BUCKHANNON — The ongoing success story of 28-year-old Buckhannon native Tanner McGrew, who came from humble roots dreaming of being a music teacher to growing into the massive 6’8” 250-pound frame of a professional basketball player, continues to impress in the midst of a strong season with a new team overseas, CSU Sibiu in Transylvania, Romania.
Sibiu is a historical and cultural hub of the Transylvania region. A city of roughly 150,000 people, McGrew has been a key contributor for the local professional basketball team since acquiring him last June. It is the latest chapter in what is shaping up to be an unlikely, unexpected solid professional career overseas for the former Buccaneer and Bobcat standout.
McGrew’s basketball destiny wasn’t always written in stone. The Buckhannon native played all four years in high school for Buckhannon-Upshur, only two seasons being on varsity. After graduation, McGrew had a scholarship, but it wasn’t for his exploits on the basketball court, it was to be trombone player for West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Jazz Band. It looked as if his basketball career was over, until the McGrew caught the attention of the WVWC coaching staff while shooting around in the gym one day. This breathed life back into a basketball career and from there, McGrew went from the last man on the roster to starring for the Bobcats as a senior, which sparked his globetrotting professional basketball career. McGrew won the MVP of an Australian league in his first year out of college, generating further interest.
From there, the standout player would go on to play with SISU Basketball in Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark, where he would earn Forward of the Year honors. McGrew then went back to Australia for another season before nabbing his first high-level professional offer with Saint-Charmond, a club in France, for the 2017-18 season. Unfortunately, McGrew suffered a foot injury that put his basketball career on a temporary hold, but a stint in the NBA G-League boosted his stock back to the top. First a part of the G-League’s Memphis Hustle and then shipped out West to the Salt Lake Stars. This stint would see McGrew playing some of the best basketball of his career in the G-League, averaging 11 points and 5.7 rebounds with the club.
Following his time in the G-League, McGrew earned the opportunity to represent the United States of America and play on the FIBA World Cup Qualifying Team. McGrew played for legendary NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy. This honor was followed up by a solid NBA Summer League outing, in which he played in front of a national television audience and even garnered a mention on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 plays.
Following the conclusion of the NBA Summer League, the Salt Lake Stars offered McGrew a contract to stay but were unable to outbid the overseas teams for McGrew’s services. With this, he headed back overseas, this time to Portugal. McGrew has spent the last two seasons playing for FC Porto in the Portuguese Professional Basketball League, averaging 7.9 points, 4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks per game in one of Europe’s most prestigious leagues. For the next season, it would seem that McGrew opted for a change of scenery, utilizing his talent to see more of the world. So far this year, with CSU Sibiu, McGrew is averaging 12 points and 7.9 rebounds on 55% shooting from the field, 31% shooting from deep and 60% shooting from the free throw line.
Sibiu is located in one of the most cultural significant areas of Eastern Europe and is sure to have a lot to offer a well-cultured Appalachian like McGrew, who worked tirelessly in the making of this underdog story. A small-town boy playing on some of basketball’s biggest stages are the stuff dreams are made of.