MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – He's less than a full year removed from college, in the real world and now has the chance to do something few small-college athletes get.
So when St. Thomas graduate and NCAA champion Tommy Hannon got an offer to pursue a professional career overseas, it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. Hannon, who won a national title with the St. Thomas men's basketball team in 2011 and got to the Division III Final Four as a senior, leaves for Australia Feb. 8. He's signed a 1-year contract to join the Goldfield Giants.
The team plays in Kalgoolrie, Australia, which is about seven hours northeast of Perth. Hannon, who said he's never been outside of the 5-mile circle between his alma-maters of Cretin-Derham Hall and St. Thomas other than traveling for basketball games, is excited for the new adventure. He's trading in his suit, tie and full-time job for flip flops, sun and basketball.
"I've always wanted to travel but with basketball in the spring I never really could," Hannon said. "I'm definitely excited for it, but I also have to go there ready to play."
It was enough for him to step away from a job as a financial analyst for Medtronic and take a chance. The details of his contract were not released, but the team is paying for his apartment with wireless internet, a personal car and other expenses. He's one of two American players signed by the Giants.
Hannon said he had to do some research before accepting the offer. He's heard horror stories about players jumping at opportunities, only to not have a great experience or worse yet, not get compensated. His good friend and national championship teammate, Will DeBerg, was a great source for knowledge and advice. DeBerg did his own professional stint in France. Hannon had previously turned down offers to play in Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
"I had three or four other offers to go somewhere but it wasn't the right situation so I didn't go," said Hannon. "I talked to Will about it pretty much every day. He told me about how at times it is really hard. But this was the perfect situation and it worked out."
Hannon was a power forward/center for the 2010-11 St. Thomas squad that won a national championship. Not long after that national title, Steve Fritz retired as basketball coach but stayed on as St. Thomas athletic director.
Hannon's career was a bit of a roller-coaster after that. He missed much of his senior season with torn meniscus among several other issues with his knee. He applied for a medical redshirt with the NCAA and as granted another year of eligibility. His actual senior season ended with a MIAC regular season and playoff title. The Tommies got to the 2013 NCAA Division III Final Final Four before losing a tough game where they had a lead until the final minutes. Hannon was one of the top scorers and rebounders on that team.
"That national title was one of the best moments of my career. We had four senior starters on that team and to send coach Fritz out like that, he's a legend," Hannon said. "And I still think about that loss in the Final Four. I was just hoping it wasn't my last time I put on a uniform."
Hannon's professional season will start soon after he arrives to Australia and will go through August. He's on a one-year contract and hasn't been guaranteed anything past the upcoming season. The rest depends on how well the first run goes.
The league his team is in plays 48-minute games. He said the pace St. Thomas played at during his college career should help him at the next level, and the fact that he's not the first Tommies player to get an opportunity overseas helps that program in recruiting.
Hannon said his final days in Minnesota will be filled with working out to stay in shape and spending time with family and friends before heading out of the country. He said he's extremely grateful for the opportunity, knowing that previous players in the St. Thomas program have helped it get attention from international scouts. It's a group that includes Tyler Nicolai, Joe Scott, Teddy Archer and Isaac Rosefelt. Archer and Rosefelt are currently in the middle of international basketball careers.
"Those guys paved the way for guys like me," Hannon said. "They helped our program get that attention because we were a good team, so I'm thankful for that."
"I know Tommy is excited about it," said St. Thomas coach John Tauer. "It's a great opportunity for him and he's worked as hard as anybody. He deserves it."
He's going to make the most of his time in Australia. He said the team treats its players like NBA professionals and he plans to get out and enjoy the warmer climate after our brutal Minnesota winter.
"They said they like to have a good time so we'll see," Hannon said. "It's been freezing here and last time I checked it was like 90 there so I'm excited about that. I know one thing, though, I'm not going anywhere near the ocean."
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