COLCHESTER, Vt. - Saint Michael's College men's basketball May graduate Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) signed his first professional contract on Thursday, inking a one-year deal with the Hørsholm 79ers of Basketligaen, where he will play at the highest pro level of basketball in Denmark.
"I recognize that I've been blessed to be in this position," said Bonds. "I couldn't have gotten here without working hard consistently, and the teachings, support and help from people like my family, coaches, teammates and people who mentally challenged me to reach for my dreams. My experiences at Saint Mike's, understanding how to be a leader and how to work hard every second no matter who's watching, and lessons I've learned from teammates older and younger have helped me reach this point. My thoughts on going pro are pure excitement and overall gratitude just to have this opportunity to continue to play the game that I love. I'm excited and ready to get better."
Bonds's Hørsholm 79ers were founded in 1979 and placed third in the eight-team Basketligaen's regular-season standings last season at 15-13. The third-seeded 79ers were ousted in the best-of-five tournament quarterfinals by No. 6 SISU, 3-2, in early April. The regular season runs from September until March, with the postseason champion being decided in early May. Unofficially known as the Danish Basketball League, Basketligaen was officially founded in 1995, but Denmark has had First Division basketball since 1957-58. Hørsholm won First Division titles in 1990-91 and 1992-93. Follow the 79ers at 79ers.dk and facebook.com/79ersBasket.
Despite not becoming a regular in the Purple Knight starting lineup until his junior year, the 6-foot-5 Bonds ended up as the second player in program history with 1,500 career points and 1,100 rebounds. Bonds finished 13th at the College in scoring (1,523), second in rebounds (1,102), sixth in rebounding (10.3), 10th in field goals (596), 12th in free throws (329) and 23rd in blocks (44). His 46 double-doubles - in 107 games - are the most by a Purple Knight since complete rebound totals became available in 1981-82, and Bonds' 408 offensive boards are the most since that category began being tracked in 1992-93. He is fifth in Northeast-10 Conference history in career boards.
Following his senior season, Bonds was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Coaches' Division II All-East District second team, the Division II Conference Commissioner's Association (D2 CCA) East Region All-Region second team, and to the NE10 All-Conference first team. Among all Division II players, Bonds was tied for second in rebounding (12.4), third in offensive rebounding (4.7), tied for third in double-doubles (19), and tied for 27th in scoring (21.7). Bonds, who appeared in the March 27 issue of Sports Illustrated among the "Faces in the Crowd" feature, led the NE10 in rebounding, offensive rebounding and double-doubles while tying for third in scoring and placing fourth in steals (1.5).
Americans have thrived in Basketligaen, with the league's top scorers and rebounders each of the past four seasons hailing from the United States. Last year's leading rebounder was West Virginia Wesleyan College alumnus Tanner McGrew (10.5), a fellow former NCAA Division II student-athlete. In 2015-16, when Bonds was a junior and McGrew a senior, McGrew averaged 12.4 boards, edging Bonds by 0.01 for the national lead. Both collected 19 double-doubles to tie for second among all Division II players.
Hørsholm, which has a population of a little less than 47,000, is situated on Denmark's east coast, about 30 minutes north of capital city Copenhagen. The Ørensund Strait connects Norway to Sweden, as Bonds will be within driving distance of both Sweden and Germany, which is a few hours to the southwest.
Bonds' signing continues a successful run for Purple Knights going pro in Europe. Tom Ward '12 has played in his home country of England for the Worthing Thunder for four years, while Derek Knutty '13 turned in 17.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game as recently as 2014-15 for the Leicester (England) Warriors. Mike Holton Jr. '15 buried a team-high 63 three-pointers for Austria's Kapfenberg Bulls in 2015-16, and classmate James Cambronne '15 joined Ward on the Thunder later that year before averaging 18.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks for Ponferrada CDP in Spain in 2016-17.