The NBA season was scheduled to start this week, but the owners and players have yet to reach a deal, meaning that the Denver Nuggets aren't warming up at the Pepsi Center anytime soon. Which made us wonder: Who else is "locked out?"
Occupation: Unemployed NBA hopeful
What he's doing during the lockout: Waiting for NBA pros to get out of the sandbox.
After a whirlwind year of leading the Northern Colorado Bears—an underdog team in every right—to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and being named All-American, newly graduated Devon Beitzel doesn't have a team jersey to wear. The NBA lockout is, at least partly, to blame. “It’s tough,” he says from his hometown of Erie. “I had something lined up in Spain back in August. I took a gamble because it wasn’t what I was looking for. It wasn’t the top league in Spain. I had a couple other things in the works that have since fallen through. It was indirectly due to the NBA lockout. I lost one job in France to a guy who played for the Hawks last year.”
The overseas market is traditionally home to fresh-from-school, soon-to-be pro players who improve their size, speed, and skills before seeking a coveted spot on NBA roster. But the NBA lockout has flooded foreign courts with top-tier NBA players who aren’t willing to wait out the lockout. More than 64 NBA players have committed to playing abroad, including Denver's Ty Lawson (Lithuania), Kenyon Martin (China), and J.R. Smith (China).
Unable to find a roster spot, 23-year-old Beitzel says this isn't the first time he had trouble finding a place. The 6-foot-1-inch guard was primarily recruited to Division II programs before he joined Northern Colorado. He redshirted his freshman season. After coach Tad Boyle, now at University of Colorado, told Beitzel to get bigger and improve his shot or he wouldn’t play, Beitzel did. Eventually, he became the player who led the Bears on and off the court.
“I thought the same problems I had finding a college, I would have finding a job afterwards,” Beitzel says. “Most teams see me as an undersized, slower guard. I’m not going to blind you with my speed. But, I thought the way I played last year—being named an All-American and how I played in games on ESPN—that it would help out with anyone who doubted me.”
Now, Beitzel’s routine includes daily workouts. (Before the CU season ramped up, he ran with the current team and other NBA hopefuls like former-Buff Cory Higgins.) He's keeping an eye on the NBA negotiations because he knows he is suited for many jobs held up by current NBA pros. “It is a waiting game," Beitzel says. "I have been paying attention to the talk because once this is over those guys have to come back and that will open up a bunch of jobs for guys like me who don’t have a place yet. We just need to get our foot in the door.”
Until then, Beitzel is holding off as long as he can before getting a job off the court. “I haven’t had to get another job yet,” he says with a laugh. “But I’m assuming the time is going to be soon when I am going to have to get something else.” He's surely not the only 23-year-old feeling that way.
—Image courtesy of Northern Colorado Sports Information
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