March 15, 2018
By David Nordby The Brillion News
Eric Kittel is living out a dream he first envisioned in sixth grade. The Brillion High School and Concordia University Wisconsin graduate is playing professional basketball for the EJ Sligo All-Stars in Sligo, Ireland.
“I knew I was never going to make it to the NBA and also knew that overseas was a long shot too, but it gave me something to work for and dream about,” Kittel said.
While on a trip to Las Vegas with his brother to watch his girlfriend, Baylee, play basketball, the All-Stars contacted him to join them for the second half of the season. The signing came in January, much later than the initial signing period in August.
“It actually came as a surprise,” Kittel said. “I had interest in August from a team in Portugal, but they were not offering enough money to live there so my agent told me to turn it down.”
Kittel accepted a position to be a Sales and Business Development intern for eight months with the Green Bay Packers. When the All-Stars called, the Packers allowed Kittel the opportunity to play basketball. His intern position is waiting for him when his basketball season is done.
Kittel has already enjoyed an extraordinary basketball career. He helped Brillion win a WIAA State Title during his sophomore year and became one of seven players in school history to surpass 1,000 points. At Concordia University Wisconsin, he rewrote the record books as he started every game in his career and left the all-time leader in points (1,541), field goals made (532) and three-point field goals made (263). He was also named 2017 NACC Man of the Year.
Concordia Wisconsin Athletic Director Rob Barnhill has known Kittel says he was eight-years old. Barnhill ran football camps in Brillion and is close with the Kittel family. He says he considers Eric to be an extension of his own family.
“If my two boys could grow up to be like Eric I would consider myself very blessed,” Barnhill said. “I was excited for him to get the opportunity and I supported his decision to go [overseas]. You only have one life to live and I believe you should do so regret free.”
In Kittel’s first game with the All-Stars, he recorded a triple-double. He also put in a 35-point effort in the recent final game of the season.
“Eric can adapt to any style of play,” Concordia Wisconsin Head Coach Shawn Cassidy said. “Coaches sometimes get scared off by his height then they see him play. There is no question in my mind he could be a huge success in whatever program he joins.”
Both Cassidy and Barnhill said they advised Kittel to not leave any “what if’s” in his basketball career.
The 5’8 guard says that one of the biggest differences of playing in Europe is the age and size of players. In high school and college, he was against players his own age. In Europe, the age gap is wide from 18 to 40-years old. Kittel believes he fits in with the style of the game.
“The European style is very motion orientated,” he says. “There is a great deal of ball movement which is something I think really fits well with my game. Since basketball is not a huge thing in Ireland, their understanding of some of the nuances of the game is limited. At the end of the day, it’s just basketball so I try to go out there and enjoy the opportunity.”
Please see the complete story in the March 15, 2018 edition of The Brillion News.