Nineteen years ago, if you had asked Martha Pierregiovanni and Dave Desmarais what sport their eight-year-old son, Kyle, would be playing on a professional level, they would have said football without a doubt. Today, Kyle Desmarais, a Concordia University economics student at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB), is training in the hopes of someday playing basketball professionally in Europe.
In fact, it was football that led Desmarais to play basketball in the first place. One of his former football coaches recommended that he stay active during the winter months by playing another sport. Desmarais chose to try out for basketball.
“I started off at the Brookwood house league when I was about 14 or 15-years-old, a league out in the West Island,” Desmarais said. “From 15 to 18 [years-old], I wasn’t very good at all. I couldn’t make the inter-city teams, which I was a little upset about, but hey, I wasn’t that good. Then, a year before I [went to] Dawson, I played for the West Island Lakers AA.”
Despite his struggles when he first played house league basketball, continuing to play the sport worked out well for Desmarais however. In the summer of 2011, he helped Team Canada win the silver medal at the Summer Universiade in China, the best they had done in over 15 years. A few months later, he represented Canada at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he had the chance to play against NBA players such as JJ Barea, who represented Puerto Rico and who had just won an NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks.
To add to his trophy case, he was part of the men’s AAA basketball team at Dawson College that won both the Provincial and National Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championship in 2007. At the national tournament, Desmarais was an all-star alongside his teammate Evens Laroche.
In order to make it on the Dawson Blues team, Desmarais had to compete against the team’s existing players. His determination and hard work are what got him a spot on the basketball team.
“To be honest, I thought he was just another kid wanting to enjoy the program and play basketball,” Laroche said. “He eventually proved that he was amongst the best point-guards in the province, when he was named a CCAA All-Canadian in [CÉGÉP]. He was a good shooter and scorer. He was definitely a huge facilitator during games at the college and university level no doubt. This surprised everyone. The good thing is that he continued that path and was once again awarded the same nomination in university.”
Being athletic and loving sports is in Desmarais’ blood. When his parents first met, his mother was an aerobics instructor and his father won several awards at a bodybuilding competition, last year.
Desmarais recalls his childhood as being a great one, with lots of love from his parents and fights with his younger sister, Melissa. The half-Italian, half-Irish basketball player considers himself a very family-oriented person.
“My father worked extremely hard to give us everything that we wanted,” says Desmarais. “I definitely got my work ethic from him.”
Dwight Walton, a former basketball player for the Canadian National team and the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), first met Desmarais at The Trevor Williams Basketball Camp back in 2004.
“We respect each other greatly,” says Walton, who played basketball in the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea.
Walton and Desmarais share similar backgrounds. Both played for the Dawson Blues, won All-Canadian awards, and obtained free education in order to play for the NCAA in the United States.
“His parents are fantastic as well and are a major part of what Kyle has accomplished up to this point. I constantly tell him what he needs to work on and I feel comfortable doing so. He knows that it’s coming from a good place. All I want is the best for him.”
Several years ago, Desmarais would have never imagined obtaining a free education, because of his skills in basketball. However, after being named the Quebec League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) and receiving the All-Canadian award on his third season at Dawson, Desmarais was offered a full athletic scholarship at Central Connecticut University.
However, playing NCAA basketball in Connecticut was not exactly a dream come true. After not being able to see eye-to-eye with his coach, not playing enough during games, and being homesick, Desmarais decided to come back home and play for Concordia instead.
However, Desmarais decided last summer not to return to the Stingers basketball team.
“Concordia basketball had run its course in my life, it gave me a lot of great opportunities, and I’ll always be thankful for that,” says Desmarais. “But for my own individual development it was time for me to move on. Life after Concordia basketball involves a lot more free time, less stress I would say. I get to put my time into things that will benefit me and help me in the long run. Things like studying, training and improving my skills as a basketball player.”
If playing basketball professionally overseas does not end up working out for Desmarais, he hopes to become a financial broker or adviser.
When Desmarais is not studying or training, he enjoys going to the cinema by himself. Among his favourite movies are Tombstone, Training Day and It’s a Wonderful Life.
“It’s perfect time for myself, it’s alone time. I just get to watch movies and don’t have to worry about everything else,” explains Desmarais.
Desmarais claims that it takes hard work and dedication to accomplish anything in life. However, he admits that it was sometimes very challenging to reach his goals.
“To stay mentally strong throughout the setbacks early in my career, getting cut from a team, maybe not getting the playing time I felt I deserved, stuff like that,” says Desmarais. “Mental toughness comes from believing in yourself and abilities, and knowing that if you keep working hard, the results will come.”