Aug. 5, 2009
NACOGDOCHES, Texas -
After wrapping up one of the most successful careers in program history, Stephen F. Austin's Matt Kingsley will now get the chance to take his game to the next level. Kingsley has signed a professional contract to play for BC Siauliai in the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL).
The Lumberjack center will join the European pro club following a brief training camp in Latvia later this month.
"I always thought that I might be able to play professionally, but I never realistically thought about it," Kingsley said Tuesday. "I knew it was a possibility because of my size, but I didn't really expect to get the chance until things started happening for me the last couple of years."
Over the last two years, Kingsley has helped lead SFA to 50 combined wins and two straight Southland Conference championships -- the first SLC titles in program history. Additionally, the 'Jacks made a postseason tournament at the end of each campaign, competing in the NIT in 2008 and earning the program's first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2009.
"The last two years with SFA, the fans and the crowds we got were awesome," Kingsley said. "That was big. It really became like my home, playing in Johnson Coliseum. It's just weird that I'm never going to play there again. I never thought I'd miss it that much, but I'm already starting to."
"Matt has been a tremendous asset to our program," SFA head coach Danny Kaspar said. "He's worked very hard and deserves this opportunity to play professional basketball. It's a very good contract, and I hope it will lead to even better things for him. My family, my staff and I are very happy for him."
Kingsley was instrumental in both seasons, especially the most recent campaign. He led the Lumberjacks in both scoring (15.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.7 rpg) in 2008-09 and earned the SLC Player of the Year award. In SFA's three victories in the Southland Tournament, Kingsley averaged 24.0 points and 9.5 boards to take the SLC Tournament MVP.
"I went out the best way any senior could ever hope to go out in college basketball," he said. "Not many seniors got to experience what I did this year -- player of the year in the conference and our first trip to NCAA tournament. There's nothing that I could have done or our team could have done that would have made it any better."
In addition to the honors of his senior year, Kingsley put his name in the SFA record book in several spots. His senior year, he became just the seventh player in program history, and the first in SFA's Division I era, to record 1,500 points and 500 rebounds. He finished with 1,502 points and 637 boards, second only to teammate Josh Alexander in the Lumberjacks' D-I history in both categories. Kingsley's 559 career field goals are tops in program history at the D-I level.
Kingsley's new team, BC Siauliai, was founded in 1994 a year after the birth of the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL). Siauliai finished third in the league last year after posting a 15-5 record in regular-season play. The LKL is comprised of 11 teams, which compete, on a larger scale, in the Union of European Leagues of Basketball (ULEB).
ULEB features 54 teams from various European countries. The LKL is the second-highest ranked league in ULEB, having produced two champions and one runner-up finish since the inception of ULEB in 2002. The current champion, Lietuvos Rytas, plays in the LKL.
"My agent thinks it's a great basketball move for me to go here," Kingsley said. "It's going to be tough because of the language difference and living in a new country."
-- SFA --