For me, basketball and family are synonymous.
As a child, my earliest memory of playing basketball was when I was five years old. My older brother would let me use his ball, and I’d try out some cool moves and get better at using my handles.
As the years have gone by, a lot has changed.
I’m now in the United States, playing for SMU, but one thing hasn’t changed — my family is still my why.
They are the reason why I do what I do and go out on that court and give it my all night in and night out.
As a kid from Quebec, I had to work hard to stand out to the coaches here in the US. Getting noticed required a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and meeting the right people.
First, my journey took me to Hill College — a junior college in Hillsboro, Texas. I learned a lot during my time there but after one season, I knew I wanted to take my game to the next level.
That’s when I met the coaches from SMU.
What I loved most about them, they didn’t try to “wine and dine” me. They gave me the truth about my ability and what I needed to work on to get to where I wanted to go — the NBA.
It was refreshing.
I knew they had my best interest at heart, and together, we could accomplish a lot.
So, I decided to join the SMU family.
And then, Covid happened.
It was towards the end of my first season at SMU when everything changed in an instant.
You’re always confronted with cliches like “appreciate what you have before it’s gone,” or “health is the most important thing,” but you never really pay too much attention to them, right?!
But now, I couldn’t agree more.
Health, in particular, became such a big concern. So much so that I couldn’t just visit my family whenever I wanted to. Given all the protocols and guidelines, it was complicated and dangerous to leave the country and see my family.
And frankly, not being able to see them was the hardest part.
I know a lot of college kids get homesick, but I’m not just living a two-hour drive away. It was tough, man.
I love my family and consider myself a proud mama’s boy, and not being able to see her was painful. She did get pretty good at using Facetime, though. Who knew my mom was so tech-savvy!
Even so, I missed the in-person connection I have with my family. Visiting them was unreasonable and impossible, given the travel restrictions for people traveling to Quebec.
I would’ve had to quarantine for two weeks once I arrived and quarantine again once I got back. No way I could have kept up with my studies and games.
It just wasn’t realistic. Not to mention the danger of traveling and maybe putting my family in harm’s way.
I didn’t feel comfortable doing that.
So, I had to continue doing my best here at SMU.
I focused on my school work, played ball whenever we could, masked up, and got tested regularly. It was tough, but we got through it.
I can’t thank my teammates and coaches enough. They helped me make the best out of a difficult situation.
It made our connection instantly strong, and now it feels like we can get through anything. Seriously.
Thanks to things improving this year, I was able to return home — more than 12 months later.
But, after such a long time away, I wasn’t just going to come back.
No, I decided to surprise my parents.
Only my siblings knew I was coming. I gave my parents a heads up, but they expected me back for my birthday — a week after my actual arrival.
I still have a key to my parent’s home, so I was able to come in unnoticed.
My mom was in the kitchen, and I immediately headed over there.
You should have seen her reaction.
Shock and surprise were written all over her face when she realized it was me, standing in the kitchen. I hugged her harder than I’d ever hugged her before. She was shaking and in tears.
And honestly, my eyes welled up too as I truly, for one of the first times really, appreciated how precious this moment was.
Covid is still very much a thing, but it feels so good to be closer to normal.
To have fans in the stadiums this year and to be closer to a pre-pandemic world is fantastic. Despite all the challenges we’ve been through in the past year, I feel it’s built our bond here at SMU.
We’re going to be a better team and a better student body because of the challenges we’ve faced.
I can’t wait to see all of you inside our arena this year.