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Former Mr. Basketball Finds a Good Fit in France

With the NBA Lockout showing no signs of ending anytime soon, professional basketball in the United States is at a standstill. But for Donnie McGrath, that’s not a problem.

The former John F. Kennedy Catholic High School star is set to start his sixth season playing professionally in Europe.

“I definitely consider Europe a second home now,” said the 27-year-old McGrath. “I really like it here. Some places are better than others, just like in the U.S., but I really enjoy it here. It's always great to get back to New York in the summer and be with family and friends, but it’s also great to get back to Europe and playing and my friends here.

The 6-foot-4 Katonah native, who has been on teams in Greece and Italy, will be playing in France for the first time this coming season. He signed with Cholet Basket of the French Pro A League. McGrath averaged 9.2 points per game as the starting point guard for PAOK Thessaloniki in Greece’s A-1 League last season.

“I was under contract with my team PAOK again for this year, but with the NBA Lockout, they tried to sign Corey Maggette (of the Charlotte Bobcats) and with all the financial problems in Greece they didn't want to pay my contract so they gave me a buyout and I just became a free agent Sept. 15,” McGrath said. “So I didn't have much time to figure out where I could go because the season was about to start but Cholet in France came with a good offer and they are playing in the Eurocup as well, so it seemed like a good situation.

“They are one of the best French teams. They won the championship two years ago, and lost in the finals last season. They are one of three teams from France that gets to play in Eurocup.”

McGrath was a four-year starter for both JFK and Providence College, where he ended his career with 1,282 points and as the Friars’ all-time leader in minutes played, games started and 3-pointers made. At Kennedy Catholic, he scored a school-record 1,725 points and was named Westchester County’s Mr. Basketball his senior year in 2001-02, when he averaged 30.9 points and 7.6 assists.

McGrath’s 2010-11 season in Greece was cut short in January when he suffered a torn labrum in his hip. After arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn cartilage in New York City, he’s good to go.

“I’m excited to play in France for the first time,” he said. “I’ve been to Paris a few times and played in France last year for one game, but really haven't spent too much time in the country. I think the league is very professional and organized, the fans are good, and it’s a high level of competition.”

Joe Lombardi's look at sports of all sorts in Westchester appears Sundays.

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