While on a recent business trip to Ulm, Germany, completing negotiations for WITec Instruments-USA’s spring move to the Maryville, I had the chance to take in a basketball game on Saturday night, Jan. 24. Playing in the 18-team German Bundesliga was a fellow Maryvillian with some moves of his own.
Maryville standout, University of Florida graduate and two-time national champion Lee Humphrey is continuing his basketball career in the professional German league. Lee is lighting up Germany with his famous 3-pointers, and the crowd loves it, never sitting down. On this night, The Ulm 1846 team, sponsored by ratiopharm, smashes the Brose Baskets of Bamberg, 96-79, the closest they got all night.
Lee was 5-of-7 from 3-point range and was the game’s high scorer with 21 points. His dead-on accuracy was so impressive that every time he went for a shot, the crowd just expected it was going to be a 3-pointer.
The most amazing thing is he sat out about a third of the game so some of the guys on the bench could get some game experience, according to Ulm coach Mike Taylor, who recruited Lee this past year to the German League. Taylor re-signed for a 6th year with the team the night of the game. He told me afterward that Lee was a fine Christian man and would be any coach’s pleasure to have on their team, a real leader and team player.
I ended up at the game by pure chance. One of my employees, Tavis Ezell, planned to be in Germany with me and had contacted his old Maryville high school classmate in the hope he might go to the game. When I told my WITec business associates, who were recently in Maryville to discuss the move, that Tavis had interest in the game, they picked up some of the last tickets.
In the end, Tavis’ plans changed and he could not make the game, allowing me to take his place.
We made a sign, which Lee autographed, that said: “Hi Lee from Your Maryville Fans.” Amazingly, we convinced some German fans to put the sign as high as they could on a post, borrowing tape from one of the food vendors. Coach Taylor said the team never looks up, but that night, they did. When they saw the sign, Taylor said he asked: “Lee, who’s here from your hometown?”
Basketball season continues in Germany until mid-May, and then there are the playoffs. Lee’s team is 13-8 right now, with the former Rebel the team’s fourth-best scorer, averaging 11.3 points per game. Lee is hitting a team-best 43.4 percent of his 3-point shots, knocking down 49 of his 113 attempts this season.
So if you find yourself in the Germany, check out the Bundesliga schedule and take in a game. I know Lee loved seeing some East Tennessee fans.