ARLINGTON, Texas -- After leading the UTA men's basketball team to its most successful period in program history, the four members of the Mavericks' senior class have each taken definitive steps to write the next chapter of their careers.
Three Mavericks, -- Jorge Bilbao (YouFirst Sports), Jalen Jones (Tangram Sports Management) and Faith Pope (Free Agency Basketball) -- have each secured representation with sports agencies in hopes of continuing their basketball careers professionally.
The fourth, Drew Charles, will receive his master's degree in business administration this month and has already accepted a position as a residential construction manager with Perry Homes, a 50-year homebuilder with designs in communities throughout the state of Texas.
"Up to this point, I think you have to say they are the most successful class in the history of the program," said Cross, the 2017 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year. "Jalen and Faith are the most successful in any 2-year period and, obviously, Drew and Jorge in any four and five year period. Their leadership, character and their actions day-to-day have really made a big impact on helping establish the culture of our program."
UTA is coming off back-to-back seasons of at least 24 wins and is one of the two winningest Division I programs in the state of Texas during that time. The Mavericks won a program-record 27 games last season, claimed the Sun Belt Conference regular season title and advanced to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament.
The three Mavericks who signed with agents will now continue to work out, participate in various tryouts and do whatever is necessary to demonstrate they are capable of playing basketball professionally. Cross believes all three have a legitimate chance to continue their careers and make a positive impact with teams overseas.
"I think all three guys will, eventually, sign a professional contract with a team overseas," said Cross. "Jorge has a big advantage since he is from Spain and would not count toward some of the European leagues' limitations on the number of U.S. players on a team.
"Anyone who watches film can see that Faith has an enormous amount of talent. If he had been in our program in almost any other 2-year period and didn't play behind, arguably, the most talented player in UTA history in Kevin Hervey, he would have had impressive numbers.
"Jalen is just now recovering from wrist surgery, but he has been unwavering in his commitment to working hard and doing the things it takes to be successful. He played nearly every role in our program and, without a doubt, has the mentality and the ability to play at the next level."
Despite having the ability to continue playing beyond college, Charles, who was named the athletic department's B.G. Wilson Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, opted to start his business career after receiving a job offer from Perry Homes. The Azle native won 86 games during his four seasons of eligibility and finished fifth in career 3-pointers.
"With his ability to shoot the basketball, defensive commitment and his work ethic, I think Drew would have definitely been an asset to a professional team," said Cross. "We beat some really good teams while he was on the floor and he definitely played a major role in those wins.
"That said, I think Drew made a great decision. To be able to land such a good job right out of college says a lot about him. He can always continue to play basketball throughout his life, but to get such a wonderful start to his business career is truly a great opportunity."
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