Ryan Boatright is leaving the D-League - and the country - to continue his basketball career in Italy. Boatright was waived last week by the Grand Rapids Drive and signed with Betaland Capo d'Orlando in ‘Serie A', Italy's top league.
The move by Boatright isn't that surprising. After four years at UConn, the guard was undrafted in the 2015 and signed with the Brooklyn Nets. After averaging just over 14 points in NBA Summer League, Boatright played in four preseason game for the Nets before his contract was placed on waivers in early October. He was quickly signed by the Detroit Pistons, waived again, then signed by the Grand Rapids Drive. Boatright played in twenty games for the Drive, starting just five, averaging 11.1 points and 2.85 assists.
The decision to take his career overseas was largely based on playing opportunities. Boatright's mother, Tanesha Boatright, told the Chicago Tribune that Boatright requested to be waived. The decision stemming from uncertainties surrounding playing time when Pistons' players were assigned to the Drive.
Boatright's choice was undoubtedly a difficult one and one that many young D-League players face. The NBADL provides key opportunities for players that aren't available anywhere else in the world. They can live and work in familiar settings, see a clear path for development, and they're always under the watchful eye of NBA executives who are on the lookout for talent. At first glance, playing overseas is everything a young basketball player wouldn't want. There are cultural barriers, no network of family and friends, and thousands of miles between players and their goal: the NBA.
It's no question why a player like Boatright opted first to play in the D-League before looking at his options abroad. It looks like a safer choice. But all those negatives a young player sees when thinking about playing in Europe or Asia may not be that bad. While it's true most American players will face major cultural differences and have few family or friends to rely on, that may be for the best. Without anyone taking care of them, the maturation process for a young player will happen faster. They'll develop the skills to communicate with foreign teammates and media members that will pay dividends should they get a chance in the NBA.
A player's fear of being forgotten by scouts and NBA executives when they go overseas isn't unfounded. The D-League is accessible and closely monitored, certainly more so than many foreign leagues. However, as Ryan Boatright may find, the opportunity to star is far greater outside of the United States. In Grand Rapids, Boatright started just five games this season and attempted less than 10 field goals per game. With Capo d'Orlando in Italy, Boatright will start every game and likely be the go to scorer.
Players like Boatright can't always make it playing professionally in the U.S. at the beginning of their career. But playing overseas is a viable and smart option when the D-League isn't giving a player the chance to improve or impress. Players like J.R. Smith and Brandon Jennings are proof that there is an overseas to NBA connection. So while he will be a few thousand miles away, keep an eye on Boatright. Whenever he returns to the U.S., Expect him to return a little more polished and mature.