Sports

Nate Menefee: Looking for his shot

The past 10 months have been nonstop basketball for Nate Menefee. Without question, that’s the way he prefers it.

“It beats a 9-to-5 job, that’s for sure,” Menefee said.

The former NAIA All-America guard at Evergreen State College and Timberline High School graduate has experienced several life-changing moments lately – playing his first year of professional basketball in Europe, becoming a father, a soon-be-be husband, and holding his first youth basketball camp at Timberline next week.

Menefee and his fiancée, Alexzandria, will wed in July. The couple recently welcomed their first child, 4-week-old daughter, Azaria.

“It’s .... a life-changing experience,” Menefee, 25, said of being a father.

Menefee is fresh off playing professional basketball in Portugal that had positive results, and is currently dominating the International Basketball League (IBL) as a member of the Olympia Reign with a 26.4 points-per-game scoring average.

The 5-foot-11 shooting guard is counting on his experience at home and abroad leading to more opportunities in basketball.

“Hopefully, it’s a stepping stone for what’s next,” Menefee said.

While playing for CAB Maderia on Madeira Island, a Portuguese archipelago in the north Atlantic Ocean, Menefee endured an eight-month season. Games were once a week, but practices were twice a day everyday.

It took time for Menefee to adjust to the speed of the European game and a 3-point line that is a foot farther away than in college. Once he did, the former Geoduck thrived, averaging 16.1 points a game.

Menefee won MVP honors and led his team to the Portuguese Cup title. In a semifinal game in March, he scored a season-high 30 points.

And because he was paid to play there, he didn’t have to find a job in Olympia while playing his second season with the Reign. Instead, he’s been focusing on working out, staying in shape and being a father.

Menefee had 11 days off before suiting up for the Reign in the team’s third game.

He scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in that game, and since then, has been the team’s leading scorer – fifth best in the league – while averaging five rebounds and four assists a game.

“Being able to take two different styles of basketball helped my game to go another level,” Menefee said.

Last summer, Menefee attended the Hart Sports Management International Exposure Camp in Las Vegas, which attracts representatives from European teams as well as the NBA and its development league (NBDL).

Menefee’s scoring ability and leadership are what attracted the pro scouts. That exposure is how he got noticed and eventually signed by his Portuguese team.

“He’s a natural scorer,” Reign coach Steve Smothers said.

Now, having had a year of professional basketball experience, Menefee said he feels chances are better that he will get the call he’s waiting for.

“Hopefully, it gets me to the next level,” he said. “That would be great.”

The Reign ends its regular season at home tonight before entering the playoffs, which run Friday through Sunday at Clark College in Vancouver. Despite a losing record – Olympia is 6-12 entering Tuesday’s game vs. the Edmonton Energy – Smothers said his team is making positive strides.

“I think we are probably the one or two most talented teams in the league,” Smothers said.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 mwochnick@theolympian.com

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