad life has been an experience quite unlike most UMD graduates.

UMD’s No. 8 all-time scorer moved to Guimarães, Portugal after graduating this past spring in order to play professional basketball. He signed a contract with the Vitória Sport Clube professional basketball team in July and began the season in October.

The former Eden Prairie High School standout averaged 19.1 points per game as a senior at UMD last season with the Bulldogs, shooting a healthy 46.9% from the field in the process.

But Ervin’s European hoops dreams manifested far before that, in his first season as a Bulldog in 2010-2011.

“I think after my freshmen year at UMD it really came clear to me that I could play professionally in Europe, especially with multiple people telling me that. So for the rest of my time at UMD I made it my goal to play pro ball,” Ervin said.

Ervin carried his freshman success into his sophomore and junior seasons, averaging 13.1 and 16.2 PPG respectively. He racked up not only the points but an abundance of praise from those around him.

“He could score in the post on anybody and almost all the teams in our conference would have to double team him. He had a great fade-away jump shot in the post, among other moves. It was pretty cool to watch him score close to 30 at Notre Dame last year,” former teammate Peter Crawford said.

His senior season of high expectations ended prematurely when he sustained a torn meniscus in a preseason game just a week before the season opener.

“A lot of people don't know how hard Brett worked two years ago to come back from his torn meniscus,” Crawford said.

Getting a medical redshirt that year, Ervin returned the following season to finish what he started by putting up career-best numbers.

”Brett was a scorer. He’s a skilled player, you know, he’s the kind of guy who you want to get touches for because he’s going to produce at a high percentage and I think guys really enjoyed playing with him because he has a multi-skillset,” head coach Matt Bowen said.

While most post-grads are working at a new job, Ervin was working on his conditioning this past summer. He knew that in order to be successful professional athlete in Portugal, he had to train like one.

“The pace of play is a lot faster than college. I knew if I wanted to play pro ball I had to be in really good shape. I had a very productive summer working out which made it a lot easier when I got here,” Ervin said.

In preparation for the new rules of European professional basketball, Ervin used previous knowledge from his college days to better prepare himself for his rookie season.

“There are some different rules here but nothing that took a while to get used to. The biggest change was the shot clock. 24 seconds isn't a lot of time so it took a while to get used to. I learned that a bad shot in college is a great shot at the pro level.

Rules were just one aspect of the game Ervin had to adapt to. He also had to learn to play against men more than ten years older than him.

“It's so much more of a mental game out here too. There's 35-plus-year-olds in the league and even though they’re not as athletic as they once were, their experience and smartness makes them very good still. But I enjoy learning every single day,” Ervin said.

Even though Ervin is a rookie playing in a foreign country thousands of miles away from his home, he has become comfortable playing with Vitória Sport Clube. The Minnesotan is averaging 12.9 points per game on 32 minutes while shooting 50% from the field so far in his first year of professional basketball.

“I have proven that I can not only play at the pro level but can play a very big role in my team’s success,” Ervin said.

Ervin may be living the dream as a professional basketball player, but at the end of the day he’s just happy to play the game he loves.

“I'm getting paid to play a game that I love. There aren't too many people that can say that they play a game for their job,” Ervin said.

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