Former Shippensburg University basketball star Justin McCarthur left SU as one of the greatest to ever step on the Heiges Field House court. Now, he will continue his legacy professionally after landing a deal in Lithuania.
McCarthur is now a member of Delikatesas Joniškis in the National Basketball League (NKL). The league consists of 14 teams and is considered the second-tier league in Lithuania. McCarthur finds himself in an exciting, yet unique situation as he is two years out of graduating from SU.
With all-star level talent and a jump shot as good as it gets, a player like McCarthur normally receives looks from teams straight out of college. However, McCarthur’s journey to professional basketball is not the typical path.
McCarthur was a member of the Raiders once again last season as he served as one of the team’s assistant coaches. While he was helping his former teammates chase a title, he never gave up on his dreams of playing professional basketball.
Since graduating, McCarthur has spent most of his time training and taking part in satellite camps. Most of these camps took him across the country and even flew him over the Pacific to play in China last summer. He met his current head coach in China leading to his big breakthrough.
After building that relationship, McCarthur found his long-awaited opportunity to prove he can play with some of the best athletes in the world.
McCarthur’s career statistics speak for themselves. The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native etched his name in the SU record books with 291 career three-pointers, the highest total in school history and ninth in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) history. Additionally, his 1,650 career points rank fourth all-time at SU, proving he was an issue for defenses in his collegiate career.
With endless ways to score, McCarthur brings a lot to his new team.
“They’re going to get someone who is a playmaker and can move the ball,” McCarthur said. “I’m an all-around player and have a playing style that will get the team wins.”
McCarthur may have an advantage compared to the rest of his teammates. He said spending time as a coach has given him a different perspective on the game. He does not know if that will transition into his playing style but it allowed him to find ways to help his team and improve his leadership role.
Without many concerns on the court, McCarthur said the biggest challenge he will face is moving to a new country. He said he is not nervous about the move but knows it may take some time to get acclimated with the culture. He hopes to use his times in China and Spain as examples to help him cope with the new environment.
“I don’t want to say I know what to expect, but I have a general idea of what it might be like,” he said. “From my time in China and going to Spain when I was still at Ship, I at least know what it feels like to be in a different country for an extended period of time.”
With McCarthur becoming the second player to enter the professional basketball world from the 2018 graduating class, he continues to receive lots of praise and compliments for never letting his dream die.
“I couldn’t be more happy and excited for Justin,” head coach Chris Fite said of McCarthur. “He is one of the best players to have come through this program and he has worked extremely hard for this opportunity. Myself and the coaching staff thank him for all that he has done for the program and we wish him the best of luck as a pro.”
McCarthur leaves for Lithuania within the next couple of days once he receives the proper releases and is cleared to travel overseas. Playing in the middle of a pandemic will be another fork in the road for him; however, he will not let that get in the way of what will be a memorable rookie season.
“I’m just super excited,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time and for it to happen the way it did, makes it even more special.”
The NKL’s preseason begins Sept. 14 followed by the regular start in mid-October.