Former George Brown Huskies basketball player, Arash Dusek officially turned pro after signing a two-way contract with BK Levharti Chomutov in the Czech Republic National Basketball League back in August.
Turning pro is a goal many players dream of as a child, but the journey to the professional level was not an easy one for this guard. He travelled thousands of miles and put in countless hours of work on the court as well as in the classroom to pursue the game he loves.
"Basketball at a young age was my sanctuary, it helped me value my schoolwork and understand how to value the time I have in a day. When I was 10 years old, I moved to Iran with my family [from Toronto, Canada] and couldn't speak the language. The only way I was able to have social interactions besides school was basketball. Basketball helped me connect with people and eventually was the reason why I learned," Dusek explained. "It's amazing how much sports or any extracurricular activity can connect people and establish networks of friends from not just locally but all over the world."
The only reason why he came back to Canada was to visit his brother, Stan Dolniček, but little did he know his basketball career would continue in the Great White North.
"My brother worked with the previous men's basketball coach at George Brown, John Smith, at Air Canada. So, I came to one of the tryouts before the academic year and John offered me a scholarship. My opportunity to play basketball and study in Canada started there. I wasn't expecting to stay in Canada, but I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity."
Early on, everything was going well for him and the Huskies. The team won their first two games and Dusek recorded seven points in seven minutes in the second contest. Unfortunately, it went sideways when he fully tore his ACL in practice. Dusek attempted to come back from the devastating injury, but after rehabbing and playing in a few games late in the season, he decided to have surgery. This was a big decision because the men's basketball team went 19-1 that season and earned a spot at the CCAA National Championships in Prince Edward Island.
It's no secret that coming back from a major ACL injury is a long and difficult journey, but it allowed Dusek to take on challenges both on and off the court.
"Tearing my ACL inspired me to do more things other than just focusing on basketball. I started working for Peer Connect, front desk at the gym for GBC and I also started coaching basketball and volunteering with youth programs," Dusek explained. Obviously, a traumatic injury such as an ACL has a tough rehab, however, I kept optimistic and improved on other areas in my game and mentally I tried to stay patient. I eventually returned at the end of November to play my first game after having surgery [in] mid-March of the same year. Tearing my ACL helped me take a step back and it was a humbling experience [and a reminder] not to take my health for granted both physically and mentally."
After two years of hard work in sports and academics at George Brown College, Dusek graduated with a General Arts & Science Diploma. This allowed him to take the next step in his collegiate career by enrolling at the University of Toronto. The 6'2" guard went on to play two years at U of T where he racked up 111 points, 132 rebounds and 30 assists in 35 games. The Varsity Blues missed the playoffs both seasons, but Dusek learned several lessons along the way.
"Winning is hard, and it takes mental toughness, a habit of preparation and a fierce competitive demeanour. Playing against a team with tremendous success such as Carleton University really brought out the [drive] to become a better basketball player and leader, and understanding these concepts is what I'm going to take with me to the pro level," he stated. "The University of Toronto helped with my overall basketball IQ and taught me to pay attention to details such as the pick and roll, to read and react to situations, and ball movement."
The fourth-year guard was planning on returning for his final collegiate season before signing in Europe, but all that changed with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
"This was a plan I had before the global pandemic happened, the process just sped up once classes were officially online," Dusek said. "My initial plan was to play my final year at U of T and next year play overseas, but obviously the opportunity arose to play overseas this year, and I made a tough decision to leave my team and start one year earlier."
Dusek has the best of both worlds. He can compete at a very high level in Europe with BK Levharti Chomutov, while also being able to finish his degree in political science online. However, there was also another reason why he decided to sign with the Leopards.
"This is my mother's hometown team and I have been living in Canada alone without my parents as currently, my mother lives in Chomutov, Czech Republic and my father in Tehran, Iran."
Dusek has faced his fair share of challenges to get to this point. From moving across the globe, to overcoming a fully torn ACL and working his way up in Canada's colligate basketball ranks. It may be considered an unorthodox path, but he achieved his goal of signing a pro contract all while earning a top-notch education.
As Robert Frost stated, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference."
Dusek epitomises this quote.