The Facebook post that announced it to the world didn’t show much — a 6’3” frame signing a stack of papers while hunched over a black desk.
But for Miles Jackson-Cartwright, it showed enough.
The former Penn basketball guard formally signed with the Dutch Basketball League’s Aris Leeuwarden on July 23rd, ending a search for a professional contract that began after Commencement.
“They really want to win, and they’re gonna do everything they can to win,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “So I’m really excited about this opportunity.”
Founded in 2004, Aris Leeuwarden has quickly climbed the ranks of the DBL, having qualified for the league’s postseason in each of the past five seasons.
And Jackson-Cartwright will be far from the only American to be playing for Aris Leeuwarden this season as well. The club’s 2013-14 roster included five players from the United States, the most notable being point guard Darius Theus, a member of the 2011 VCU squad that reached the Final Four.
Several days after inking Jackson-Cartwright, the club also announced the signing of one of the Penn captain’s former AAU opponents and workout partners — former Boise State power forward Ryan Watkins.
The contract offer “came out of the blue” — his words — for Jackson-Cartwright, who had been aided in his search for a professional contract by Quakers coach Jerome Allen.
“They expressed an interest and said they really wanted me. They wanted a scoring guard who could share the ball and also put the ball in the hole,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “It just really felt like a good fit from the get-go.”
Aiding Jackson-Cartwright’s search for a professional home was a trip to Las Vegas from July 13-15 to compete at the Worldwide Invitational, a camp for aspiring European and Asian players held at UNLV’s campus.
Players were drafted by Euro and Asian league coaches onto different tournament teams before playing four games in the span of two days.
Picked 34th overall by Liam Flynn, head coach of the New Zealand National Basketball League’s Nelson Giants, Jackson-Cartwright proceeded to play far above his supposed stock, averaging 9.5 points per game over the span of the camp.
Jackson-Cartwright was far from the only representative of the Philly hoops world or the Ivy League at the camp. Other rosters included Drexel’s Frantz Massenat, Temple’s Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, Villanova’s Dominic Cheek and Princeton’s Ian Hummer.
All of that prime-time exposure to the top representatives of overseas basketball ultimately proved invaluable to Jackson-Cartwright’s professional dreams.
“There were so many GMs and scouts there. Pretty much every Euroleague team. Almost 150 different coaches and GMs,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “I just really played well.
“I was really grateful I was able to go to the camp because without it I don’t know if I’d be signed at this point.”
Also helping Jackson-Cartwright along on his journey to the pros was the prestigious Impact Basketball Academy, founded by former Bobby Knight assistant Joe Abunassar.
Boasting alumni such as Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince and Chauncey Billups, Abunassar’s programs have become a hotspot for NBA players as well as college grads.
And it was a pair of former NBA players that helped train Jackson-Cartwright before his showcase — ex-Clippers Rasual Butler and Craig Smith.
Going up against basketball’s best pushed Jackson-Cartwright’s game to another level — a step he needed to make before plying his talents overseas.
“To really see what it really takes to become a pro, it was really great for me to really see that,” Jackson-Cartwright said.
The Penn alum doesn’t depart for the Netherlands until August 30th. Until then, he’ll work out, mentally prepare himself for the jump, and maybe, for just a little bit, bask in the glory of a dream becoming reality.
“It’s really been a long journey,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “And for it to continue in a great place like Holland with a great organization, it’s really a blessing.”
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