As Evan Pellerin approaches the final stretch of his 15-year basketball career, and looks back on his journey-the highs, the lows, he’s not particularly sentimental about it. Rather, the skilled basketball player feels accomplished, and is by all means, happy with his basketball career.
“I feel good though, God has been good to me, my body, and me being able to still feel good and compete at a high level. I feel like I could definitely compete a few more seasons, but the reality is that I’m closer to the end than to the beginning,” he said.
Thirty eight years-old, Pellerin currently plays for Club Baloncesto Benahavis in Spain, but took the first steps on his journey while growing up in the inner city communities of St Jamestown, Downtown Toronto, and then later when he moved to Scarborough, Lawrence and Galloway. Back then, basketball was a necessary tool he needed to navigate the negative influences he was surrounded by.
“I came up from very humble and tough beginnings where I had to learn how to navigate a lot of different negative influences early on. Basketball for me was that outlet where I was able to get my life on track and find some success, and get some self confidence,” – Evan Pellerin
Best in his city
He first played organised basketball at the St. Patrick’s Secondary School. He spent two years there before transferring to the Jarvis Collegiate Institute which he said was the best decision he ever made for his basketball development. It was while at this institution that his skills as a basketball player became recognized.
“Wherever I played and whoever I played against, I felt like I was one of the better players for my age group in the city. Jarvis had a lot of eyes on the school in terms of their basketball program and the things that they did, when I went there things took off for me, it propelled my young career” he said.
While at Jarvis Collegiate Institute, Pellerin participated in the inaugural All Canada Classics in 2000 put on by Wayne Dawkins, CEO of P.H.A.S.E 1 Youth Association. He played again in its second staging the following year, and said the training he received from Dawkins was crucial in pushing him along his journey.
“He basically was one of the first people to provide me with the opportunity to access elite training, and allowed me to believe that I had the opportunity to earn a scholarship, and build that confidence within me that I was able to take basketball to the next level in my life, ” he said.
A true Blue Collar Worker when it comes to the game of basketball. Evan was always going to outwork you no matter what advantage you thought you had on him. He’s been great role model for the perceived underdog baller and he will inspire many more with the work he does off the court next. – Wayne Dawkins/P.H.A.S.E. 1
Pellerin played power forward/centre on his high school team, during his final year at the school, at 19 years-old he was named among the top five players in his age group in Canada and Ontario.
Division one scholarship
In a very natural sequence of events, he was offered a division one scholarship to Morgan State University, in Maryland, United States. But being away for the first time did take some getting used to.
“It was a new situation for me, I had to adapt to being away from home. But I was able to excel, both in the classroom, and on the court,” – Evan Pellerin
However, the team itself did not have much success, and to top things off, Pellerin didn’t feel a strong bond with the team.
In the end, he ended up transferring to an elite division two school, StoneHill College, in Massachusetts in 2003, and had the first taste of success in his university basketball career.
“We were one of the top five teams in the Northeastern-10 Conference that season. We had a 20 win season, which at that time was something that was new to the program. We were able to become nationally ranked that year, and despite not making it to the NCAA tournament, it was a very successful season team wise,” he said.
Pellerin did enjoy some individual success as well that season, he walked away with All conference, All district, and all American awards.
These awards propelled him into a professional career. He started getting interest from agents that wanted to work with him. All of a sudden, the notion of a professional basketball career which he had entertained over the years was about to become real.
“Even though it was something that I talked about, I wasn’t really sure if I could do it. So when I started to have people reaching out to me, I started to realize that it was a reality,” – Evan Pellerin
He signed his first contract with Ballina Merry Monks in Ireland in 2005. The team won its first ever conference championship, and was runner up for the Irish cup trophy and league championship. Pellerin also copped individual awards- Forward of the year, and Import Player of the year for that season.
He then moved to Switzerland to play for Vevey Rivera Basket, but the team had just moved up to division one, and while he enjoyed individual success the team didn’t enjoy much success.
From there, Pellerin moved on to play for two different teams in the same season in Switzerland. He signed on as an injury replacement with Bristal Starwings, and then went on to Meyrin- Grand Sacconex Basket where he finished the season as top rebounder and leader in double-doubles.
For the 2008/2009 season, he travelled to France to play for the Chalon Champagne Basket and then went onto finish the season in Switzerland with Boncourt Basket Club.
However, another opportunity opened for him in France to play with Longwy Basket, which he did for two years. Then he moved on to another French team, Etoile Prisse-Macon Basket in 2011/12 where the team ended up winning the conference championship that season. He would go on to play for other teams in France such as Andrezieux and Cergy-Pontoise before moving on to play in Spain at the end of the 2013/14 season.
In the Spring of 2014, his agent informed him of a team in Spain that was looking for a player to help them win their play offs. That was Club Baloncesto Benahavis, and it presented an offer that Pellerin could not refuse. So he went, and things turned out pretty good for him. The team won the championship, and he became a dad in July 2016.
“The president of the team is the cousin of the mother of my son. So I met her through him, she used to come to the games, and helped out, and we started a relationship, and she became pregnant,” he said.
In 2014/15 while playing with Club Baloncesto Benahavis, Pellerin decided to hone in on his passion for physical fitness and wellness and combine it with his ever growing desire to train and develop players.
“In late 2014 I launched my training company Proficient Performance Institute with the goal of giving back to the next generation of players as mentors like Wayne Dawkins and others did for me as a young 17yr old kid at Jarvis Collegiate Institute,” he said.
During that time, and after the birth of his son, he was still travelling back and forth to Spain as he still continued to play in France. He played for teams such as: Enfants du Forez Feurs, Val D’Albret Basket Club, and Agen Basket Club. He won a championship with Val D’Albret Basket Club during the 2016/17 season.
In 2019, he decided to settle down in Spain.
“Even though I had some opportunities to stay in France, and they were probably better opportunities, I thought it was just the best situation for me in terms of being close to my son, and being around him on a regular basis everyday, see him grow, and just be a dad,” he said.
With the awareness that his career is coming to an end, he’s also focused on transitioning into new passions. Pellerin said he’s done most of the groundwork and will be launching his basketball academy in September 2020/21 at the start of the academic year. The Summit Basketball Academy will be located in the Malaga/Cadiz provinces in the South of Spain.
“I’ve always been big on working with youth. I’ve had people who’ve given to me so I’ve always felt like it’s important to reach back and pass the knowledge forward,” he said.
Pellerin can teach youth how to use basketball to make a better life for themselves, much like how he was taught.
“I feel like a lot of inner city youth coming up, what we lack is confidence, belief in ourselves that we can do something, be somebody and be successful, and that’s what basketball gave to me,” he said.
But at the same time, not neglecting their academic pursuits. Pellerin graduated from university with 3.4 GPA, and a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies with a concentration in health and wellness.
“I learnt early on that academics should go hand in hand with athletics. Some of my mentors taught me early on to use basketball, don’t let basketball use you. Use basketball to better your life and to put yourself in a position for the future,” – Evan Pellerin
He also boasts fluency in both Spanish and French, which he credits to travelling he was able to do because of basketball.
“Learning these languages really opened up my eyes to the world and allowed me to build long lasting friendships with people that I would not have been able to talk with otherwise if I did not speak their native language,” he said.
And when his journey in basketball eventually comes to an end, Pellerin would like to know that he gave it his all.
“I’d like to be remembered as someone who never took any plays off, who never cheated the game, who always just gave it 100 percent, treated every practice, every game, every moment on the court like it could be my last,” – Evan Pellerin