SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. -- While the graduation of college often spells the end of competitive sports for most collegiate athletes, some are skilled and fortunate enough to move on to the next level of play. Former men's basketball member Max Hopfgartner proved to be a statistical anomaly and moved one from the collegiate ranks to to play professionally in Spain.
"I think playing at JBU made me a lot tougher than I used to be, and much more of a leader," admitted Hopfgartner. "During my four years at JBU, I developed my body and my physical mindset a lot. I think I also grew into being a leader on a team, which is helping me a lot now."
Hopfgartner currently plays for Club Xuventude Baloncesto in Cambados, Spain, and while his team is located there, competition grants him the opportunity to travel all over Europe to compete against other professionals.
Although playing professionally has granted him the ability to do something he loves for a living, Hopfgartner does miss playing at the collegiate level at times.
"I do miss JBU," he added. "My fondest memories include hanging out with friends in the dorms and, most of all, the TP Game and road trips with the team."
This season is Hopfgartnerâ€™s first in professional play. Between spring and fall semesters of school, Hopfgartner played on the Austrian National Team, but due to NAIA regulations, he was not able to compete at the professional level during his summer breaks.
Soon after his college days came to an end when he graduated in May 2015, multiple agents contacted Hopfgartner. That following July, after choosing an agent to work with, his agent notified him of a team in northwest Spain that wanted Hopfgartner to sign for the upcoming season.
"A few days after my agent told me about Club Xuventude Baloncesto, I signed my contract," said Hopfgartner. "I knew I wanted to play in Spain, so I signed with an agent from there."
Even though Hopfgartner studied renewable energy during his time as a Golden Eagle, he never gave up on his athletic dream of playing professionally.
"Playing professionally gives me a chance to do something I love for a living. It allows me be competitive on a daily basis, travel parts of the world I wouldnâ€™t usually go to and brings me joy to see fans, especially little kids, find so much happiness watching us play."
Club Xuventude Baloncesto plays in the LEB Silver league and is the third highest league in Spain. The team has 14 other teams in their league. Preseason begins toward the end of August and regular schedule picks up in October. The team plays once game a week, and regular season ends in the beginning of April.