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Bertrand signs contract to play basketball in Luxembourg

European adventure

Published: Monday, July 21, 2014 11:24 p.m. CST
(Kiichiro Sato)
Illinois guard Joseph Bertrand, left, drives the ball against Michigan guard Nik Stauskas in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Conference tournament Friday, March 14, 2014, in Indianapolis.

Joseph Bertrand didn't quite end his basketball career at Illinois the way he wanted to, but his post-Fighting Illini career is looking up.

The 2010 Sterling High School graduate recently signed a 1-year contract to play basketball for Arantia Larochette, part of a 10-team professional league in Luxembourg. He declined to divulge the terms of his contract.

The 6-foot-6 Bertrand was also contacted by teams from China and Austria, where former Illinois teammate Tyler Griffey is currently playing. He decided the fit was best with Arantia Larochette.

"This is a good starting point for me," Bertrand said. "I had some other options, but I really think this is the best one for me."

On the team's website, Bertrand is already listed among the starting five, along with two other American players, Mike Jones and Reggie Evans. They are the only Americans on the roster.

Evans and Jones were the two top scorers on the squad a year ago at 27.2 points and 20 points per game, respectively.

At Illinois, Bertrand averaged 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds as a senior. He started 23 of 35 games, but was replaced in the starting lineup toward the end of a season that included an 8-game conference losing streak.

The Illini finished 20-15, including a 50-49 loss to Clemson in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. Bertrand played 24 minutes in that game and contributed four points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal.

"The season didn't go the way I wanted it to, for me personally and for the team," Bertrand said. "You just learn from it and move on."

Bertrand, who graduated from Illinois with a degree in recreation, sport and tourism last August, is staying in Champaign this summer, where he has been playing a lot of basketball. He plays in daily pickup games with former teammates, who are also on campus.

A few weeks ago, he spent a week in Chicago training with former Illinois guard Brandon Paul.

When asked if there was a Plan B if pro basketball didn't work out, Bertrand indicated there was not.

"This is what I've always wanted to do," he said. "The goal is to get to the NBA someday, and this is the first step toward that goal."

Bertrand shot a team-best 48.1 percent (113-for-235) from the field a year ago, including 38.5 percent (20-for-52) from 3-point range. He's confident the work he's putting in now will have those percentages increase, along with improvement in other facets of his game.

"It's not just about the shooting, but about having a strong all-around game," Bertrand said. "I need to get better on defense, rebounding, ball-handling – just better at playing basketball."

Bertrand will leave for Luxembourg on Monday, Aug. 18. Practices will begin shortly after his arrival, and the season begins Oct. 4.

Bertrand file

High school: Sterling, class of 2010

College: Illinois, class of 2013

FYI: Averaged 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game for Illini in 2013-14 season. ... Signed to play professionally with team in Luxembourg

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