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A Professor’s Journey from the Backboard to the Chalkboard

Professor Matthew Rachar (white) played for the Klosterneuberg Dukes from 2019-2014. PHOTO/ Christian Hofer/Getty Images Europe
Professor Matthew Rachar is pursuing a Ph.D. in Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center after playing professional basketball in Europe. PHOTO/ CUNY Graduate Center

By Adam Zaki

Published: October 5th, 2016

Philosophy Professor Matthew Rachar’s journey to Brooklyn College is a fascinating and admirable one. Having come to the United States after being a recognized college athlete in Canada and a professional basketball player in Austria, Rachar’s past is as dynamic as the lectures he gives.

Rachar started playing all kinds of sports from a very young age during his childhood in Burnaby, British Columbia, a small city eight miles east of Vancouver. “Both my brother and I loved sports growing up,” said Rachar. “I started playing basketball a lot at the age of ten; it really became a passion around [then].”

By 13, Rachar’s sole focus was on the hardwood, as basketball became his specialized sport. “I liked it the most, and I was the best at [it] out of all the other sports, and obviously, being tall helps,” said Rachar. Now standing at 6 feet 7 inches, Rachar made use of his height to succeed as a Power Forward in both high school and eventually in college.

At the University of British of Columbia (UBC) from ‘04-‘08, Rachar was a three-time CIS Academic All Canadian and had started more games for UBC than any other Men’s basketball player in the program when he finished his fifth year for the Thunderbirds. After getting recruited by Division II institutions and competitive junior colleges like Utah’s Snow College, Rachar decided to stay home and attend the same school that both of his parents attended. “Given that UBC had a good academic program and basketball program, I figured that I should just stay home,” said Rachar.

“I realized about halfway through [college] that the draft wasn’t an option,” said Rachar, who wasn’t upset about missing the NBA draft in 2008. If drafted, Rachar would have been only the second player from a Canadian university ever to be selected; the first, William Njoku, failed to ever play in an NBA regular season game. Njoku was picked out of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia by the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the 1994 NBA draft.

Rachar set a realistic goal of playing professional basketball outside the NBA, and turned his attention to professional leagues in Europe after graduating from UBC. “I was really interested to go over to Europe and see a new culture, learn a new language, and just kind of see what was over there,” said Rachar.

Professor Matthew Rachar (white) played for the Klosterneuberg Dukes from 2019-2014. PHOTO/ Christian Hofer/Getty Images Europe
Professor Matthew Rachar (white) played for the Klosterneuberg Dukes from 2019-2014. PHOTO/ Christian Hofer/Getty Images Europe

After joining the Klosterneuburg Dukes in Austria in 2009, Rachar began playing and living in the Lower Level portion of the country, approximately 150 miles northeast of Vienna. A customized practice schedule allowed Rachar to fulfill his obligations to his team while pursuing a Master’s Degree in Philosophy during his final three years. After five years in Klosterneuburg, having become fluent in German and earning his Master’s Degree, Rachar retired when he felt ready to begin the next phase of life.

With the goal of becoming a full-time tenured philosophy professor, Rachar is now focusing on pursuing a Ph.D. at the CUNY Graduate Center, all while teaching philosophy to eager students at Brooklyn College.

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