Grant Sitton’s basketball odyssey has taken him from Clark County to Clackamas to Canada and now a new continent.
He still has not reached his full potential in this game, which he is so passionate about. Yet, when Sitton boarded a plane last week and landed in Europe, yes, in a way, he could say he had made it.
After never appearing on an all-league list in high school, after never receiving a Division I scholarship offer, Sitton, now at the age of 24, is a professional basketball player.
“Delayed gratification,” he said days prior to moving to Slovakia to begin training with B.C. Prievidza. “Everyone wants instant gratification. For me, I was a late bloomer. I’m going pro now, but it took me all of high school, all of college, to work on my game and do this.”
The 2011 graduate of Prairie High School is now 6-foot-9 and while still slender, he has grown into his frame by working in the training room as well as the court. He has 3-point range as a shooter and the ability to use his height to get inside for a closer look at the basket. He averaged better than 19 points per game in his final college season at the University of Victoria in Canada.
Before going deeper into Sitton’s story, it should be noted that he is not going to get rich playing professional basketball in Prievidza. This is not to be confused with the fame and fortune associated with the National Basketball Association. Sitton said he is fortunate that his rookie contract will give him “enough to live off of” and housing will be provided.
“Even if I’m not making a lot of money, I get to travel the world and play basketball,” he said.
The key is the game.
“Follow your dream,” he said. “The only thing I know, I love basketball.”
After his final season at Victoria, Sitton signed on with an agent, Matt Slan, who has an expertise in matching players and teams from all over the world.
“How do you feel about playing in Slovakia?” Sitton recalled Slan asking him earlier this summer.
“Anywhere that allows me to keep playing basketball,” Sitton answered.
A week later, Sitton had his contract.
No one could have predicted any of this back in high school.
Tall and rail thin at Prairie, he missed most of his freshman season after a serious leg injury. He was not a varsity player as a sophomore nor a junior, just trying to get stronger while playing behind more talented athletes.
“I was not good,” Sitton said.
He also acknowledged it was tough, at times, growing up as the only son of Kurt and Jani’s five children while his four sisters excelled at sports. All four of them earned Division I scholarships — two for basketball, two for volleyball — right out of high school.
As a senior at Prairie, Sitton was a starter but not a star. He played his role.
“I was good enough … but never like ‘This guy runs the show.’ I was good enough to keep my interest in basketball, but never enough to really call myself ‘The Guy,’” Sitton explained. “I was never ‘The Guy’ on any team until the last two years of my college career.”
Sitton’s rise in his game began at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City. He did not play that first year, just practiced with the squad, saving a year of eligibility. He then played two seasons with the Cougars.
At the time, the goal was to work on his game, gain strength, and earn a Division I scholarship for his final two years in the states.
Still, there were no D-I takers for a 6-9 swing player with potential.
He found Canada instead. Not exactly the destination of choice for American basketball players but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, he said, for a number of reasons.
- In Canada, an athlete gets an extra year of eligibility. So Sitton could play three more seasons. “If I went DI, played two years, I wouldn’t be going overseas. I definitely needed that third year.”
- Canadian college teams play by international rules. The key is wider, the 3-point shot is longer than in the U.S., and there is a 24-second clock. His team in Europe plays by those rules, too.
- He met assistant coach Josh Mullen, who was instrumental in Sitton’s development.
“No one ever told me ‘You’ll never make it,’ but no one ever told me ‘You can do this,’” Sitton said. “Josh Mullen was the first one who said, ‘You could go pro.’”
Mullen convinced Sitton to remain in Canada over the summer after his first academic year in Victoria, to fully commit to a workout plan.
Sitton went from averaging 5.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game his first season in Canada to 14 and 5 in his second season. In his final year, Sitton averaged 19.2 ppg and grabbed seven boards an outing.
“I saw a difference in my game. I got a lot more confident,” Sitton said.
In Canada, Sitton learned the value of a mental edge.
“You have to walk into the gym and think ‘I’m the best,’” Sitton said. “I don’t want to be cocky, but if you don’t believe in yourself, how the heck is anyone else going to believe in you?”
Now, he has believers from the city of Prievidza. As soon as he signed his contract, Sitton gained followers from Slovakia on his social media accounts.
“I feel the love from the community already,” he said.
He had never been overseas until he arrived last week. He looked up the city on the internet and liked what he saw. It is small, with a population of about 50,000.
“Perfect for me,” Sitton said. “I”m not a big-city, go-out-every-night guy. That’s not me.”
Instead, he will focus on learning a new culture while playing the game he loves.
Grant Sitton is on the journey of a lifetime, and it took him his athletic lifetime to earn this opportunity.