By LACY LUSK
As an only child and then as a college student in Williamsburg, Sherman Rivers learned to be comfortable on his own. His next journey will take him overseas.
Rivers, a 1999 Potomac and 2003 William & Mary graduate, will play for the Milton Keynes Lions of the British Basketball League. His deal calls for a place to stay, use of a vehicle and daily meals provided by the team, located about 40 miles from London. Camp begins Sept. 13 and the regular season runs from October through April.
”I decided on going to England because it was basically the first opportunity I had among the people I talked to, and the best opportunity to play,” Rivers said. ”I didn’t have any other looks beyond the chance to try out. I wanted this because they sent me a contract and offered me money. It’s not a stab in the dark.”
Since his senior season ended with the Tribe, Rivers attended a pro camp in Wilmington, N.C., and one in Salt Lake City, Utah. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard would have to try out to play in the National Basketball Association’s Development League. But rather than wait for a sure deal from the D-League or a foreign league other than the 11-team BBL, he and his agent, New York-based Sunny Shah, took M.K. Lions coach Nigel Lloyd up on his offer.
”I met the coach for this team at the camp in Utah,” Rivers said. ”At the camp, there were scouts for different teams and agents. If you don’t have an agent, you try to catch on with one of them. And everyone’s trying to catch on with a team.”
Rivers’ father is a retired lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army. ”I lived in Germany when I was 3, 4 and 5, and I took a trip to Spain with my parents [Sherman Sr. and Lovellar] before I even moved to Virginia [at age 13], but it’s been a while since I’ve been to Europe,” Rivers said.
At William & Mary, Rivers majored in sociology and played four years of basketball. As a senior, he started every game for a 12-16 team. He led the team in assists (2.5 a game), steals (34) and 3-point percentage (.386). Rivers also ranked second on the Tribe in scoring average (9.4), minutes (32.4) and blocks (five), while grabbing 4.0 rebounds per game.
”Just the experience of being able to play Division I basketball is what I’ll remember most,” River said. ”I got to go to a lot of places I wouldn’t have without college basketball. We went to Hawaii, we got to play at Duke, at New Mexico and at Purdue. We got to experience the whole March Madness thing — only in the conference tournaments for us, unfortunately, but that was such a good time.”
This offseason, Rivers has been working at a restaurant and also helping at camps at George Mason and William & Mary. He would not disclose his salary for the upcoming season, but his goal is to work his way up the professional basketball system.
Rivers won’t turn 22 until Aug. 10. The average age for last year’s Lions was 30, with a majority of the players coming from U.S. colleges. The team also featured players from Great Britain, Barbados and the British West Indies.
”They’re paying me a good amount of money, but at the same time if I play better, I’ll get more money,” Rivers said. ”I’m definitely hoping to gain some experience as far as pro basketball goes. And also some experience as far as growing up and being on my own — making my own money and taking care of myself. Hopefully I’ll do well enough to get increases in play and pay for some more years.”
At Potomac, Rivers scored a school-record 1,193 points, including two for the game-winning jumper in the 1998 Northwest Region final against George Washington-Danville. He was the Potomac News player of the year for the 1998-99 season, when he led the Cardinal District with 19.3 points per game. In college, he scored 925 points and dished out 272 assists.