Ex-Viking signs with Italy

Published 10:39 pm Friday, August 13, 2004

By Staff
Gerrit Brigitha always dreamed of traveling the world and seeing places he'd only heard about.
Of course, as a basketball player at Niles High School, then Central Michigan, he always dreamed of playing professionally, too. Never did he dream, however, that he would be getting paid to do both.
Brigitha realized both dreams when he signed a one-year contract earlier this summer to play for Sicc BPA Jesi, a professional team in the Italian league.
Von Washington coached Brigitha at Niles for three years. He said playing in Europe is the perfect situation for his former player.
The 6-8, 235-pound Brigitha leaves for Italy Aug. 18, but began preparing to play professional basketball immediately after his eligibility at Central Michigan ran out.
In just his first year with the Chippewas, Brigitha started every game as a forward and earned All Mid-American Conference Freshman Team honors. He continued his success in his sophomore year, but was buried on the bench behind future NBA lottery pick Chris Kaman is junior year.
His senior year, however, Brigitha averaged 17.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He also led the MAC in field goal percentage.
After his fourth and final year, Brigitha signed with an agent, who got him tryouts throughout the summer with NBA and European teams.
In mid-June, Brigitha played in a tournament showcasing talent for European teams where he performed well enough to make the All-Tournament team. The Italian team from Jessi noticed him and signed him to a one-year deal.
Brigitha said his summer workouts helped a lot in getting signed. Washington said he isn't surprised the former Niles standout worked so hard to get a contract.
Washington, who is now the head basketball coach at Holland West Ottowa, said Brigitha worked his way from the bench to a starting role in just his sophomore year at Niles. As a senior, he guided the Vikings to the state quarterfinals.
Now that he will be playing professional ball, Brigitha said he is excited about the opportunity. He also said he's a bit nervous, though, about starting his career in a whole new country.
Brigitha said his ultimate goal is to play in the NBA. But since he can't start there, he's pleased with Italy because of the quality of players and basketball in the league.
Washington said the level of competition in the Italian league will help Brigitha pursue his dream of a spot in the NBA.
Washington said Brigitha will adjust well to the Italian league because his game is very similar to the way Europeans play. Europeans, even the forwards and centers, tend to be better shooters with more finesse than their American counterparts.
Brigitha said his new team is going to play him at power forward. At 6-8, he would be small compared to NBA power forwards, but said he isn't worried about matching up in Italy.
While Brigitha is excited to go to Italy, where he's never been before, he sees playing in Europe as a chance to keep striving for his ultimate goal.