Former Aggie Troy Gillenwater signs deal with professional team overseas

LAS CRUCES - Troy Gillenwater still has high hopes for the New Mexico State men's basketball team. "I think the sky is the limit for this year," said Gillenwater, who left Las Cruces after three years to pursue a professional career. "Wendell (McKines) had a great summer and Hamidu (Rahman) got better and there a lot of young guys. We lose me and Gordo (Castillo) but we still have the core of the team with Wendell, Hamidu and Hernst (Laroche) who have all been to the NCAA Tournament. Those guys know what it takes to get back." Gillenwater will have to keep up with the Aggies from overseas this year. Gillenwater signed earlier this week with a Top 5 Cyprus League club Apollon Limassol. He said he leaves for Cyprus on Sept. 10 and league play starts later this month. "I'm excited about getting out there and getting back playing," said Gillenwater, who left college averaging 15.2 points per game. "It's going to be a little different than playing at New Mexico State. It's going to be a culture change but I'm just adapting and hoping to play the best I can." NMSU announced that Gillenwater was forgoing his senior season in May. In June, Gillenwater took his name out of the NBA Draft prior to the NBA's withdrawal deadline but after the NCAA's early deadline in May - a decision that kept Gillenwater eligible for next year's draft. "This is just a big year," Gillenwater said. "I can go over there and better myself as a player and come back into the 2012 draft and hopefully get drafted, which has been the goal since Day 1. I have just been working out and trying to prepare myself. I'm playing against grown men. There are a lot of older guys and I know it will be more physical." After leaving NMSU, Gillenwater said he had workouts for seven NBA teams. Among the evaluations were working on quickness and being able to guard multiple positions as a small forward in the NBA. "It was a great experience," Gillenwater said. "I got a lot of good feedback and different looks for stuff I need to work on and get better at. I kind of got a head start on what it's going to be like again." Gillenwater's agent, Scott Nichols, said Gillenwater had offers from bigger clubs who wanted to lock him in for multiple-year deals with restrictions that would make it more difficult to come back. The Cyprus league is only six months, leaving the option open for Gillenwater to leave Europe and prepare for the NBA Draft or can join another league for postseason play and more money. Nichols said college players can make between $8-10 thousand per month in the Cyprus league. "There was another team from Germany, but Israel and Cyrpus were the two teams that were the most aggressive," Gillenwater said. Gillenwater played through significant ankle injuries all season, but was still a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference player and NABC All-District selection after scoring 18.9 points per game and 6.3 rebounds as a junior, as the Aggies finished with a 16-17 record. "You start to miss college, I'm not going to lie," Gillenwater said. "The four years of my life, August has meant getting ready for school so it's been different. It's time to be a man and be a professional." Jason Groves can be reached at (575) 541-5459 Source: Jason Groves, Las-Cruces Sun News