December 26, 2012 11:07:20 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
Jarvis Gunter is anxious for his next opportunity.
Whether it is Slovakia, Saudi Arabia, or another country, the former Columbus High School basketball standout is eager to take next step in his journey.
Last week, Gunter assisted Columbus High boys basketball coach Sammy Smith with the 16th annual Joe Horne Christmas Invitational. In his spare time, he has been working out at Columbus High in an attempt to keep his skills sharp for when he receives the call informing him of his next destination.
A week ago, Gunter, who played last year for CAB Madeira in Portugal, believed his next chance would come in Slovakia. Earlier this week, though, Gary Ebert, Gunter's agent, said he hopes Gunter will find a home in Saudi Arabia. He said plans have been in the works for nearly two weeks to finalize the paperwork to get Gunter cleared to play in the Middle East. He hopes to have the details settled as soon as possible so Gunter can sign a contract. He said the contract likely would be a better financial move for Gunter.
"When Jarvis gets recognized for what he can do, he is going to be more successful," Ebert said. "He has the ability to score inside off his athleticism. He is not going to make his living off scoring, but if he finds his niche he is going to be uber successful. He just has to find his niche."
Ebert, who has been an agent for more than 20 years, has represented players who have played in nearly every part of the world. He said the key with Gunter is to find teams that value post players who can rebound and block shots to maximize their number of possessions. He feels the "right" fit for Gunter would be a team that has an established scorer and that wants an athletic post player who can run the floor. Ebert said it will be important to establish those qualities as Gunter's "brand." When that happens, he is confident teams will come looking for Gunter because they know he is a versatile post player.
"If he goes back to the same thing a year or two in a row, his scoring will pick up because a lot of times players get more familiar with each other," Ebert said. "He has all the tools you look for in athletics. He has long arms, he has quickness. He will fit well. We just have to put him into the right situation. I expect Jarvis to rise to the top once he gets to the right situation."
Gunter earned the opportunity to play in Portugal after playing in the NBA's Development League for three seasons. Billed as the NBA's official minor league, the D-League features players from major Division I programs to smaller schools like the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, where Gunter graduated from in 2008. Gunter averaged a career-best 9.0 points per game as a sophomore at UAPB, but he never was a scorer in four seasons there. He sat out the 2006-07 season. As a senior, he averaged 6.6 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Gunter played for the Erie Bayhawks in his first two seasons in the D-League. He averaged 3.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in 38 games in 2008-09 and 2.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in 44 games in 2009-10. Erie waived him Dec. 17, 2010, before the Springfield Armor, signed him on Dec. 20, 2010. After averaging only eight minutes in three games with Erie, Gunter averaged 17.8 minutes and scored 4.2 points and grabbed 4.1 rebounds in 34 games with Springfield.
Gunter, who is 6-foot-10, 225 pounds, said he learned a lot in his time in the D-League and gained confidence in his offensive skills. He said last year he was excited about the possibility of getting a chance to expand his horizons and to play a bigger role as a scorer with a team overseas.
"Playing my first year in Europe, I had to change my game a lot," Gunter said. "There are a lot of big guys over there who like to play outside, so they do inside-outside. It helped me out a lot. I had to work on my long-distance shooting and continue my mid-range game.
"I feel like I did pretty good. We didn't finish like I thought we should have, but as a team there was a lot of success."
Ebert said Gunter averaged double figures last season and provided a rebounding and shot blocking presence inside. He thought Gunter would receive a contract offer from a team in Slovakia and that he moved on to try to find Gunter another home when he didn't get an offer. He said Monday he was "close" to getting a deal done that could help give Gunter a chance to find a long-term home playing in Saudia Arabia or in the Middle East.
"The problem with Jarvis is guys don't know how he fits in," Ebert said. "If you look at him on paper, he doesn't look like Miss America, but he brings possessions and rebounds and blocks, everything that leads you to get possessions. You need to have guy who can score. If you have that, (having Jarvis on your team) works well."
Gunter said he wants to use his next stop as a "stepping stone" to another opportunity. He said he isn't sure what a chance to play in Europe or in the Middle East could mean, but he said he is open to the possibilities.
Gunter said. "I just want to make the most out of the experience and see what happens from there."
Ebert said he would like to see Gunter play in the summer in Puerto Rico or Venezuela. He said it is crucial to helping Gunter find places to play all year so he increases his visibility and that he strengthens his "brand." Once that happens, Ebert is confident Gunter's stock will rise.
"He is positioned well because people know about him," Ebert said. "He has a tremendous upside."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.