MONTREAL,QC–When you talk about the Quebec sports scene, you’re typically referring to hockey, and sometimes even football or baseball. Somehow, basketball just doesn’t conjure the same associations, despite the fact that Quebec products such as Joel Anthony and Samuel Dalembert have found success in the NBA. Heck, even maple syrup has more of a legacy in Quebec than basketball! Yet while most eyes have been looking westward, La Belle Province has been developing a talented core of players – few better than the ultra-talented guard and NPH #11-Ranked CIS prospect, Kyle Desmarais.
Originally a star football player, Desmarais got hooked on hoops at the age of 15, and has never looked back. “It was actually a football coach of mine that suggested I play basketball in the winter to keep myself occupied,” Desmarais explains. “I fell in love with it after that.”
The Montreal-native realized he was a natural, and his skills developed rapidly. Then, while attending CEGEP at Dawson College, he was recruited by Dawson coach Wayne Yearwood to fill out the team’s bench. After a season of learning the ropes, Desmarais’s learning curve took another sharp spike up, and over the next two seasons, he not only became the team’s top player, but one of the top players in the province, period. His sparkling play attracted the attention of teams down south, and he wound up committing to Central Connecticut State for the 2008-2009 season.
While his time at Central Connecticut didn’t turn out the way he had hoped for, Desmarais’s experience helped mould him into the player he’s become today. “I had to deal with people telling me I had couldn’t play at the CEGEP level, let alone division one NCAA,” Desmarais tells NPH. “However, no matter what everyone was telling me I just had to put my head down, keep working, and have faith that my hard work would pay off one day.”
As you might have guessed, the story doesn’t end here. Armed with determination, strong athleticism, and his ever-improving skills, Desmarais made the move back to Montreal and decided to attend Concordia University of the CIS for the 2010-2011 season. His play was nothing short of sensational, as he helped lead Concordia to a stellar 12-4 regular season record, best in the Quebec League (RSEQ). For their efforts, they earned a coveted berth at CIS Nationals in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Throughout the season, Desmarais averaged roughly 19 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals a game, earning him numerous accolades. He was named co-MVP of the Quebec League, as well as a CIS Second-Team All Canadian. Not bad for a guy who, only a handful of years ago, didn’t even know how to play the game.
“I am a playmaker who uses my athleticism to create opportunities for my teammates and myself,” says Desmarais, describing the attributes that help him shine. “I feel I’m capable of doing almost everything on the court, getting steals, blocks, scoring, assists, rebounding. I enjoy being versatile and not one dimensional.” His aggressiveness on the court is one of his trademarks as well; a throwback to his football days.
“I can definitely say that the aggressiveness I developed playing football has greatly benefited me playing the game of basketball,” he explains. “I wouldn’t be the same player if it weren’t for football.”
When asked about the Quebec hoops scene, Desmarais has nothing but love for his home base. “The level of basketball in Quebec is great -we have some of the best talent in the country, as well as in my opinion the best athletes,” Desmarais intimates.
While a future playing pro is a goal Desmarais has his sights on, he’s still focused on improving not only his game, but also ensuring that Concordia continues on as a respected program. As an athlete who had to overcome numerous obstacles and doubters to get to where he is today, Desmarais is taking nothing for granted.
“I’ve learned that a strong, competitive atittude and a good work ethic can take you places that you never thought possible,” Desmarais explains. “I learned that if you don’t have that killer instinct, someone else will be more than willing to step in a do the job for you. Every time you step on the court, you have to believe you are the man, and hard work helps build that confidence.”
Quebec knows all about Kyle Desmarais. And now you do too. And for the rest of you still sleeping on him and Quebec’s rising hoops scene, it’s time for you to wake up and smell the maple syrup.