Basketball

Former Mason County star Chris Lofton steady contributor in Europe

Catching up with Chris Lofton

Chris Lofton, who starred at Mason County and the University of Tennessee, has built a professional career playing basketball overseas.
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Chris Lofton, who starred at Mason County and the University of Tennessee, has built a professional career playing basketball overseas.

More than a decade has passed since Chris Lofton led Mason County to its first state basketball title in 2003. It’s been eight years since he scored the final 15 points of his University of Tennessee career in a Sweet Sixteen loss to Louisville.

The Maysville native is only 30, but to hear him tell it, he’s ancient — especially when he visits Knoxville, the “second home” where he hit many of his Southeastern Conference-record 431 three-pointers.

“There’s been so many players after me at Tennessee, and they’ve had a lot of success,” Lofton said. “Not many people really remember me. Some do when I’m there. But I’m older now.

“I was on campus a couple weeks ago and the young kids on campus are 18. I’m like ‘Man, I’m old.’”

Box score: Chris Lofton tied Richie Farmer’s record for most made threes in a state-tournament game with nine during the 2003 finals.

Kentucky’s 2004 Mr. Basketball is still young enough to get work done on the court. After an All-American career at Tennessee, Lofton has spent the bulk of his professional career overseas. He most recently played for Le Mans Sarthe, which competes in LNB Pro A, the highest level of French competition. The team won the French Cup, an annual competition among pro and amateur teams, this season.

Lofton averaged 11.2 points while shooting 42.4 percent from beyond the arc in Pro A play, a mark that put him among the leaders in a league where perimeter scoring ability is expected of most players.

“Shooting’s at a high level in Europe,” Lofton said. “Usually everybody on the floor can shoot it so it makes it hard to defend.”

Something harder than contesting a shot? Getting a free drink.

“There’s no refills on your drinks (overseas),” Lofton said with a laugh. “If you get another drink, you pay for it.”

At first he didn’t think he could cut it in Europe because of the distance from home and length of the season — players report to two-month training camps in August and can play into June — but “Now it’s like, ‘I’m ready,’” Lofton said. “I’m used to it now.”

The 2007 SEC Player of the Year is currently unsigned — he should know where he’s playing by the end of July — but the well-traveled veteran is ready to play in any good situation across the pond. Aside from his recent stint in France, Lofton has played in Turkey, Spain, Russia and briefly in Des Moines after the NBA D-League’s Iowa Energy drafted him sixth overall in 2010.

Lofton still has plenty of playing time left in the tank — a team can never have too many lights-out shooters — but said he might want to coach or train players once his career is finished. During a skills camp held earlier this week in Maysville, Lofton spoke at length with local TV reporters about their equipment and how they positioned themselves during interviews. Could the former Sweet Sixteen hero be shooting highlights when he’s finished shooting jumpers?

“I always like to learn stuff,” Lofton said. “Pick people’s brains about their job and learn some stuff just in case. You never know.”

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps

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