Former Buccaneer Playing Pro Ball in Portugal

Former Buccaneer Playing Pro Ball in Portugal
Former Buccaneer Filip Toric is now playing pro ball in the Portugal-based Proliga League for Illiabum. Photo by Joel Auerbach

Filip Toric used to spend his bus rides through Floridian roads deep into the night, devouring his one allotted sandwich, watching movies, discussing Bane and conspiracy theories and constantly asking for a USB port to plug his aging cell phone into to get a charge. And yes, he was constantly hungry.

Now his appetite is in search of something else.

Succeeding at the next level.

After graduating from Barry University in December, Toric signed with Illiabum, a Second Division European professional team in the Portugal-based Proliga League. Instaneously, he's made an impact.

After arriving in Portugal a day after Christmas, Toric quickly found his role on a team -- albeit no easy task, trying to join a club at midseason. Yet in his first game against then-league leader FC Porto, Toric scored 12 points and had five rebounds, three on the offensive glass. He was 3 of 4 from the field in a 76-69 Illiabum win to knock FC Porto from the ranks of the unbeaten. Both teams currently share 14-1 records entering Illiabum's game with Guifoes (5-11) Saturday.

In his second game, Toric scored 22 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had four assists in Illiabum's 76-67 win over Esgueira in Ilhavo, Portugal. He earned Proliga League breakout performer acclaim, and even picked up his first press clipping from a local paper. 

In five games, he's become the team's leading scorer at 15.6 points per game while pulling down 7.2 rebounds. He's scored in double figures in all five games, and has two double-doubles. He's shooting 65.9 percent from the floor.

"Coach (Nuno Pedro) gives me a lot of freedom," Toric said. "I play (anywhere) from one to five. But there are other good players on the team as well. If I try hard and practice, pieces will fall into place."

Having everything fall into place has been Toric's quest for nearly five years. When he left Miami on Dec. 14 to return to his native Zagreb, Croatia homeland for the first time in four-and-a-half years, Toric was embarking on a new journey. One he still doesn't know where it will take him. But that's nothing new.

After all, Toric spent four-and-a-half years in three states, attending three schools and playing for three different college teams. He played two years at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo., where he averaged 5.6 points and 4.8 rebounds, competing on teams which eclipsed the 20-win mark in back-to-back seasons. As a junior, he averaged 7.8 points and 4.9 rebounds at Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford, Okla. He shot 44.9 percent from the field, and dished out 64 assists.

Last year at Barry, Toric averaged 9.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and had a team-best 81 assists, while shooting 46.2 percent from the floor and 71.1 percent from the free throw line. 

Now he is in search of the ultimate red carpet rollout in the European League. He's even taken to Twitter a little with his @anomie_ball handle, and tries to keep tabs on the Buccaneers on a week-to-week basis.

His new team, which plays on Saturdays and a rare Sunday throughout Portugal, occupies the majority of his mindset, however. Understandably so, being that this is the craft he wants to carve out for the next eight to 10 years. The 22-round regular season runs through the end of March before the playoffs.

Stepping onto a club at midseason is no easy task. But the oft-traveled Toric has adapted nicely in a new culture with new teammates.

"Most of them speak some English," Toric said of the heavily dominated Portugese-born roster full of new teammates. "They are all cool dudes. They accepted me really well. I do not feel like an outsider."

Everywhere he's been over the past five years, Toric has been on the inner circles. Something suggests he's not done yet.