Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nick Calathes to Panathinaikos?

University of Florida standout point guard Nick Calathes is going pro. But not to the NBA.

Calathes, the state's two-time "Mr. Basketball" from Lake Howell, agreed to terms Friday to play for powerful Panathinaikos, the reigning Euroleague Basketball champion club based in Greece, according to sources close to the former Gators playmaker.

Neither Calathes nor his family would comment on the development, pending announcements from Panathinaikos and UF. Gators Coach Coach Billy Donovan apparently was informed of his player's decision Friday night, with at least one source saying a contract was signed.

The deal, sources said, will pay Calathes around $1.1 million per year, in addition to providing him with a home, car and tax credits, making for a total package commensurate to what the NBA rookie salary scale provides a late-lottery selection. Golden's State forward Anthony Randolph, the final lottery pick of 2008 at No. 14, made $1.424 million as a rookie.

With his Greek heritage and dual citizenship, Calathes figures to be a popular figure in Athens. In addition to joining arguably the world's most elite overseas franchise, there should be endorsement opportunities aplenty, and the built-in honor to represent his country in international competition. Last summer, he played for the Greek National Team during the FIBA Europe Under-20 championships.

Calathes, who averaged 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and led the Southeastern Conference with 6.2 assists per game as a sophomore last season, applied for early entry into the NBA draft, but held off from hiring a agent in the event he changed his mind and opted to return school.

Draft analysts projected the 6-foot-5, 185-pounder to go late in the first round, though Dallas, picking 22nd, was believed to be very interested after hosting the first-team All- SEC selection for a workout last week. NBA teams still may select Calathes in the June 25 draft and would retain his future rights. The contract with Panathinaikos is believed to have a buyout option, as well.

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