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Sears Signs With German Professional Team

Justin Sears (Dave Silverman photo)
Justin Sears (Dave Silverman photo)

Will Play For Giessen 46ers In Prestigious BBL

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Justin Sears '16 will begin his professional basketball career in Germany. Sears, who graduated as Yale's third all-time leading scorer with 1,700 points, has signed a contract with the Giessen 46ers in Germany's BBL.

"Giessen seemed like a great spot to start my professional career," Sears said. "As a rookie, I'll be playing in a high profile league and given the opportunity to further develop as a player. The coach [Denis Wucherer] showed heavy interest in me and can help my game develop. The BBL is considered the second best league in Europe so it will afford me the maximum exposure and the chance to play against the best competition in Europe."

Giessen is a small German city that has a large university and is located about 30 miles north of Frankfurt.

46ers CEO Heiko Schelberg said on the team's website there were numerous competitors for Sears' services.

Sears, the recipient of the 2016 William Neely Mallory Award, the most prestigious athletic award given to a senior male at Yale, graduated as one of Yale's all-time greatest players. He is the only two-time Ivy League Player of the Year award winner in school history and is among the school's career leaders in points (3rd, 1,700), rebounds (4th, 818), blocks (2nd, 200) and free throws made (2nd, 475). In addition, he earned first team All-Ivy recognition in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons, becoming just the third three-time first team selection in school history and the first since Chris Dudley (1985-87).

As a senior, Sears helped guide the Bulldogs to one of the most memorable seasons in their long history. Yale won 23 games, the most since 1906-07, captured the Ivy League title for the second straight year and knocked off Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the first NCAA victory in school history.

Following the season, Sears was invited to play in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division I College All-Star game at the Final Four in Houston. He also attended the prestigious Portsmouth Invitational.

"I think being at Yale has prepared me tremendously for a professional basketball career," he said. "Playing under Coach [James] Jones and his staff has given me an understanding of the importance of the mental side of the sport as well as the small details that can lead to success on the court."

During Sears' career, the Bulldogs won 78 games, the most in any four-year stretch since 1908, and posted a 41-15 Ivy mark, one win shy of the best four-year Ivy stretch in school history.

Sears, a political science major, also made his mark off the court. In February he was named a finalist for the 2015-16 Senior CLASS Award in men's basketball. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School ®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

Sears, who worked out for the Boston Celtics in May, still hopes to secure an NBA Summer League invitation. His contract with the 46ers has an opt out that would allow him to attend an NBA training camp. Otherwise, he is scheduled to leave for Germany in early August.

Sears, a Plainfield, New Jersey, native, will become the third former Bulldog playing professionally, joining Javier Duren '15, who recently completed an outstanding rookie season for Aris Leeuwarden in Holland, and Greg Mangano '12, who wrapped up another strong season with Kangoeroes Willebroek in Belgium's Scooore League.

There is a long list of players that have earned professional opportunities during James Jones' tenure as the head coach at Yale. Edwin Draughan '05 enjoyed a long and very successful career, playing mostly in Switzerland. In addition, Ted Smith '00 (England), Matt Minoff '04 (Israel), Paul Vitelli '04 (Italy), Dominick Martin '06 (Spain), Matt Kyle '08 (Portugal), Caleb Holmes '08 (Iceland), Ross Morin '09 (Switzerland), Paul Nelson '10 (Romania, Slovakia), Eric Flato '08 (England), Sam Martin '14 (England) Reggie Willhite '12 (Germany) and Jeremiah Kreisberg '14 (Israel) have all played overseas. In addition, Alex Zampier '10 (NBA D-League), Travis Pinick '09 (NBA D-League) and Neil Yanke '01 (tryout with Los Angeles Lakers) had opportunities in the United States.

Report filed by Tim Bennett (timothy.bennett@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity