2009-07-10 / Sports

Pro Dreams Come True For Baptiste

By Elio Velez

Nate Jean Baptiste is a confident player on the basketball court. But it was less than a year ago that he was staring at the crossroads of achieving his goal to become a professional player.

The 25-year old Far Rockaway native had graduated from Concodia College with a degree in business management. Baptiste could have started to look for a job, but he never wanted to go through life thinking of what might have been.

That mindset led to travel thousands of miles by himself to Colgone, Germany in September of 2008. He would try one last time to achieve the goal of becoming

He was giving it one final chance at the Slammers Basketball Camp to showcase his point guard skills to European teams. Paying his own way to compete, the 5-7, 155-pound point guard stood tall against the opposition. After going through a year which he had hard luck getting a contract, the Schwäbisch Hall Flyers of the German Basketball League Fourth Division called and made his dreams come true.

Baptiste recently returned home and spoke to the Wave after going through a year of personal triumph. He's adjusted well to his new surroundings in the small northern German town.

On the court, the point guard averaged 15 points and dished 8 assists per game as Schwabisch captured the Fourth Division championship.

"I always felt this was a great opportunity," Baptiste said. "They saw me play, the coach loved me. It was stable. They wanted me here for two years. I had a chance to play at a higher level but I felt I got to be patient. I'll get there."

Just getting to Europe was an ordeal in itself. Baptiste never played competitive high school basketball when he attended the Church of God Christian Academy. His family wanted to put Baptiste in a smaller and safer environment than attending Far Rockaway High School. Church of God did not have a high school varsity team, so Baptiste could only played against his contemporaries in pick up games.

Baptiste longed to play basketball at the college level. So to achieve that goal, he spoke to Chris Frazier, who was then an assistant varsity coach at Bishop Loughlin High School to get help.

Frazier organized an open gym tryout for local colleges to look at players. Baptiste showed enough promise with his athletic ability to get an offer to attend Sullivan Community College in Westchester. It was a period of a tough adjustment to play organized basketball, especially with a team regarded as one of the best in the junior college ranks.

"My first two months in practice was the most difficult I ever had. I was the closest to quitting. I was thinking this is not for me," Baptiste said. "It wasn't looking like I was improving and my teammates were angry at me. But I never been one to quitting and I kept pushing and pushing."

He pushed himself enough to do well and eventually land at Concordia College, a school located in the town of Bronxville in Westchester. After a tough junior season in which the team only won two games, Baptiste decided to stick it out and play with the Eagles in his final season. It turned out to be a wise move.

Baptiste had improved his offensive game, which added an extra dimension to his already established defensive prowess. Concordia had a winning season and went to the semifinals of the New York Collegiate Athletic Conference for the only time in their history.

Baptiste decided to make a move to the professional ranks after graduating in the spring of 2007. But throughout the next year, he didn't find any luck in getting a team.

He had problems with agents who had broken promises to locate a team in Europe to play with. He had short stints with Sacramento and Westchester of the American Basketball Association.

But he wasn't about to pack it in just yet. Earning enough money by working three jobs, Baptiste funded his own trip to Cologne to get to the Slammers camp last fall. Being persistent has gotten him through tough times and it was no different. He was elbowed in the face by an opponent and his front tooth was almost dislodged from his mouth.

Playing through the pain, he wound up one of the top five players rated by the camp and was signed by Schwäbisch Hall. Baptiste heard the whispers he was too small, or not talented enough to have a pro career. But when he returns toGermany in a week , he will continue living the dream.

"Seven months ago I was about to go crazy and now I'm on a championship team." Baptiste said. "To do that my first year, I felt blessed and very grateful to have this opportunity."

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