Sean Mosley figured he would play basketball overseas as long as he could earn a paycheck, then come back to Baltimore and start the rest of his life. Maybe he'd stop playing when he turned 30, and maybe not.
Coming off the most satisfying year of his five-year professional career, Mosley is now not sure about how long he wants to continue this vagabond lifestyle. The family tug has grown stronger the past few months.
A lot has changed since Mosley returned last summer from France, where he helped a "B" League team in Le Portel win its first-ever championship and earn a promotion to the country's "A" League.
"There was a lot going on, first my mom got sick and then my aunt, so I stayed back to be with my family," Mosley said in a telephone interview last week. "I'm a family guy, and it's tough being away."
While Mosley wouldn't speak about his mother Cara's illness, he said "she's doing better." His aunt, Madeline Ross, died recently, and her funeral was last week.
Mosley still expects to return to Le Portel, if a suitable contract can be worked out.
His family, including his five older siblings, has encouraged him to go back to Europe.
"They like when I'm gone, to be honest," he said. "They know my passion and my dream of just playing ball. When I'm here, in the city that we live in, it's kind of hard for them. They worry about what can happen. When I'm gone, it's kind of stress-free for them."
Rodney Elliott, a former Maryland and Dunbar High standout, can relate to what Mosley is going through.
Undrafted coming out of College Park in 1998 after leading the Terps in scoring and rebounding and being named third-team all ACC as a senior, Elliott started a 12-year professional career that included 11 teams in "seven or eight countries," including two years spent in U.S. minor leagues, one of them in Baltimore.
"It was very difficult. I had a son to worry about. He was 3 going on 4 [when Elliott left Maryland] and he needed to be taken care of," Elliott said of his son, Rodney Jr., now a redshirt junior guard at UMBC. "The toughest part was being away from the family — the six-hour time difference. I was waking up late at night just to say good morning to my son. My phone bill was, like, $1,500 a month."
It was during the first of three seasons in Italy — two in Livorno, the only place he lived for more than a year — that Elliott realized that he was going to play the remainder of his career in Europe.
"I realized I could make a decent living, and play against some top-notch teams. I wouldn't say I gave up on my NBA dreams, but I pursued [Europe] more heavily, and I put [NBA drams] on the back-burner," Elliott said. "Teams [in Europe] really wanted me. Once I realized that this is where I wanted it to be, Italy was awesome — great food, great culture, great teams, living five minutes away from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and then 10-minute cab ride from the Eiffel Tower in Paris wasn't bad."
Mosley said his experience playing in France was the "highlight of highlights" in his pro career, which began in Poland and later included stops in Germany, Italy and a few months in the United Arab Emirates.
While he enjoyed living in Dubai, the 6-foot-4 Mosley was the lone "import" on his team in a league that only allowed one foreign player per club. Most teams brought in American big men to fill that spot.
"Our tallest player was 6-6. It wasn't a good fit for me," Mosley said.
Joining Le Portel in the midst of its best season, Mosley helped the team win a championship. The playoffs, especially the best-of-three finals, were as good if not better than anything Mosley experienced at Maryland.
"Every game was packed," said Mosley, who joined the team midseason. "We went on our winning streak. Having that experience, it was definitely a relief on my shoulders."
Though the team's home arena is tiny compared to U.S. standards — fewer than 4,000 seats — the late-season and playoff games became a celebration throughout the town of around 10,000 located near the English Channel.
"You walk outside [the arena] and it was like a parade," Mosley said.
The championship game was the most important Mosley had experienced since his sophomore year, when the Terps lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Michigan State on an often replayed 3-point shot at the buzzer by Korie Lucious.
"That was a tough one; it still hurts my heart," said Mosley, who served as a backup that season to both Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes, and averaged 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Mosley, 27, who left St. Frances as the second-leading scorer in Baltimore high school history with 2,933 points, was named a captain by Gary Williams as a junior and figured he'd finish out his college career playing for the future Hall of Fame coach.
That changed when Williams suddenly announced his retirement a little more than a month after the 2010-11 season.
"It was definitely different, after playing for Coach Williams for three years," Mosley said. "Having that change right before we all back together as a team, it was different for me because I was the only one there on the team for four years."
Knowing that, Mark Turgeon relied heavily on Mosley during the coach's first season in College Park.
"I really leaned on him a lot," Turgeon said last week. "I was new. I didn't know any of the guys. I trusted him. Coach Bino [Ranson] was here with the team. I leaned on those two guys a lot that first year. Sean had a good head on his shoulders, he was a great kid and he loved Maryland. I wanted him to have fun his senior year and I think he did because he had ownership of the team."
What he calls a "close, close relationship" with Turgeon remains. Mosley said he still texts Turgeon after big wins and attends games at Xfinity Center when he's home, including both the Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State games last week.
"He's done a wonderful job turning the program around," Mosley said. "I think he's turning it in the right direction now."
Mosley said he has talked with Turgeon about becoming a graduate assistant when he stops playing.
"We'll see. We'll see if he's in his mid-30s by then," Turgeon said. "My deal with him, he wasn't sure he wanted to go back overseas. With any player I enjoyed coaching, I think it would be an asset to our staff and our basketball program and I'm always willing to try and help them."
Turgeon said he's not surprised Mosley has been able to continue his career in Europe.
"Your whole concern is whether a guy can adapt and enjoy. He's very well-rounded, a smart kid, so you knew he was going to do it," Turgeon said. "My biggest concern with Sean was his body — whether his body was going to hold up. He looks good and he says he's healthy. Heck, he might have five or six more years in him over there."
Other Terps who are currently playing internationally:
Robert Carter Jr.: Enel Basket Brindisi, Italy (2016)
Dez Wells: Doxa Lefkadas B.C., Greece (2016)
Jon Graham: Básquet Muro, Spain (2016)
Evan Smotrycz: Eisbaeren-Bremerhaven, Germany (2016)
Berend Weiss: Landslake Lions, Netherlands (2014-present)
Dino Gregory: Szolnoki Olaj, Turkey (2015-present)
Adrian Bowie: Granada, Spain (2016)
Cliff Tucker: San Sebastian, Dominican Republic (2016)
Landon Milbourne: Hapoel Eilat, Israel (2016)
Nic Caner-Medley: Monaco, France (2016)
Terrell Stoglin: Sagesse, Lebanon (2014-2016)
D.J. Strawberry: Besiktas, Turkey (2016)
Travis Garrison: Guaymas, Mexico (2016)
James Gist: Panathinaikos, Greece (2012-present)
Ekene Ibekwe: Skyliners Frankfurt, Germany (2016)