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Great Dane grad to play pro in United Kingdom

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By Aaron Cheris

The University at Albany’s Division I leader in career blocks will be taking his talents overseas next season.

Photo from UAlbany Athletics. John Puk will begin his first professional season in the United Kingdom in September.
Photo from UAlbany Athletics. John Puk will begin his first professional season in the United Kingdom in September.

After the UAlbany men’s basketball fell to the University of Florida Gators in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament in March, it was the end of the road for five graduating seniors.

John Puk, one of those seniors, has signed a professional one year contract with the Durham Wildcats of the British Basketball League (BBL) for next season.

Over his four years as a Great Dane, Puk scored 552 points, added 506 rebounds, and amassed 112 blocks on defense in 132 career games. During his senior year, Puk started all 34 games at center for coach Will Brown and was named to the America East All-Defensive Team.

While Puk says he is ready for the transition, there will be a few difficulties when moving to a foreign country. “Their accents are a little difficult to understand,” Puk said of his English coaches and teammates. “I could get used to that, but I’m going to have to be listening real carefully,” he added. “I’m ready for this next chapter and it should be good to meet a whole new group of people.”

Puk said he has never been to England nor met anybody related to his now current team. “I just have to go with the flow,” he said. While in Durham, Puk will be getting his Masters Degree in business along with his playing career. “Essentially I’m just being paid with a scholarship.”

While at UAlbany, Puk has been no stranger to big games. Over the past two seasons, Puk has played against some of the nation’s best. In 2013, Puk went one on one against current Brooklyn Net Mason Plumlee and the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament.

This past season, he helped the Great Danes get their first ever NCAA Tournament win in a play-in game over Mount St. Mary’s. In his final game in purple and gold, he scored 10 points against the top seeded Gators. “Playing against those guys shows you a whole new level of basketball that’s out there,” he said over the phone. “It was a good experience, and I’m looking forward to competing at the next level.”

While Puk is looking forward to the next chapter in his life, the Wildcats can’t wait for their new addition to take the floor. In a press release, Wildcats head coach Lee Davie said, “I’m delighted John has agreed to join us in Durham, he has just completed a very impressive college career and I’m confident he will make a big impact on the BBL. Standing at 6’10, John’s defensive abilities will be a great addition to our team and his 500+ points in a tough NCAA Division I conference indicates he will be contributing heavily at both ends of the floor.”

With his first pro game just weeks away, Puk is anxious to get the season underway. “I don’t know what to expect, but I’m shooting for a starting position,” he said. “I’m going in with high expectations and high goals.”

Puk and the Wildcats begin their season in late September.

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