Three months ago, following a national championship, a plane ride from Dallas to Bradley International Airport, and a dinner time pit-stop at a McDonalds off of I-84 East, Niels Giffey walked into Gampel Pavilion, surrounded by thousands of rabid – albeit likely hungover, too – fans for the final time. There would be no more flights or bus rides back to Connecticut with his teammates, nor would there be any more tipoffs in the ever-present aura of championship banners and retired numbers. Now, the 23-year-old finds himself packing his bags and planning a return to his birth city after German club Alba Berlin announced, via their website, that they had signed Giffey to a three-year contract.
Once rumored to be a late-second-round selection in this summer’s NBA Draft, Giffey ultimately found himself as an undrafted free agent heading to Orlando, Florida in order to join the Memphis Grizzlies 2014 Orlando Summer League squad. In the city best known for Disney World and where Dwight Howard no longer wanted to be, Memphis played 5 games; Giffey, none.
It certainly wasn’t the most inspiring of beginnings, but a second chance arose with the Utah Jazz in Las Vegas. Giffey, a 42% shooter from behind the arc during his time in Storrs, never found his groove in his first crack with the big boys. With the Jazz, Giffey is averaged 3.0 points per game, shot a paltry 20% from deep and converted just 3 of his 14 field goal attempts. After logging 13 and 12 minutes, respectively, during his first two games, Giffey saw his action limited to 6 minutes in Tuesday’s tilt against Denver.
Perhaps his struggles at adapting to the professional level swayed his decision, causing him to lean more toward an overseas return. Or, maybe Giffey had his mind set on Berlin long before his Summer League endeavors. Who knows, really. I sure don’t. All I know is he’s going to be playing in one of Europe’s better leagues and, with his contract expiring when he turns 26, the shot of playing in the NBA down the road still exists.
By the way, if you have twenty-four-ish minutes to kill, here’s a video of every basket scored by Niels Giffey during UConn’s 2013-2014 championship season.