Former Tennessee basketball player Chris Lofton (2005-2008) departed Friday afternoon for Spain, where he will join Caja Liboral, a team in the ACB (Asociación de Clubs de Baloncesto), which is the country’s premier professional basketball league and one of the top leagues in all of Europe. A three-time All-America selection with the Vols, Lofton will sign a contract with Caja Liboral upon his arrival.
The 18-team ACB league features notable basketball standouts such as Ricky Rubio, Taquan Dean, Christian Eyenga and Gerald Fitch. Current NBA superstar Pau Gasol and former Stanford All-America Josh Childress also once played in the ACB.
“One step at a time,” UT head coach Bruce Pearl said. “Chris excelled last year in Turkey, and now he’s earned himself a spot in the top professional league in Europe. He’s worked incredibly hard, and it’s just a matter of time before he’s playing in the NBA.”
Lofton enjoyed a breakout season with Turkish professional team Mersin last season — scoring an incredible 61 points (17-of-22 from 3-point range) in a single game — before earning a spot on the Boston Celtics’ NBA Summer League team.
A native of Maysville, Ky., Lofton is the Southeastern Conference’s all-time 3-point king and ranks third in NCAA history with 431 career 3-pointers made. He helped lead Tennessee to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, as well as the 2008 SEC Championship.
Lofton will join another former Pearl pupil now playing in the ACB, as Clay Tucker — who played for Pearl at UW-Milwaukee — is under contract with DKV Joventut. And Dan Grunfeld, who helped lead the Pearl-coached Maccabi USA Open Men’s Basketball Team to gold at the 18th World Maccabiah Games this past summer, plays for the ACB’s C.B. Valladolid.