Tyler Livingston has been “chasing the dream” of playing professional basketball since he was young. A dream this lofty requires talent, fortitude and a commitment to a sport so deep that nothing will stand in the way. A player cannot be afraid to take risks, change aspects of their game or even move thousands of miles away from home.
The path to success is rarely linear. Livingston knew this when he took an offer to play for Albacete Basket, a team in the third tier of Spanish basketball.
Was this a long shot? Maybe. But Livingston knew the risks – the language barrier, culture shock and the quirks of professional basketball – and did whatever he could to advance his own career.
“I think it was really good for me. It opened my eyes a lot. It made me stronger, and I met some really cool people over there,” said Livingston.
Livingston needed to adapt to the international game. The style of play is very different from collegiate ball in the states. It is a much faster game overseas, as well, as the shot clock is only 24 seconds, but Livingston worked harder than he ever has to make the adjustments needed to be successful.
Lest anyone forget, Livingston was by himself in a foreign country; he was one of a select few on the team who called the United States home. Before he could tackle the challenges of professional basketball, he needed to learn to navigate in a wildly different environment.
“As you go it gets easier. You just have to hang in there through the beginning stages,” Livingston said.
He could draw on his experience at UMass Lowell to inform him of that.
Livingston’s collegiate career was the stuff of legend. He walked onto the newly-Division I UMass Lowell men’s basketball team after a game of high-stakes golf with Head Coach Pat Duquette. Earning a spot on the team with his determination to succeed, the 2017 graduate played 113 games at UMass Lowell, starting 57 times.
Scoring 934 points at UMass Lowell Livingston accrued a reputation for himself as a “pure shooter:” a player with a knack for jump shots usually from the three-point range. Livingston made 179 three-pointers as a River Hawk and attempted 491 overall, ranking fourth on the program’s all-time record list.
He could have stopped there, content to live the rest of his life knowing that he had played basketball at the Division I level, proving any doubters and naysayers wrong. But he pushed to continue his journey.
“I think it would be easy to say that the university gave me a place to learn the game and hone my skills in a way that I hadn’t before, but in reality it was everything else besides basketball at UMass Lowell that equally prepared me for the next step,” Livingston wrote in an email after the initial interview.
All he wanted to do was play basketball.
He did what any entrepreneurial college graduate would: got himself an agent, booked some overseas plane tickets and fielded his professional ball options.
His path to Albacete featured some bumps and delays. He had initially been offered a spot on a team in Georgia – not the state, but the tumultuous Eastern European country. That was a no. Livingston then received the offer from Albacete, which he initially deferred so he could field other options. Livingston and his agent came close to closing a deal with a team in Germany, but with a month left to decide his fate, the offer with Germany fell apart.
The decision was quite practical on the surface. “The Spanish league was good for young players. There’s good talent in that league. If you play, well it’ll look better going forward, as opposed to playing in a smaller league and having better stats,” explained Livingston.
But the truth behind the final commitment was more of a leap of faith. “Looking back, [it was] kind of on a whim.”
So Livingston chose Albacete. He felt a connection with the city immediately and his play reflected that. By his own estimation he averaged 12 points a game in his first ten with Albacete, but as time crept forward, his early-season success hit a plateau.
He was playing in a different position than in college, now playing the game from the perimeter of the court. Though not without frustration, Livingston worked to better himself constantly. In practice, he drilled tirelessly to learn and thrive in relatively uncharted territory.
“I don’t think I really grasped it until the last two weeks of the regular season. Then I started picking it up. And then when the playoffs came, I think I played the best basketball I’ve ever played in my life.”
Livingston was named the game three MVP during his team’ playoff run, knocking down 5-for-8 from beyond the arc en route to 17 points in that contest. He ended up scoring a total of 288 points by season’s end.
He credits the support of not only his family at home but the one he made at UMass Lowell with his decision to stick it out in Spain.
“Being at Lowell gave me another family of coaches, teammates, friends, and advisors that have given me the confidence to be myself and pursue the things that I dreamt of as a little kid growing up in New Hampshire,” he wrote.
Coach Duquette is thrilled that Livingston stayed. “Playing well in a professional environment – it’s a great story not just for him, but for everyone else too,” he said.
After completing his first professional season, Livingston is weighing the options for his future. While he does not count out a return to Spain, he said that he is currently researching offers in other countries like Great Britain and Denmark.
His main priority is advancement, and while overseas basketball can be a moneymaker Livingston says that players need to be patient for success. “My agent always told me, ‘don’t count your money until the fourth year. You have to hang in there for a little bit.'”
After already making big strides in just his first year of playing professionally, Livingston has set himself on a good career path to see just how far he can advance.
“Ultimately, when you get to that level, it’s your own play that creates your opportunities,” said Duquette. “Because of the way he played this past year, that’s going to open up some more opportunities for him. Hopefully, he’ll have some more options to choose from.”
No matter what Livingston chooses to do in the future, he has ardent support from his River Hawk family –, particularly from Duquette.
“One of the reasons I enjoyed coaching him the most was [that] he was always a team player. Even though he’s really accomplished and he’s improved immensely individually, that was never his focus. He was always about the team first, always wanted to do whatever he could to help the team win,” commented the River Hawk head coach.
Livingston’s selflessness and tenacious nature will certainly take him far in professional basketball.
“I think that’s why he’s having this success because those are the types of players that they look for professionally,” concluded Duquette.