Above the rim in the Land Down Under

Caleb Davis epitomizes the latest recruitment strategy putting Saginaw Valley State University’s men’s basketball program on the map — and in more than one hemisphere: He was one of the first of several players head coach Randy Baruth recruited from Australia. This fall, Davis plans to become the latest Cardinal alumnus to compete professionally in the land down under.

“Coach Baruth and SVSU have slowly been building a strong connection to Australia over the last five seasons,” Davis said.

Since Baruth’s hiring at SVSU in 2013, five Australian players have committed to playing at SVSU, while three Cardinals have signed contracts with Australian teams after their Ryder Center playing days.

The coach said the pipeline between SVSU and Australia has been aided by his network of Australia-based friends who help him recruit players and later assist former Cardinals interested in playing professionally in the country.

That Australian connection has coincided with one of the winningest stretches in the SVSU program’s history, including the team’s advancement to the NCAA Division II tournament’s Elite Eight in 2016.

“We needed to find a niche to compete with the rest of the GLIAC,” Baruth said of the Australian recruitment strategy.

That niche worked out well for several student-athletes, including Davis, who moved from Australia to join SVSU’s team during Baruth’s first season. By the time Davis finished his last class at SVSU in June 2017, the finance major had already signed a deal to play with the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s National Basketball League.

“Just through mutual contacts, I was lucky enough to have an agent and a coach reach out to me and pull to get me over there as soon as possible,” Davis said.

Other former Cardinals who signed to play professionally in Australia include Damon Bozeman and Kellen Smith.

Smith, a criminal justice major who graduated in 2016, inked a contract with the Norwood Flames Basketball Club in May 2017. The Covington, Kentucky, native was the Cardinals’ all-time leader in assists.

Bozeman, a health science major who graduated in December 2016, signed a deal to play with the Bulleen Boomers of the Australia-State League. The Detroit native led the league in scoring this year with 30.1 points per game.

“It’s a great experience to be able to travel the world and do something I love, which is play basketball,” Bozeman said.

Meanwhile, the 2017-18 SVSU team will feature four native Australians including Sebastiano Lamonato, Liam Evans, James Toohey and Lachlan Anthony.

Davis said his fellow Aussies came to the right program.

“SVSU’s men’s basketball is a great program to prepare athletes for life after college, whether you want to play basketball professionally or not,” Davis said.

The team kicks off its 2017-18 season home schedule vs. Olivet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15. The Cardinals went 17-11 during the 2016-17 season.

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