Catching up with Tim Abromaitis
November 12, 2012
A three-time Big East Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year and two-time Academic All-American who earned an undergrad degree in finance with a 3.73 GPA followed by an MBA in Notre Dame’s year-long program, Tim Abromaitis wasn’t listed on the Fighting Irish roster simply to inflate the team’s GPA.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2009-10 he averaged 16.1 ppg. and 4.7 rpg., while dishing out 1.5 apg., and the 6-8 forward/center from Unionville, Conn., went on to post 15.4 ppg., 6.1 rpg. and 1.8 apg. the following season.
Soon after earning 2011 All-Big East third team honors, Abromaitis was selected to the 2011 USA Basketball World University Games Team and had high hopes of coming home with a medal. However, the USA squad, which won its first five games by an average margin of 40.8 points a game, was stopped short in its medal quest by Lithuania in the quarterfinals. Three more points were all the USA needed to win that game, but plagued by ice-cold shooting, including 0-of-14 from 3-point in the second half, the Americans fell to the Europeans 76-74 and were relegated to play for fifth place at best.
The U.S. men did not hang their heads, instead they came out strong and with the help of 11 points and eight rebounds from Abromaitis downed Romania 94-80 before going down to the wire against Germany to take an 86-83 victory and fifth place. The U.S., which posted the best record in the tournament at 7-1, saw Abromaitis contribute 6.4 ppg. and 4.3 rpg. on the well-balanced squad.
Returning from China empty handed was a huge disappointment, however, something more upsetting loomed ahead.
On Nov. 25, 2011, the preseason All-Big East selection tore the ACL in his right knee and was forced to sit out the season.
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After spending the remainder of the year rehabbing and watching his team from the bench, he faced yet another roadblock: the NCAA turned down a request for an additional season of eligibility, meaning he was eligible for the NBA Draft a year sooner than he had hoped. That’s because Abromaitis was still in the process of rehabbing come draft day and then wasn’t ready to participate in the NBA Summer League.
“I wasn't healthy enough to start playing until late August, so I wasn't able to do any NBA workouts or the summer league,” wrote Abromaitis in an email from France. “I really don't know what my draft status would have been without sitting out last year but with the injury it made it pretty much guaranteed that I wouldn't get drafted.”
Things started looking up for Abromaitis in late July when he was offered a contract to play for the French league’s ASVEL Lyon-Villerubanne. He packed his bags, arrived in France in mid-August and trained for about six weeks with his club prior to the start of the season.
So, for now Abromaitis is concentrating on improving his game, and helping out his team, which is currently 4-2 in the French Pro A League and scheduled to play Paris Levallois (4-2) on Friday.
“As a team we have really high expectations for this season,” said Abromaitis. “We have a very talented team with high-level players so we all expect to be one of the best teams in France. Personally, I'm still working to be 100 percent healthy and compete at a higher level than I did before getting hurt last season.
“The experience with the World University Games has helped tremendously since I came to France. I knew what to expect with the different style of play and rules (and sometimes the refereeing), so it definitely gave me a step up on other rookies who go overseas to continue their careers.”
In addition to meshing with his French club, Abromaitis is getting to know the city, learning the language and enjoying life as a professional hoopster in France.
“I live very close to the largest city park in France so I've been able to go there and relax or play chess, which has been fun for me. My parents already made a trip to visit me in Lyon, so we were able to see all of the tourist spots like Roman ruins and the huge basilica overlooking the city. Otherwise, I've spent a lot of time catching up on TV shows and trying different places to eat in my area.
“It's just been a really positive experience for me so far,” he added. “Lyon is an awesome city and that has made the adjustment very easy for me.”
Find out what else Abromaitis had to say about his USA Basketball experience, his quest to get into the NBA and adjusting to life in a new country.
Have you adjusted to the time difference - or are you up all night texting/tweeting/Skyping family & friends back home?
I was able to adjust to the time difference pretty much immediately. After two or three days I was on a normal schedule, although I admit I still cheat with naps almost every day. The difference in times does make it more difficult to communicate with some people back home, but we have a lot of free weekend days to catch up on all of that.
How are you keeping in touch with family & friends?
I think I have just about every app in some form to communicate through my computer/ipad/American phone/French phone. I'm not sure how people like my mom and dad were able to survive when they came to Europe for basketball before they had all this technology - it definitely makes life a lot easier.
What has been the biggest adjustment for you - both on and off the court?
A big adjustment on and off the court has been the language barrier. I've run into a lot of situations in my city where other people haven't been able to speak English and sometimes my coach will forget or won't have the time to translate everything he says in French. I came here with no knowledge of French, but I've been picking it up quickly and trying to learn as much as possible in my free time.
You played the USA Basketball World University Games Team in China, how much did that experience help you adjust to the international game?
The experience with the World University Games has helped tremendously since I came to France. I knew what to expect with the different style of play and rules (and sometimes the refereeing), so it definitely gave me a step up on other rookies who go overseas to continue their careers.
Did you know the other American on your team, Michael ‘Juice’ Thompson, before arriving, or know any others who are also competing in France?
I didn't know Michael at all before I came here, but I was actually pretty close to being his teammate at Northwestern when I was making my college decision. I do have two former Notre Dame teammates playing in the same league here, and I already played against my former USA teammate Marcus Denmon in our first game of the season. I've been lucky to meet some Americans in Lyon as well as some French people my age to hang out with. We're also pretty close as a team, so I'm able to spend a lot of time with teammates off the court as well.
After sitting out last year following your torn ACL, was it difficult to get back into playing competitively – was there any adjustment you needed to make in your first few games back or was it like getting back on a bicycle?
It took some adjusting to get my rhythm back since I wasn't immediately able to do some of things that I did before I got injured. As I've gotten stronger and become more confident with my legs I've regained my feel for the game and my skills. It's just a great feeling to be back playing since it felt like way more than just eight or nine months that I was away from competing on the court.
What do you think you need to work on in order to make it to the NBA?
A big thing for me is proving that I'm athletic enough to play in an NBA game and defend the high-level athletes that play in the league. My shooting ability has always made me a difficult player to guard so complimenting that with more of an inside game is something I'm also working to improve on this year.
Are you still close with some of your Notre Dame teammates and do you have a Slingbox or something else set up to watch the team this year?
I stay in contact with a lot of my teammates from last year, especially my roommate Scott Martin. My dad set up my Slingbox, so I'm excited to watch the team this year since they have to potential to be one of the top teams in the country.
This summer USA Basketball will field teams for the World University Games. What kind of advice do you have for guys who want to play on that team and what can you say about the competition you faced?
It's important for guys on the team to realize that every game the other team will be gunning for you just because you're Team USA. When Lithuania beat us in China I think it was a bigger deal for them than if they had actually won the whole tournament. Otherwise, take advantage of the opportunity to play with a great team while working on your own game and getting closer with your teammates. I enjoyed spending time in Colorado and China with a great group of guys who I still keep in touch with today.