Bates College men’s basketball coach Joe Reilly saw five players graduate from his program in May. Four of them already had jobs lined up in their prospective careers.

Rob Stockwell was the final holdout, and not for lack of ability or academic success. The economics major wanted to take a spin down one final avenue.

Good decision. Starting in the fall, Stockwell is bound to have more fun than most of the accountants, bankers and law school students in his senior class. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound forward has signed with the Luna Mansfield Stars of the English Basketball League.

“It’s great news for Bates and a good fit for Rob,” said Reilly. “There a lot of very good Division III players in this particular league. It’s a one-year contract, but if you do great, it’s the kind of place where you could play for a long time.”

Stockwell is the second recent Bates athlete to turn pro in the last two months. B.J. Majeski, a defenseman and four-year standout for the Bobcats’ lacrosse program, suited up for the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse this summer.

The Mansfield franchise currently campaigns in the second division of the English league but is hoping to compete at the top level in the 2007-08 season.

England’s season mirrors the NBA, with training camp commencing in late September and an extensive schedule carrying into April.

“It feels great to sign this contract,” Stockwell said in a Bates news release. “I am really excited about experiencing a new country and culture. I will also be helping out coaching younger kids as a part of my contract, which I am looking forward to.”

Stockwell is instructing at various summer camps in his native New Hampshire this summer.

In his final three seasons at Bates, Stockwell led the Bobcats in both scoring and rebounding and was named to the New England Small College Athletic Conference all-star team each year.

Equally important to his current career path was a team trip to Great Britain last summer, when the Bates staff made numerous connections on behalf of Stockwell and point guard Zak Ray.

“We felt that both Rob and Zak had the potential to play professionally,” Reilly said. “Zak decided to go into the investment banking world, and that’s great. Rob also had a great internship in Boston and had a job opportunity lined up, but he made the decision that he wanted to try to make this (basketball) happen.”

Reilly and the Bates staff put together a highlight DVD and took advantage of some of the contacts made on their European trip.

The video exhibited all aspects of Stockwell’s well-rounded game. While his burly frame makes him a top-notch scorer and rebounder down low, Stockwell is also a splendid 3-point shooter.

“We had the opportunity to sign Rob and had to move quickly to secure him contractually,” said Martin Chad, the Stars’ director of basketball operations, in an interview with the Mansfield Chad. “We know the caliber of player we are getting in Rob Stockwell. We have watched extensive video game footage of him, and he is mightily impressive.”

While attending the prestigious New Hampton Prep program, Stockwell shared the court with the likes of future NCAA Division I and NBA performers Rashad McCants (North Carolina) and Craig Smith (Boston College).

“There are a lot of Division I and II players in this league. Rob played against those types of guys in prep school and during the summer,” Reilly said. “I know Rob can play a higher level. His versatility is what will serve him well.”

Bates went 75-29 during Stockwell’s career. Stockwell missed only one game in that stretch.

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