August 1, 2008

McKenzie to continue his career in French Pro A League with Vichy

COOEKVILLE, Tenn. -- Amadi McKenzie didn't miss many chances when he got the ball in his hands during the past four years, setting the Tennessee Tech men's basketball record for the best career field goal percentage.

Now, the all-OVC center from Atlanta faces another challenging opportunity, one that he's planning to take advantage of to its fullest.

The 6-foot-7 McKenzie recently signed a contract with Vichy, a team in the Pro A league of France.

"I played well at the camp in Ohio, so I hoped to get an offer from that," McKenzie said. "My agent said the French coach called and liked the way I played.

"I got to sit down and talk to the coach, and find out more about the team. He spoke French so we had to use an interpreter. He seems to be a good guy, and it sounds like a great environment. The town loves the team and they sell out every game, so it sounds like an exciting place to play and a great atmosphere."

Michael Hart, president of Hart Sports Management Group and McKenzie's agent, said the competition will be exceptional.

"The Pro A League in France is one of the top six or seven leagues in Europe, and it's rare for a rookie right out of college to have the chance to play in this high of a league," Hart said. "For instance, Tony Parker played in this league before going to the San Antonio Spurs."

Vichy plays not only in the French league, according to Hart, but also in European Cup competition, facing top teams from other countries.

"That kind of exposure could really open new doors for him," Hart said.

Tech head coach Mike Sutton can't hide his pride when talking about the next step in McKenzie's basketball career.

"This is the best initial job that a Tech player has had in several years," said Sutton. "It's a very good league, one that produced two NBA draft picks this year."

Playing for Vichy will mark the first time McKenzie will play on European soil, but not the first time he has played in other parts of the world.

"Amadi has had a couple of other opportunities to represent Tennessee Tech internationally," Sutton said. "He has been to China on a summer tour and he played with our team in Puerto Rico, and now he's taking our school even further."

A coach who has turned out his share of professional players, Sutton is happy that McKenzie is getting this chance.

"We're extremely proud of Amadi, and excited that he's getting this opportunity," Sutton said. "He had a tremendous career at Tech, he rewrote the record book and played on an OVC championship team, but the most important thing to come from his four years is that he earned his degree and graduated in May.

"That was the reason he was here, and he accomplished that goal in four years," Sutton added.

Hart thinks McKenzie can plan on playing professionally for several years.

"I'm excited about his professional prospects. I've followed his career at Tennessee Tech and he has improved every season, but the best is yet to come," Hart said. "They saw him in Columbus and he was, by far, the best player there. He's a combination of strength, athleticism, and inside and outside skills. I think he can have a long, long career."

Vichy plays in a 14-team league, which includes teams in such familiar French locations as Dijon, LeMans, Orleans and Paris.

According to Aurelien Hipp, a writer for the website EuroBasket.com, "McKenzie will share the paint with Dounia Issa (Best Pro A defensive player last year), Zach Moss (re-inked for 2 seasons) and William Soliman, coming from the neighbours of Roanne."

Hipp said that Tech's all-star center was, "scouted at the Columbus (Ohio) Camp, where a lot of French coaches go for their summer market."

The current nine-man Vichy roster featured five French players along with four Americans. Along with McKenzie, the U.S. players on his team are Moss, Curtis Sumpter and Rasheed Wright.

"We're excited for Amadi," Sutton said. "He accomplished a lot, both individually and with his teammates during his career. This class achieved goals, they earned their degrees, and this is an excellent opportunity for him."

The regular season begins in early October and runs through mid May, followed by the playoffs.