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Courtesy photo

Merrimack's Corey Hassan looks to pass the ball during his final season at Sacred Heart University.
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Europe is Hassan’s best path to NBA

Gary Fitz

It paid for five years of college. It has brought him the kind of athletic success and adulation few experience. And Merrimack’s Corey Hassan isn’t ready for basketball to end.

So coming off an outstanding senior season at Sacred Heart University, with a business diploma in hand, he’s ready to continue his athletic career. He just isn’t sure where.

Hassan, who worked at the Matt Bonner Basketball Camp in Derry last week, has signed with the Entersport Management in New Canaan, Conn., and is pursuing a career in professional basketball.

It won’t be the NBA, at least not right at way. Ultimately, Hassan wants to further develop his skills to the point where an NBA team gives him a legitimate shot at training camp. He realizes it could be a few years before that happens.

But there are possibilities overseas, including professional leagues in Turkey, Germany and France that Hassan and his agents are exploring.

In the meantime, Hassan is working at his game every day. He got into the best shape of his life before his senior year and it paid huge dividends.

Weight room work helped the 6-foot-4 wing player have the best rebounding year of his career. Not only did he lead Sacred Heart in just about every offensive category as a senior, but he was the second-best rebounder at 7.6 per game, nearly doubling his previous career-high.

Hassan is still working on getting stronger, and knows other aspects of his game need attention.

“I need to be a better ball handler,’’ Hassan said. “It’s not something that’s fun to work on. It can get pretty boring, but I’m putting in the time.’’

One thing Hassan has always been able to do is shoot. For part of last winter, he led all Division I players in 3-point field goal made. He finished the season as the Northeast Conference leader in both points (19.2) and 3-pointers made (3.21 per game), while finishing fifth in rebounding.

The transition to a slightly longer 3-point line in Europe shouldn’t pose a problem.

“I’ve always had pretty good range, even in high school,’’ Hassan said. “But I’m still shooting a lot. It’s just a matter of getting more and more consistent.’’

Hassan started his first game as a freshman at Boston University at Cameron Indoor at Duke University, going head-to-head with future NBA guard J.J. Redick.

Early in his senior year, Hassan played against Xavier’s Jordan Crawford, selected in the first round (27th overall) of the NBA draft. Crawford lit up Sacred Heart for 26 points in 25 minutes in a 105-65 Xavier win, but Hassan had 22 points and hit four 3-pointers in the game.

“There’s no doubt you have to have a ton of skill to play in the NBA,’’ Hassan said. “But you also have to be in the right place at the right time.’’

Bonner found his place in San Antonio, was part of a championship, and recently re-signed for another tour with the Spurs as a reliable bench player with a career 41-percent shooter from 3-point range.

It seems like a lot of teams are looking for reliable outside shooters to open up the floor, and Hassan fits that role pretty well. And going overseas, at this point, is a good place to start.

Gary Fitz can be reached at 594-6469 or gfitz@nashuatelegraph.com.