By Blake Baxter
PEORIA, Ill. — It wasn't long ago that Shea Feehan was putting up historic numbers and collecting accolades for the Red Devils.
Now, the 2018 Eureka College graduate is counting down the hours until he begins his professional basketball career.
Two weeks ago, Feehan — a 6-foot-1 guard from Peoria — announced that he had signed a contract with KB Prishtina, a professional basketball club based in Pristina, Kosovo.
"I couldn't believe it," Feehan said. "I was at a loss of words, especially when they posted. I couldn't believe it. It was like a dream come true and I'm just ready to get this chapter started."
For the next eight months, Feehan will be competing in international tournaments and playing in the Kosovo Basketball Super League, which the club has won 14 times since the league's inception in 1991. It's the highest tier of basketball in the landlocked country, which is located in the Balkans and has a population of over 1.8 million.
The country's dominant language is Albanian, and many aspects of his daily life will be new, but Feehan has done his research and isn't particularly concerned about culture shock.
"It's the youngest capital in Europe," he said. "Seventy to 75 percent of the people are under 35 years old and 70 percent of them speak English.
"I've never been out of the country this long. I've been to Europe one time, but I'm ready to take it on headstrong. I'm ready to just go over there and take in the culture, take in the religion and just be professional about it."
Feehan didn't know it at the time, but the ball first started rolling this way during his heralded junior season at Eureka.
In the midst of averaging 30.6 points per game on 53.7 percent shooting (including 44.2 percent from the 3-point arc, and 87.4 percent from the free-throw line), being named St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year, receiving NABC All-District honors and repeating as a D3hoops.com All-Region Team selection, Feehan was approached by the Italy-based Two Points Agency.
Feehan, who still had a year left of collegiate eligibility remaining, said that he wasn't ready to consider representation. But after he graduated from Eureka and finished his career at Division I Evansville last year, the agency reached out again, and this time, the timing was perfect.
The next step was finding out which international teams valued his talents. So, in July, the agency sent Feehan to play in front of about 50 basketball scouts, general managers and coaches from around the world at a showcase in Las Vegas.
Feehan thought he played pretty well, and so did the agency. At that point, though, all he could do was wait for the news that could forever alter his future.
"It was definitely a weird process," Feehan said. "I didn't know where I was going to be, who I was going to play for, who my teammates are — it was a lot of unknowns. It really was hard to just keep my eye on the prize."
Within a few weeks, though, he received word that KB Prishtina's interest had been piqued. The deal was in the works for a couple more weeks before he received the official word from his agent in the wee hours of an early August morning, due to the time difference.
"I didn't think twice about it," Feehan said. "It's a good way to get my foot in the door and, hopefully, keep working my way up the European ranks."
Feehan, who finished his high school career ranked second on Peoria Notre Dame's all-time scoring list with 1,441 career points, transferred from Lewis University after redshirting his freshman year to EC to play with his older brother Sam.
"That was probably my most memorable thing playing in college," Feehan said, "playing with Sam. He's my best friend. I grew up learning everything I know from him, so that was a blast."
Less than three years later, little brother Shea was ranked fourth in Eureka history and sixth (now seventh) in SLIAC history with 1,601 career points. He also became one of only five Red Devils to make 200 career 3-pointers and now ranks fifth on the program's list with 201 career 3s. Additionally, his 380 career free throws put him second during EC's Division III era (1978-present), and his career free-throw percentage of 89.6 made him the most accurate free-throw shooter in program history.
During his junior season, Feehan broke EC's single-season scoring record with 637 points. His per-game average of 30.6 ranked second nationally and broke his own Eureka record of 26.7 set during his sophomore season. He became the first player in SLIAC history to average more than 30.0 points per game and broke the previous per-game scoring record of 27.9 set by Webster's Jeff Reis in 2000-01.
After graduation, Feehan realized another lifelong goal by playing his final collegiate season at the Division I level. As a senior, he averaged 9.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game for Evansville.
Although college life is in the past, Feehan has spent a lot of time this summer working on his game in EC's gym with his former teammates.
He followed the Red Devils' historic 2019 run to the NCAA Tournament from afar — "it was kind of like watching my little brothers grow up," he said — and still regularly stays in touch with EC coach Chip Wilde.
"We tell each other what we see on and off the court," Feehan said. "I'm happy to have him in my corner.
"I'll be looking forward to watching them play, and he'll be looking forward to watching me play this year."
At 9:40 p.m. Friday, Feehan will fly to Istanbul, Turkey, catch a connecting flight and arrive in Pristina between 6 and 8 p.m. on Saturday.
It's about to get real — living in a foreign country, adapting to a new culture, experiencing life as a professional basketball player at long last.
His former coach says he's more than ready.
"When I think about Shea Feehan as a person and his journey, I think about his focus and perseverance," Wilde said. "He took a creative path that no one could have predicted, but he overcame some obstacles, stuck with it and kept betting on himself.
"We could not be more proud of Shea."