Subscribe for 33¢ / day

 Former Illinois State basketball guard Steve Hansell could be excused if he feels lost these days.

For the first time since he finished his playing career at ISU, Hansell is not playing professionally overseas.

Instead, he is coaching teenagers in his hometown of Birmingham, England. But his agent, Geert Hammink, believes Hansell, who can play three positions (both guard spots and small forward), will get his chance again professionally.

"Most of his career, Steve has backed up big international names. But when given minutes, he will produce," Hammink said.

Hansell is frustrated and is waiting to show teams that he has plenty of gas left in his tank.

"I just want to show that I have a good four or five years remaining in me," he said.

But Hansell is also looking for a place where he can be comfortable, a key for players who have to live abroad and always adjust to new teammates, new conditions, a new language and new surroundings.

"I think the best for me would be Greece. I know the league pretty well," said the three-year veteran of the Greek league, who has turned down offers in Hungary and Croatia for this season.

But Hansell is also looking for a team where he can be a leader.

"I need a place where I will have responsibility put on my shoulders," added Hansell. "Then you'll be out there at the end of the game and that's where I want to be. I had that in Larissa and sometimes at Pistoia."

Hansell began his professional career in Italy just weeks after helping ISU to its second straight NCAA tournament appearance and a first-round victory over Tennessee in 1998. He signed with Kinder Bologna, one of the best teams in Europe, and helped the team to the Italian league championship.

"It really wasn't that difficult to get used to playing there because of the excellent preparation we had at ISU," Hansell said.

Hansell then switched to another Italian team, but got very little playing time and after just seven games moved onto another Italian club, Pistoia.

"It was a great change for me. I was given the ball to do what I wanted and I did extremely well," said Hansell, who averaged a professional career-high 32 minutes and 11.8 points as well as 2.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.3 steals over 20 games during the 1998-99 season.

The next campaign was again a mixed bag of lots of success, but little playing time. His team, AEK Athens, won the Greek Cup and the international Saporta Cup. But Hansell was again a role player, averaging 3.6 points in 12 minutes per game.

The following season, AEK again won the Greek Cup and made the semifinals of the Greek playoffs and the Euroleague. Hansell played 15 minutes a game and averaged four points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists. But he wasn't pleased.

"I wanted to play more after playing so much in Pistoia," he said. "Even though I didn't play as much as I would have liked I was on a successful team, and sometimes you have to bite your lip and get on with it."

Hansell went through plenty of lip-biting the next season. He admitted that the 2001-02 campaign with Spanish first division club, Alcaja Sevilla, was the year he most disliked basketball.

Back with an average team, he started playing well, but was banished to the end of the bench by the end of the season, playing only 11 minutes in just 20 games and averaging three points per contest.

Hansell was back in Greece with Larissa the next season and started to find his form again until an Achilles tendon injury ended his season. He was averaging seven points, two rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes per game.

His past two seasons were spent on mid-level Italian teams, Roseto and Reggio Calabria, stuck behind American players, who got numerous chances to redeem themselves. They had to play because they were the highest-paid players on the team.

"Some of the Americans on my teams weren't doing their jobs as good as I was," said Hansell. "But because they were Americans and the coaches had to play them, they were going to play and play and play.

"And they were going to have some good games just because they played all the time and were in rhythm. But if they had a bad game and then another bad game, they'd still get another chance. And once they had a good game everything was fine again."

Hansell believes regular playing time is keeping him from becoming a consistent performer in Europe.

"I'd get some minutes here and there, and it's tough," he said. "Your confidence isn't high as it is. And because you don't want to make a mistake, you then make a mistake. And everything has backfired on you."


Load comments