It has always been Eric Donaldson’s dream to play basketball overseas. On Aug. 20, he’ll fly to Rome to make that dream come true, after signing with Vigor Matelica, a professional team in Italy.
Donaldson’s father, Robert, played and coached in Europe for 25 years. Eric was born in Coventry, England, and got his first taste of high-level European basketball with the United Kingdom’s under-16 national team at the European Championships in 2017.
“It was a great experience to have, and that’s what I wanted to do,” said Eric Donaldson. “I really enjoyed it.”
The former Antioch High School star will play guard and forward for his new team. His older brother, Sydney, who has been playing professionally in London for the past three seasons, will join him on the team. For the Donaldson family, it’s an ideal situation.
“I think it’s great,” said Robert Donaldson. “He’ll get a chance to be mentored by Sydney. There’s no better character than his brother to mentor him in the process [of playing overseas], because he’s actually been doing it himself.”
For the two brothers, it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and planning.
“We’ve always talked about playing on the same team,” said Eric Donaldson. “That’s been a dream of ours for a couple years now.”
Since Sydney is 11 years older than Eric, they’ve never had the chance to play on the same team. But when he played in the European Championships, Eric realized playing alongside his brother might be within reach.
For his first season, Eric will retain his amateur status while playing for Vigor Matelica. This will preserve the option to come back to the United States to play collegiate basketball a year from now, if he believes that’s the best fit.
“I want to keep the doors open for any opportunity possible,” he explained. “If the best fit for me is to stay in Europe and play at a higher level with this team or another team, that’s what I’m going to do. If the best fit is to come back to America and play at a top tier division one school, that’s what I’ll do. I’m keeping my options open.”
After earning a 3.76 grade point average in high school, including a 4.0 in his junior and senior years, college is still an option.
“As hard as he has worked on the court, he’s also worked in the classroom, so he’s prepared for both,” said Robert Donaldson. “It’s a dream come true to play with his brother in Europe, but he has also been accepted by colleges and could register for school tomorrow if he had to.”
Robert Donaldson said his son’s work ethic made this opportunity possible, pointing to his self-motivation and persistence.
On the court, Eric Donaldson describes himself as a versatile player who models his game after NBA stars Devin Booker and Luka Doncic.
As he transitions from high school to playing in Europe, he’s looking to improve against older, more experienced players.
“The physicality aspect of the game is something I can improve on,” he said. “I’ve been playing against high school kids, kids my age. Now I’m going to be playing against grown men who have been playing professionally for six, seven years.”
In his three seasons with Antioch High, he scored more than 1000 points, a rare and impressive milestone for high school players.
His first practice with his new team will be on Aug. 22. Their season starts Sept. 28.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to make my dreams come true and I thank God for that,” he said. “I’m thankful to my family; they’ve helped me every step of the way.”