Jun. 30—Nik Caner-Medley was certain that after this, his 15th season of playing professional basketball overseas, he would be done.
He is, after all, 37, turning 38 in October. The 2002 Deering High graduate would retire, spend time with his young family and take care of all the community programs he has started in Portland.
But then? The team Caner-Medley played on, Fos Provence in France’s top pro league, won the championship — his first as a pro and only second in his life, the other coming in 2004 when Maryland won the Atlantic Coast Conference title.
And then? Fos Provence, which is located in Fos-sur-mer on the Mediterranean coast of France, offered Caner-Medley a two-year contract extension, which he signed. Caner-Medley declined to disclose the financials.
So the 6-foot-8 Caner-Medley, who has played professionally in eight countries, won’t be retiring.
“It’s incredible how it all worked out,” said Caner-Medley recently, in a phone call from Miami where he and his wife, Shoni, and 18-month-old daughter, Jade, were visiting family. “It’s just phenomenal to have it come together way it did. It’s really overwhelming emotionally because of the way it went down.”
When the season ended, and Fos Provence celebrated the championship with its fans, Caner-Medley reflected on every moment in his career that led to this point — even the last-second 57-56 loss to Bangor in the Class A state championship game in 2001.
“Yeah, I even thought back to that Bangor game in high school, it’s those experiences that make it more special for me now,” he said. “I know how hard it is. I was committed to it. When I went to France this year, I said, ‘I want to win this … This is the goal. This is what I’m going to do.’ I put that pressure on myself because I know how much disappointment comes from not doing it. All those experiences finishing close helped me.
“It was an incredible learning experience. It’s one thing to think you know, but to get to the finish line is a really, really rewarding experience. I understood in that moment why it is such a coveted thing.”
Caner-Medley, who was a four-year starter at Maryland after graduating from Deering, averaged 13.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists this year for Fos Provence. That was good enough to get him named to the all-league team as one of its top five players.
“That was unexpected, but it just comes from winning I guess,” he said. “It’s only happened once before, when I was 27 playing in Spain. So that was pretty cool.”
And Caner-Medley is not resting on his success. After about a week of eating and drinking what he wanted, he is already working out with his trainer and close friend, Colby Emmons. Emmons joined Caner-Medley in Miami last week and the two were doing early-morning workouts — both on turf or track surfaces (to save stress on his knees and joints) and in the gym — to try to beat the oppressive heat.
“Every day we try to get out earlier,” said Caner-Medley. “Even by 10 or 11 in the morning, it’s unhealthy to be outside working out.”
One of the reasons he is working out already is that Caner-Medley has agreed to play in The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team, winner-take-all $1 million tournament that will be played in late July and early August. The tournament attracts many of the top European players and many still looking for a shot at the NBA.
Caner-Medley will play for Team ALS Challenge, in honor of a family member who is battling the disease.
“It’s a lot of high-level guys,” said Caner-Medley. “And a lot of it is playing for causes that are bigger than the game of basketball. That’s why I’m playing for Team ALS.”
Emmons said Caner-Medley is determined to be in the best shape possible for the tournament.
“Playing for something dear to your heart is a beautiful thing,” said Emmons. “And it’s an opportunity for Nik to be playing on American soil in front of some of his fans. It’s something he couldn’t pass up.”
Emmons also noted even if Caner-Medley weren’t playing in The Basketball Tournament, his commitment to basketball almost demands he push himself in the offseason.
“His body is in great shape and I think that speaks to his professionalism,” said Emmons. “We’ve known each other for a long time and he’s always been one to be able to answer the bell competitively. We’ve taken the mindset, when we stop producing, that’s when we’ll start walking away. Right now, he’s playing at a high level.”
Caner-Medley also has business to attend in Portland. He and Emmons still plan to hold their annual Summer Slam, a community-inspired basketball camp offered free to local children. This year, he is planning to add a leadership seminar joined by a couple of Mainers who have had successful careers in basketball: European player Troy Barnies and Josh Longstaff, an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls.
“We’ll talk about things you need to do to be a leader, things you need to do to be a winner,” he said.
Caner-Medley knows he’s been fortunate throughout his career. And he knows he would not have gotten through this season without the support of his wife, Shoni.
Soon after they arrived, France, which had begun reopening, shut down after suffering a COVID-19 outbreak. Caner-Medley said he was able to only go to the grocery store and the gym.
His wife was left at home alone much of the time with their young daughter.
“My wife was the real MVP and real champion,” he said. “She handled it so well. I tried to help as much as I could, but those last couple of months, I had blinders on. It was a lot for her to deal with.”
Even as the team played, first before no fans, then a few, then more, Caner-Medley wasn’t sure he wanted to return. But he also didn’t want to end his career this way. He and his wife chose this particular team because of the region, and they couldn’t enjoy any of its splendor. His family could not visit to see either the baby or him play.
Midway through the season, he thought to himself, “To not have my mom and dad and family see my last game as pro, my last game period, that didn’t sit right.”
Once the championship was won, and the two-year contract extended, Caner-Medley knew he had to come back. He wants another championship run. And he wants to enjoy the beauty of the region.
“It’s really cool how it all came together,” he said. “(The contract) gets me close to 40 and I’ll have 17 years (as a pro). I always say, expect the unexpected. But it’s safe to say this is going to be my last stop.”