ROCK ISLAND — Two of the most decorated Augustana College men's basketball players are finally having their basketball futures comes into focus.
It took a bit longer for that to happen than either thought it would — to the point where one former Viking thought his dream might not come to fruition at all.
NCAA Division III All-Americans Chrishawn Orange and Nolan Ebel have signed professional contracts and are overseas to take the next steps in their basketball careers.
Orange (Jacobs HS, Algonquin, Ill.) inked a deal to play professionally with Team Mega in Tbilsi, Georgia, a six-team A League second Division squad. Ebel (Denver, Colo.) has been added to the roster for Circulo Gijon Baloncesto in Spain's LEB Plata league, a third division level league with 24 teams.
While Ebel had been holding out for the right opportunity, Orange had already turned the page and was in sales at Elgin Ford.
“Honestly, I gave it up in a way,” said Orange of feeling as if his basketball career was over after four terrific years at Augustana. “I was just working a regular job. My agent got involved and a team wanted to know my availability. It really came out of the blue.”
Ebel said that his confidence wavered a bit but was hopeful he could land in the right spot.
“I’m a strong believer in 'think it into existence,' so it never came in my head to quit,” said Ebel, who has been working on his game since May's graduation. “But there were times where I called my agent to ask if maybe should we lower our expectations with high-level clubs. But he reassured me that this is a lot more normal than I thought for a rookie. Thankfully it worked out and I’m in my perfect situation in Spain.”
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The opportunities for each are also a bit different. The league Orange is joining started its season this week, while Ebel is an in-season addition. How it happened and the circumstances involved in them landing jobs didn't change their excitement about their futures.
“Me and coach G (Augie coach Grey Giovanine) were talking quite a bit and he said that the first one is the hardest to get,” said Orange of that first pro opportunity. “You just need to get your foot in the door and this is a great opportunity for me and I'm really excited.”
Ebel said he comes into this motivated.
“I am more hungry than ever,” he said in an email after arriving in Spain. “Especially because I was passed up so many times throughout this process. I have a lot that I want to prove and a huge chip on my shoulder.”
Both have the pedigree for success.
After their senior seasons, Ebel and Orange were named first- and second-team All-Central Region, respectively, by D3hoops. In addition, Ebel was named first team All-District by the NABC and second team All-America by D3hoops. He played his final collegiate contest at the Reese's NABC Division III College All-Star Game and was the leading scorer (19) and rebounder (14).
Orange was just the third Viking (John Laing, Drew Carstens) to be named first team All-CCIW three times. He set school records for games played (125) and wins played in (104). He finished sixth on Augustana's career scoring list with 1,466 points and is in the school's career Top 10 in free throws attempted (5th, 477) and made (6th, 336) and ranks 14th in 3-point field goals (114), 15th in 3-point percentage (.403), 13th in assists (257) and 15th in steals (tied with 105).
Ebel was a two-time first team All-CCIW pick who scored 1,401 points in his career to rank seventh in program history and is also in the Top 10 in games played (tied for 5th, 113), assists (4th, 321), free throws made (4th, 387) and attempted (6th, 473), 3-point field goals (6th, 152) and 3-point percentage (6th, .441). His .818 career mark from the free throw line is 15th-best in school history.