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Marcus Patterson took a gamble on himself and turned it into a professional contract in Portugal

By: Tom Ballato

Marcus Patterson played high school basketball at Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx, New York. He helped his team to the 2011 CHSAA City A Championship.

Out of high school, Patterson had an interest from a Division II college in Oklahoma, but it never materialized. He ended up going to a basketball camp after high school, and Sage, a Division III college in Albany, New York, was the only school to show interest in Patterson.

Photo courtesy of Matt Milless

Sage had Marcus on a full academic scholarship called HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program). Patterson played basketball for four years at Sage. “I had my ups and downs. I had good mentors that taught me responsibility. As a whole, it was a great experience. I got involved in student government, worked behind the scenes in the school’s marketing, I did a lot.” Marcus was also on the board for the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and was an active mentor for the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Program.

Each year at Sage, Patterson’s game got better on the court. He had a great senior year and averaged 17.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and was named Gator of the Year as the team’s most valuable player.

Patterson played in 102 games in his four seasons and finished with over 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.

After a strong senior season, someone reached out to Patterson with an opportunity to play professionally. “The opportunity was to play in London and get my master’s degree, so I took that route,” said Patterson.

In the fall of 2017, International Sports Recruits (ISR) reached out to Patterson with the opportunity to play in London while working towards his master’s degree. ISR helps student-athletes extend their careers while obtaining their master’s degree in the UK in just 12 months.

The school he was attending has connections to a team in the top league in London, the London Lions in the BBL (British Basketball League). The schools linked to another team in the second division in London.

Marcus played for the team in the second division but got to practice with the London Lions in the first division. “I was playing against pros every day, whether it was in the first or second league because the professionals were getting their master’s degrees as well.”

Patterson had an opportunity to play for the London Lions due to injuries on the team, but he ended up spraining his ankle. While he missed that opportunity, Patterson was still grateful to play basketball in London and enjoyed living there while embracing the culture.

He returned home due to injury and finished his studies online. Patterson took over a year off to work on his game. After reaching out looking for an opportunity, one finally presented itself. Marcus had a chance to go on a basketball tour in either Portugal or Spain.

Patterson chose the Portugal tour and packed his bags and headed overseas. “I ended up paying $3,000 out of my pocket, and we played seven games in eight nights. We played against some top teams, and I played well.”

Photo courtesy of Luis Azevedo

There was a scout that was watching Patterson play throughout the tour. On the final day of the tour, Patterson packed his bag because right after the game, he was prepared to leave and head home. “The scout told me that I couldn’t play because an agent and team were willing to sign me.”

Patterson signed with Portimonense SC, a team in Portugal’s top division. In his first full season professionally, Marcus was 3rd in the league in scoring with 21.7 points per game and 11th in rebounds with 9.1 per game.

Photo courtesy of Luis Azevedo

After a stellar rookie campaign, Patterson was named All Portuguese 1st Division 2nd Team and All Portuguese All-Import Team.

Portimonense SC was in eighth place with six games left in the regular season. They had a favorable schedule before the league was postponed due to the coronavirus.

Now, Patterson is home in New Jersey, staying ready with the hopes of a return to Portugal when basketball resumes. The goal is to return to Portugal, but Patterson is unsure of the club he will be playing for.

Patterson’s journey is a reminder you should always invest in yourself. It is similar to the story of Jonathan Simmons, who once paid $150 for a D-League tryout. He ended up playing with the San Antonio Spurs and eventually landed a three-year, $20 million contract with the Orlando Magic.

To this day, Patterson still has the small bag he packed for his week in Portugal. $3,000 well spent, and he only packed one pair of shoes.

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