Michael Scarlett ’18 thriving in Spanish professional basketball league

Michael Scarlett ’18 routinely put opposing players on skates with a killer crossover and quick-release jumper. Thanks to a feral beard that made him look like the second coming of Teen Wolf, the All-American CMS guard also torched defenses with style.

Since fall, Scarlett has been making a splash in northern Spain for Baloncesto Naron in the Liga EBA, Spanish basketball’s fourth league. Through 11 pro games, he’s averaging a team-high 21 points per game and shooting 43 percent from three-point range.

Scarlett said he began thinking about a professional playing career more seriously during his junior year, a breakout season where he nabbed NCAA Division III All-America and Conference Player of the Year honors. As a 3+2 Economics and Engineering major, Scarlett was accepted into Columbia University. But that would have meant forgoing his senior year with the Stags. The decision to keep his CMS playing career alive led to another set of All-America and Conference Player of the Year awards—and an eye on an even bigger prize after graduation.

“I had worked hard to get to the place I was at as a senior, and I didn’t see any reason why I should stop playing basketball,” said Scarlett, who graduated with a customized Engineering Science and Economics major. “Why not keep doing what I love as long as possible?”

With help from CMS coach Ken Scalmanini, Scarlett spent this past summer at showcases in Las Vegas, Orlando, and San Diego. Scarlett also packaged his career highlights on YouTube, and the combined networking helped him land two contract offers in Spain.

“It’s arguably the best country for basketball other than the United States,” he said. “The Spanish leagues command a lot of respect, and I saw a real opportunity for growth there.”

Scarlett lives in Ferrol, a city in Galicia on the Atlantic coast, and joined Baloncesto Naron in September. He is signed for the season, which would run through May if the team (currently 4-7) makes the playoffs.

Liga EBA is composed of both college-age and older Spanish-born players with a few “imports”—as Scarlett and other non-European players are called—from lower Division I, Division II, and rarest of all, Division III schools. Teams are only allowed two non-European players per roster. So far, the transition to the Spanish leagues has been smoother than expected, Scarlett said.

“It’s been nice to take up for DIII, because most people tend to underestimate that level of competition,” said Scarlett, who cited NCAA Tournament games against perennial powerhouse Whitman College as a typical measure of Spanish league play. “My four-year development as a Stag made the adjustment to the European game easier. I feel that I belong on the court here.”

As part of his contract, Scarlett gets a monthly salary, along with an apartment and two meals a day from the team owner’s Spanish barbecue and pizzeria. He’s been dusting off his high school Spanish admirably, though Scarlett said most of his teammates speak English. The club also sponsors several youth teams in Naron, which has given him an opportunity to coach and experience more of the community’s basketball pride directly.

“Honestly, that often makes my week, seeing these younger players come to our home games to support us. There’ll be 20 kids in line waiting to high five us coming out of the locker room,” Scarlett said. “They love basketball here. It’s pretty special.”

Scarlett isn’t sure where his playing career will take him after Spain. Instead, his main challenge—outside of making sure his teammates don’t shave his beard while he’s sleeping—is to “keep living in the moment.”

“It’s one of my big takeaways from CMC: Always be growing as a person. CMC didn’t take it easy on me, so I don’t want to take it easy on myself,” Scarlett said.

“For me, that means embracing adventure. And it just so happens that basketball is a great way to see the world.”

—Thomas Rozwadowski