For the first time in a long time, Chris Siebert didn’t know exactly what to do with himself when his final basketball season at Lawrence University ended in late February.
Soon there would be no more school. No more basketball.
“The season ended and it was kind of surreal. It was weird,” Siebert said. “It’s a game that I had loved for so long and had been working at for so long. It sunk in, like, it’s done. I’ll never play organized basketball again.”
And then an early March email reignited the former Baraboo High School standout’s basketball career. The message, from Director of USA Sports Tours and Events Ron Smith, was an invitation to play on the USA Division III men’s basketball team for the Brazil Tour 2014 this week. It was first sent to D-III All-Americans and then made its way to the D-III All-Region selections, such as Siebert.
It was on first-come, first-serve basis. Siebert didn’t waste any time.
“I hopped on the opportunity right away,” he said. “I didn’t want to pass it up.”
For a couple of reasons. First, because the last time he traveled outside the country he was in elementary school on a trip to the Bahamas. Second, because he hopes this could open the door to his lifelong goal of playing professional basketball.
Siebert graduated from BHS in 2009 but said he knew well before then what his career aspirations were.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was 13, to play somewhere overseas,” Siebert said. “It really drove me through high school. I worked really hard, and I always envisioned myself at least going for it. But now that I’m getting the opportunity and really trying, it’s nerve-racking and fun at the same time. It is something that I always thought about. It’s something I always had in the back of my mind. I like to take what you enjoy doing and try to find a way to make money doing it.”
Siebert – who graduated from Lawrence with a degree in government this May – is one of 10 players on the USA team. The group is first spending three practice days in Orlando starting on Monday before heading to Brazil, where they will play four games against Brazilian professional teams through July 30 – three games in the state of Sao Paulo and another in Rio de Janeiro.
The team will be led by Coe College coach Bryan Martin. You can follow the team’s tour on Facebook at USA Sports Tours and Events.
Siebert capped his Lawrence career with first-team All-Midwest Conference and third-team All-Midwest Region honors this year. He was a three-time all-conference pick and averaged 17.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists in his senior season. For his career, Siebert finished fourth on the all-time scoring list for the Vikings with 1,360 points.
Lawrence coach Joel DePagter echoed Siebert’s notion that this week could be a chance for him to catch on internationally.
“Chris has talked for years about his dream of playing basketball professionally, and this will certainly help him get closer to realizing that dream,” said DePagter in a press release sent out by Lawrence this week. “I think he realizes what a great opportunity this team is, and hopefully he meets the right people and gets a chance.”
Siebert – who just returned to Baraboo over the weekend from an exposure camp in Las Vegas that featured about 180 Division I, II and III players – said he is looking forward to both the basketball and the chance to do what he didn’t in college.
“I lived with three teammates for the last three years of college,” Siebert said. “The second semester of our junior year, all three of those guys studied abroad and I did not. They all went to London, and they all came back just gleaming about how it was such a positive experience. Not that I was jealous, but I was just like, ‘I should’ve done that. I should’ve taken the time to travel and see some things.’ I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity to just see a different culture.”
If Siebert ends up networking and building a few connections, it’s the cherry on top.
“That’s the end goal,” he said.