The long road to the pros, and where it goes from here

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On Feb. 6, 2019, Micah Till was on top of the world. Well, at least on top of the mountainous hill behind the Mihalik-Thompson Stadium. So, yeah, on top of the world.

Winners of 13 of their last 14 games, riding high having already clinched a playoff berth, Till and Slippery Rock basketball entered their Feb. 6 contest against Indiana University (Pa.) with a chance to climb to first in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

With season averages of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, on 51 (from the field)/30 (from 3-point range)/69 (from the free-throw line) shooting, Till was perhaps the biggest mismatch on the court during any PSAC game, definitely one of the best players in Division II basketball. His personal journey from the North Carolina State gridiron as a football player through the hardwood at Harford Community College to finally making his mark at the Morrow Field House was well documented, but his end goal was still so far away: professional basketball, the NBA to be exact.

With 10 minutes left in the second half of the game, with Indiana having its way throughout the contest, Till suffered a knee injury that would hold him out the rest of the season. Slippery Rock would lose the contest in blowout fashion but rattled off five wins in the next six contests without Till to clinch the No. 2 seed in the PSAC-West.

An exit in the PSAC Quarterfinals ended Slippery Rock’s season, and Till would not play again for almost 10 months.

Karlsruhe, Germany is a bike town. Well, with 311,000 residents, it is more of a city — more of a Pittsburgh — than a town. But, according to Till, a lot of its residents bike around the city.

Living in Slippery Rock these past few years, with a population of roughly 3,000, the adjustment to living in a major German city has been surprisingly easy. Till said the people are nice, the city is nice and the lifestyle is a nice change of pace from what he has become so accustomed to. That language barrier has not been easy though.

Living in a foreign city and speaking a new language kind of comes with the territory of a new career, and for Till, that career is a dream come true. He is a professional basketball player.

“All my life I’ve wanted to play in the NBA obviously, but just to be a pro player, to have that name that I’m a professional athlete, it’s just something I’ve always dreamed of doing,” Till said.

Till signed with the PS Karlsruhe Lions in the German ProA league, the second tier of professional German basketball, in early July which was made official through a Twitter post from Till’s agency, ACD on July 6.

“Of course, Micah first has to find [his] way around European basketball and gain experience,” PS Karlsruhe’s head of department Danijel Ljubic said on the team website in July. “But his physical requirements hold a lot of potential. We want to give him the opportunity in Karlsruhe to develop further.

Signing with PS Karlsruhe would not have been possible without the help of ACD Agency, Till said.

“It all started with my agent, Chris Gulla,” Till said. “I signed with him in, I believe March, and he’s a really good guy.”

Gulla, the president and founder of ACD, set up the opportunity with PS Karlsruhe through a connection with Lions’ first-year head coach Drazan Salavarda, Till said.

Till said the signing process actually began toward the end of March and into early April, around the time that the coronavirus pandemic really began affecting people worldwide, which made his international signing that much more remarkable given the circumstances. “It was just hard for most people to just get signed,” Till said.

Unfortunately for Till, who was slated by Eurobasket.net as a starter for PS Karlsruhe this season, adversity has struck again.

“Unfortunately, I’m going to have to come back to the States, I suffered a back injury, a slipped disc in my back, so I have to be out for two to three months, and with the coronavirus, they can’t afford to rehab me here,” Till said. “So, I have to be in the States until December.”

With COVID-19 impacting PS Karlsruhe’s finances and ability to retain players, while both sides would like a reunion, that is still up in the air.

On Dec. 15, 2019, Till made his comeback to the Morrow Field House. In a non-conference contest against Salem University, in 18 minutes off the bench, Till put in his typical all-around dominant effort. 14 points on a rusty 4-of-14 from the field with three rebounds, blocks and steals.

Slippery Rock battled to an 11-8 record over the course of the season with Till in the lineup, clinching the sixth seed in the PSAC-West and a contest with Pittsburgh-Johnstown in the first round of the playoffs.

In what would be the final game in green and white for Till, he fouled out on a night in which he scored just 10 points from the field, on 2-of-11 from the field, while grabbing two rebounds and two steals. Dumped from the PSAC playoffs in the first round, it was an unceremonious end for one of the greatest players in the history of Slippery Rock athletics.

In an injury/eligibility shortened season, Till put up 18.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists on 47/36/77 shooting. As a Division II student-athlete, with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, Till averaged 20.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game through 73 games. Till became the only student-athlete in SRU history to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds, dish out 100 assists, block 100 shots and steal 100 balls.

During his time at Slippery Rock, he worked his a– off to hone his craft. That has been no different at the professional level.

“I wake up, two practices, a practice in the morning around 10 to 12:30, and then a little break, with more practice from 6-8:30,” Till said. “Every day Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday are off, but they want us to get extra work in.”

Despite the injury which has fogged Till’s career, he is determined as ever to reach the apex of his career: the NBA. The NBA will always be the peak of his career, and with PS Karlsruhe, it is just the tip of the iceberg.

“It’s humbling honestly,” Till said of signing with a professional basketball team. “It’s made me a lot more grateful for the things I have, and I’m just happy to be where I am. Once I get healthy, the sky is the limit.”

Karl is a senior sport management major and communication minor entering his fifth semester on The Rocket staff. He will serve as the sports editor after previously serving as the assistant sports editor. During his time with The Rocket, he has covered every sport that SRU has to offer, and with the lack of sports this coming semester, he is looking forward to finding alternative ways to deliver sports news to the SRU community. After graduation, he hopes to work in the sports writing field.

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Karl Ludwig
Karl is a senior sport management major and communication minor entering his fifth semester on The Rocket staff. He will serve as the sports editor after previously serving as the assistant sports editor. During his time with The Rocket, he has covered every sport that SRU has to offer, and with the lack of sports this coming semester, he is looking forward to finding alternative ways to deliver sports news to the SRU community. After graduation, he hopes to work in the sports writing field.

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