There’s more to Stingers point guard Kyle Desmarais than the league-leading scorer you see on the court every weekend. The former football wide receiver only started playing in his teens, and has followed his true passion for basketball ever since. Desmarais sat down with the Concordian to talk about his love of food and wanting to be a chef, share words of praise for his teammates and coach, and discuss his relatively short, but interesting sporting career.
Concordian: What is your story as a basketball player?
Kyle Desmarais: I wasn’t always a basketball player, I actually started really late. I played soccer and football first. I was really just looking for something to do during the winter in the off-season, so my friend suggested I play basketball. I was 15 when I started and it was only in a house league, which is a lower level. At 17 I started playing for an inter-city AA team. At Dawson I got the chance to play for Wayne Yearwood, the assistant coach of team Canada.
In my first year at Dawson AAA I didn’t play, but the summer after that I worked really hard and the following year I became a starter. I was averaging at 20 points per game and we won the national championship. It was the best feeling in the world, going from to not playing to national champion. And the next year it only got better. I won MVP and all-Canadian. We lost in the finals, which was very disappointing. I then got a scholarship to play at Connecticut State. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with the coach, because it was hard to understand exactly what he wanted from me. Sometimes he would play me and sometimes I wouldn’t play an entire game. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t like the city. That’s when I decided to come to Concordia. I knew the level of competition was a bit different, but I loved the coach, whom I already knew beforehand. At Concordia, I made it my main goal to win a national championship.
I think the team this year has all the tools to be able to pull it off. We need to improve some aspects of the game in order to compete with the top five teams. It is on us to put it together as a team. We are now in the top 10 of Canada.
You were on the team last year, but didn’t play?
Yes, I wasn’t eligible to play last year because of transferring from a division one team, so I had to sit the year out. It was the toughest year of my basketball life to just sit out and watch the team lose. I told myself that the next year, at all costs, it wouldn’t happen again. Our practices are more intense and we have become more efficient and it shows in our records. We beat an NCAA team at the Nike tournament. We won’t just accept second place, we are going for first all the way. I am very happy with our year so far, but not yet satisfied.
Have you always wanted to be a basketball player?
I was a better football player when I started. I got recruited by several CEGEPs for football, but not in basketball. I’ve come to realize that my true love is basketball though. When the odds were against me to make the spot on the Dawson team, I worked extremely hard and ended up beating out one of the better players for their spot. It felt great!
If you could be anything else what would you be?
I think I would get into cooking. Be a chef or something. I really like food. I watch the Food Network all the time. I wouldn’t mind something like cooking on cruises, that’s always an interesting option.
I study economics at school. I like it, but I also wouldn’t mind doing something with computer editing or video editing. I used to do it in high school, but it was very time consuming.
Last semester I took four classes and this semester I’m only taking three. I intend on focusing so I can finish the year strongly.
What’s the mood when you are on the court, with both teammates and fans?
Well the gym isn’t huge so even if it is half full it can get pretty loud and intense. The team is always very enthusiastic. Of course, we wish more fans would come out because we work well with the crowd, but we have a great team this year and we will for the next years coming. We lack a little in height, but we make it up in speed and athleticism. We are a very quick team. It’s great to have the home court advantage, and places like McGill have a lot of rivalry and it’s a weird atmosphere for us, but at the end of the day it’s the winning that matters, not how many people came out to cheer.
How do you feel about having such a young team this year, with not many veterans around?
Of course it would be nice to have the veterans’ leadership skills. Maybe they don’t contribute with big numbers, but it is very obvious how valuable they are during practices and off the court. Their leadership in the games is essential. And yeah, we have a lot of young guys, and on top of that they are very good players. I understand the coaches’ decision to “go young.” It’s tough losing friends; some of them were my roommates and great friends, but the coach knows best. Whatever he decides we know it’s for the best of the team.
How is the team dynamic?
Everyone is real close. We practice, we work and we fight every day together. I’ve known some of the guys longer than others, but everyone likes everyone.
Off the court, after practices and stuff we’ll all hang out. We go out together. It feels like a little family. You just get so used to seeing the same people all the time. Being friends off the court also helps on the court. It creates a very good chemistry. When you enjoy the people that you play with, you’ll play better. Everyone has a different personality, but they seem to mesh well together.
What’s next for you after Concordia?
I hope to play overseas, in Europe. It’s still a possibility, if I play hard. It’s one of my dreams. If not, I’d like to do something like marketing, maybe business marketing. If not, there is always cooking, or even sports management, I’ve always liked that. I think I could be good enough to go pro, but I’d still like to finish school.
I’d love to play somewhere like France, Spain or Italy, they are great places and extremely beautiful.