Former Carlow basketball standout Acrie to play overseas

Sean Meyers -

Acrie100219Photo by Robert Cifone

PITTSBURGH --- When forward Tony Acrie joined the Carlow University men's basketball team for the 2017-18 season, he immediately became an impact player.

Acrie, an Altoona native who transferred to the Celtics after playing two years at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, averaged more than 15 points and eight rebounds per game, ranking second on the team in both categories. His play helped the Celtics achieve a historic season, as they won six games and reached the River States Conference tournament for the first time.

"I got a great opportunity there at Carlow," Acrie said. "Coach Keefer was really the only Division II (coach) that reached out to me. I got to play every Division II school that turned my tape down, said I wasn't tall enough."

Carlow men's head coach Tim Keefer was familiar with Acrie dating back to his time at Altoona Area High School, and he was not surprised by the impact that he made as an interior presence.

"I knew him from high school. (Then) he was at Penn Highlands, so I got to see him a couple of times there," Keefer said. "We thought he would be perfect with Charlie Scharbo, and those two worked great together."

After Scharbo graduated, Acrie continued his high level of play last season, leading the team in scoring and rebounding in his 16 games played. A scheduling error preventing Acrie from playing in the second semester, however, ending his Carlow career on a disappointing note. Even though he was unable to suit up, however, Acrie still provided value to the team.

"He came to practice every day. He came to all the games," Keefer revealed. "He was a tremendous leader, both on and off the court."

With his four years of eligibility exhausted, it appeared as though Acrie had played his final collegiate game. Just recently, however, he found a path to continue his college career while also taking a big step towards his ultimate goal of playing basketball professionally.

On Tuesday, Acrie embarked on a flight that led him to Cambridge, England, where he will pursue his master's degree in sociology at Anglia Ruskin University. Simultaneously, Acrie will play in the NBL, a professional-level league in England.

"Over here (in America), we get four years of eligibility. Overseas for college, you get five," Acrie explained of the distinction that will allow him to still suit up as a college student-athlete. "It'll be a celebrated master's program where I'll be playing for the school and getting my master's degree, and then on the weekends, I'll be playing in the NBL."

Because of his amateur status as a college athlete, Acrie will be on a club team and won't be compensated playing in the NBL. That could change within the next year, however.

"If I wanted to, I could stay after that year whenever school is done, being able to play on the national team again, and that would be paid," he explained.

While the specifics were just recently finalized, playing overseas was something that Acrie thought about for quite some time. During and after his time at Carlow, he attended combines to gain exposure. Acrie also was introduced to a current professional who competes overseas - Jakim Donaldson. Donaldson teaches the P.R.O.M.I.S.E basketball camp in Pittsburgh every year.

"Coach Keefer introduced me and said he was having a clinic. I started getting a little idea of what it's like overseas," Acrie noted. "I ended up going to his camp and just talking to him a little bit. He definitely helped me and guided me in the right direction of what I'm supposed to do and what I'm supposed to look out for."

Ultimately, Acrie was contacted on social media by Play Overseas, a website that helps identify post-graduate athletic scholarship opportunities.

He then composed a resume that was subsequently sent to different schools and universities. Based on his specific needs, Acrie was linked with Anglia Ruskin and its head coach, whom Acrie refers to as "Coach Matthew."

"He actually was a professional coach for 10 years or something like that," Acrie said of Coach Matthew. "He has a lot of connections, and I had on my resume that I wanted to continue my basketball career after college, so I can take this career as long as I want."

While Acrie will spend the next year of his life adjusting to the culture and lifestyle of a different country, he's confident in his ability on the hardwood.

"I've always prepared myself during the summer to be ready for really anything I was going for," he detailed. To that point, Acrie reflected on the summer before joining Carlow, when he lived in the basement of his strength and condition coach's house in order to maximize his workouts.

Similarly, Keefer noted that Acrie possesses a few valuable attributes that should suit him well as he tries to find a niche with his new teams.

"He's a tremendous rebounder, but he's really improved his outside shooting. That's what he worked on in the spring and summer," the Celtics' coach said. "When you go over there - it might be scoring, it might be rebounding - that's your job. In college, you're taught to be a well-rounded player. (In Europe) they have specific roles for you."

Just prior to departing across the Atlantic Ocean, Acrie revealed that his anxiousness was overshadowed by his desire to achieve lifelong aspirations.

"I am a little bit nervous, but at the same time, this is fun for me. I always wanted to travel, and any team that I can come help with basketball, I am willing to go out of the country," Acrie said. "This has been my dream ever since I was a little kid. Ever since I was seven or eight years old, I always said NBA and stuff like that, then my goals started getting a little more realistic, and I wanted to play professional ever since coming out of junior college," Acrie continued.

Acrie becomes the second Carlow men's player to play overseas, joining former guard Isaac Fullwood. His time in the purple and gold was something that Acrie will remember fondly.

"Whenever I came to Carlow, I was able to start and be a big contributor in points and rebound columns, being able to be a leader," he said. "I enjoyed the staff. The professors were awesome. The community was great. It was really just a great overall experience, and I'm glad I can put Carlow on the map a little bit with professional basketball."

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