Former Wichita State standout Markis McDuffie signed his first professional basketball contract on Monday, agreeing to play the 2019-20 season with Alba Fehervar in Hungary’s top league, Nemzeti Bajnoksag I/A.
McDuffie, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward, averaged 18.2 points his senior year at WSU this past season, the highest scoring average in the Gregg Marshall era, and made countless difficult jumpers as a marked man on a young and inexperienced WSU team that McDuffie helped lead to the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament and a 14-4 close to the season.
“This is what I dreamed of doing, being a professional basketball player,” McDuffie told the Eagle on Tuesday. “Signing that contract, I finally felt relieved. Obviously this wasn’t the plan, but it’s still a blessing. I’m still getting a chance to show my talents and continue to build. I’m really excited about getting over there and getting to work.”
And McDuffie won’t be the only former Shocker playing for Alba Fehervar in Hungary — he’ll be joined by his former roommate and teammate Daishon Smith, who played for WSU during the 2016-17 season when McDuffie led the Shockers in scoring (11.5) and rebounding (5.7) and Smith started 12 games and averaged 4.8 points.
Smith transferred after the season and landed at Louisiana-Monroe, where he had a standout senior year and averaged 21.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.2 steals last season.
“I was very excited when Markis told me he would be coming to team up with me again,” Smith wrote to the Eagle in a message. “He’s one of the guys who I kept in contact with the most since I left WSU, so when I found out we would be teammates again in a different country, I couldn’t believe it. It’s given me some sense of comfort. I’ll be starting my first professional year with a great friend.”
“That’s my roommate, so I’m very proud of him and what he was able to do last year. “We’ve always been just like brothers. We had a great time playing together and I’ve always known that he’s got game. He took his talents (to ULM) and showed the world what he can do. Now that we are back together again, we’re ready to make some noise.”
Smith’s presence wasn’t the sole factor, but it did play a role in McDuffie signing with Alba Fehervar. When the team initially called, McDuffie asked how many Americans the team had and they responded with one. McDuffie looked up the roster and saw Smith’s name and the two have been in contact since.
Smith, who signed with the team on July 22, is already in Hungary and has given McDuffie an early report on what things are like in the foreign country. McDuffie is set to leave for Hungary on Thursday with the season running from October to May.
“I’ve never been out of the country before, so I’m excited to be able to experience something new like this,” McDuffie said. “I’m planning on making the best of it. This is a huge opportunity for me and a lot can happen in one year.”
Now the duo will star for Alba Fehervar, which has had a strong recent history — winning the league title in 2017 and five times in the last two decades. The club finished 12-14 in league play and out of the eight-team playoffs, but did reach the quarterfinals of the 32-team FIBA EuropeCup.
McDuffie said the team has a new coach and an almost entirely new roster with plans for the two former Shockers leading the way.
“Coming from Wichita State, my goal and my expectation is always to win,” McDuffie said. “I love to win and I just want to continue to get better and continue to build and fall in love with the grind. I’m a professional now, so my job is to come in here every day and work. They told me they want to get back to winning, so I’m going to try to help them do that.”
It was an enticing opportunity for McDuffie, who has had a busy summer auditioning for his first pro contract.
He started by playing in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament with the top college seniors in the country not invited to the NBA Draft combine. He worked out for more than a dozen NBA teams leading up to the draft, then played for the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in July. More recently, McDuffie was in Chicago last week to play in the G League Player Invitational.
Although McDuffie’s career won’t start in the NBA or the G League, a strong rookie campaign in Hungary could propel McDuffie to another look next summer.
“I got a lot of great feedback from NBA teams this summer and they told me that I did really well and they’re going to keep an eye on me and follow me,” McDuffie said. “Hopefully they follow me like they said and we’ll go from there. The goal is to come back to the US. That’s forever going to be my goal.”