In this episode of our #ThrowBackThursday we take a look at the outstanding career of the American/Belgian Small Forward Bill Varner.
The 1m98 lanky forward was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1983 NBA Draft after graduating from Notre Dame with strong stats in his junior and senior years. Despite getting drafted by the Bucks, Varner never played in the NBA though, but instead started his professional career in the CBA with Sarasota and Wisconsin.
After his rookie season in the CBA, Varner then made the move across the ocean as he signed with PAOK in Greece where he would shine for the next 2 seasons, not only in the domestic league but also on the European scene with several 30+ point games in the FIBA Korac Cup. The following season Varner then moved to France where he signed with Antibes, earning himself the 1986-’87 French League’s Foreign Player of the Year award and a contract offer from Tenerife in Spain for the next season. After his season in Spain he then returned to France, this time signing with Gravelines for the 1988-’89 season and although he again had excellent numbers with 28.8 ppg & 5.0 rpg he did miss out on the Player of the Year award that time around.
And then, then something magical happened as Varner came to Belgium, signing with the legendary Racing Maes Pils Mechelen club that had recently ended a 6-season title streak from Sunair Oostende and were looking to launch a title-winning streak of their own. Teaming up with other iconic players of Belgian Basketball such as Ronny Bayer, Eddy Lenaerts, Eric Struelens, Rudi Van Den Bosch, Dirk Snyders, Martin Haws, Danny Herman, Jose Waitman, Rik Samaey, Marc Deheneffe, Dimitri Lambrecht, Jacques Stas and of course legendary coach Lucien Van Kersschaever, Varner helped Mechelen do exactly what they had been hoping for, collecting 5 consecutive Belgian Championship titles, 3 Belgian Cup titles and several outstanding performances in the European competitions throughout his 6 year reign with the club. In those 6 seasons Varner put down his best individual numbers in the 1990-’91 season when he averaged 33.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.7 spg & 0.8 bpg.
After his glorious period at Mechelen (1989-’95), Varner continued his career with several more strong seasons, playing for Ourense (Spain), Gaiteros del Zulia (Venezuela) and Valencia (Spain) before returning to Belgium for one season with Spirou Basket Charleroi at 39 years old (1999-’00). Although he obviously wasn’t the same great player that guided Mechelen to new heights he still managed to get solid averages for Les Spirou with 12.9 ppg & 4.5 rpg. After his season with Charleroi, Varner continued his life as a mercenary basketball player and returned once more to Venezuela where he signed with Cocodrilos de Caracas, then moved on to Cholet in France before eventually putting an end to his playing career with one last season in Spain with Cantabria where he finally retired from professional basketball at the age of 42.
For the 7 seasons Bill Varner played in Belgium we have collected the following stats:
239 Games played
5599 Points scored (23.4 ppg)
1513 Rebounds (6.3 rpg)
380 Assists (1.6 apg)
371 Steals (1.6 spg)
70 Blocks (0.3 bpg)
1pt FT Shooting: 756 / 1087 (69.5%)
2pt FG Shooting: 2015 / 3493 (57.7%)
3pt FG Shooting: 271 / 679 (39.9%)
Enjoy our little highlight video with images we dug up out of the VRT archives.