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The Gee-Gees basketball legend’s U of O career just ended, but his future is bright

Photo credit: Marta Keirkus

After the disappointment of the Ravens taking yet another national championship from the Gee-Gees, there was a lot of uncertainty left on the floor.

For the national player of the year Johnny Berhanemeskel, it was a bittersweet end to an illustrious career. As the final buzzer sounded, he was no longer a collegiate basketball player — it marked the beginning of his transition to a professional.

Players in the United States have the luxury of knowing that if they’re good enough, they’ll have a chance to play the highest level of basketball on Earth.

Players in Canada are not so lucky, as the competition is not as high and players are not as exposed. Berhanemeskel finished his career as the best basketball player in University of Ottawa history and now looks forward to donning a new uniform as a pro—somewhere.

“I don’t have any specifics yet,” said Berhanemeskel. “I’m taking a couple of days off and talking to some agents and trying to hear what they have to say. I’m using my coach and some recourses like Warren (Ward, former Gees star), and other guys that have played pro and have firsthand experience.”

Typically, most products of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) basketball programs who make the jump to pro end up in European leagues. Cracking the American market is incredibly difficult, but not impossible.

“Europe is the most probable outlet right now,” said Berhanemeskel, who holds the record for most career points at the university and is in the top three in all-time scoring in Ontario.

“I’m not going to weigh down any options, I’m open to all suggestions. Maybe I’ll go down to the States in the summer to do some training. I just want to give myself the best chance to be successful whatever I end up doing. I know I definitely want to keep playing basketball come next fall.”

The transition will be difficult, but as he has proven throughout his career, the Gees MVP isn’t one to settle. Berhanemeskel said he plans to review game tape from overseas to learn the style of play to avoid a shock if that’s where he ends up, along with general training to up his play during the off time. “I have to reevaluate my game,” he said.

“I’m happy where I’ve gotten in five years and I definitely want to build off that. I’m not going to change everything I do. I want to keep working on my body and get some weight of course. I feel like there is an endless amount of stuff I can do in terms of skill that I can work on.”

In the coming months, Berhanmeskel will hire an agent and begin the process of looking at teams to sign with. For now, it’s a game of waiting to see what’s to become of the Gees’ beloved shooter.