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Ex-Zag Pargo raves about two seasons with teams in Israel

Ex-Bulldogs guard Jeremy Pargo said the worst part about playing overseas is leaving his family. (File)
Ex-Bulldogs guard Jeremy Pargo said the worst part about playing overseas is leaving his family. (File)

Jeremy Pargo’s goal hasn’t changed, just the route to get there.

And he doesn’t mind the path he’s been on since completing his eligibility in the Gonzaga men’s basketball program in 2009. Pargo has won a couple of championships playing professionally for teams in Israel, he’s visited numerous countries and he feels it’s just a matter of time before he realizes his goal of making the NBA.

Pargo has heard horror stories from friends and former Zags teammates who didn’t receive paychecks or promised apartments, but he has no complaints with his two seasons overseas.

“I’ve had two really successful years with two successful teams. It’s been nothing but bliss for me,” Pargo said in a phone interview from his hometown of Chicago. “(Ex-Bulldog) Matt Santangelo played for the coach (David Blatt) I play for. Jannero (Pargo’s older brother) played for him in Russia. Israel is Americanized so it’s an easy adjustment. The people are extremely friendly and they love their basketball. It’s a great country and a great place to be.”

Pargo, the 2008 West Coast Conference player of the year, wasn’t drafted and didn’t hook up with an NBA team after stints in the 2009 and 2010 summer leagues. He helped Gilboa Galil win the 2010 Israeli Super League championship, scoring 15 points in a title-game victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Last year, Pargo averaged 10 points and 6.3 assists for Maccabi Tel Aviv, which won the Israeli Super League and lost to Panathinaikos for the prestigious Euroleague championship. Pargo had 12 points, nine rebounds, five rebounds and two steals in the championship game.

“I was coming from a smaller team to one of the biggest teams in the Euroleague,” Pargo said. “You hear about my team on a daily basis. Everyone thought it would be a rebuilding year for Maccabi, but we made it to the championship game. My team before only played in the Israeli league, one game a week. It’s not a bad league, but it’s not the strongest league. Maccabi plays in the Euroleague, which is the strongest league – bigger players, more intensity, more speed to the game.”

Maccabi has been in the news of late, signing former Duke star Jon Scheyer and Jordan Farmar, who has played for the NBA Lakers and Nets. That could make for a crowded backcourt, but Pargo, interviewed Tuesday prior to Farmar’s signing, didn’t sound worried.

“At Gonzaga, I played with two point guards pretty much my whole time. Last year I played with two point guards,” said Pargo, who signed a two-year contract with Maccabi. “Doron Perkins (former Santa Clara Bronco) was my backcourt mate last year.”

Pargo will leave in early September and spend roughly nine months abroad. He said the toughest part is being away from family and friends. He’s learned a few Hebrew words, but he said many Israelis speak English, which helps with the language barrier.

Pargo declined to discuss specifics, but it’s believed he’ll net nearly $1 million this season. He’s responsible for most of his food, gas for his car and his phone bill. The team pretty much covers the rest.

He named Spain, Russia, Italy, Slovenia and Serbia as places he’s visited. Pargo, who had a prolific appetite for hamburgers during his GU days, has expanded his diet. “Now I eat pasta every game day,” he says.

When the urge strikes him, Pargo said there’s a McDonald’s in Tel Aviv.

“You learn the world is bigger than the U.S., much bigger. My passport is actually full, so I need to get a new one soon,” Pargo said. “You learn and you grow and you understand things a little differently.

“Anything you do here you can do over there.”

Pargo was back in Spokane for about four weeks before returning to Chicago. He joined ex-Zags Matt Bouldin, Adam Morrison, Derek Raivio, Casey Calvary and occasionally Abdullahi Kuso for daily games against many current Bulldogs, including several incoming freshmen.

The outcomes?

“They got beat pretty bad every day,” said Pargo, who hopes to return for Mark and Marcy Few’s Coaches vs. Cancer event later this month. “As older guys you don’t want to lose to the younger guys, and the younger guys didn’t want to lose to us. There were several close games, and several blastings.”

But Pargo came away impressed with the 2011-12 Zags.

“I like Gary Bell a lot, he’s kind of a do-it-all guard. Ryan (Spangler) is pretty much ‘Pendo’ (David Pendergraft) but a little more athletic. Kyle (Dranginis) is a shooter, a knock-down guy,” Pargo said. “Marquise (Carter) is a lot better than last year and I’m a fan of David Stockton. Rob (Sacre) had a couple days where it was impossible to stop him.

“Those guys are going to be really good. No more worrying about them for me.”

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