From Northampton to Honolulu in only a handful of years, Andre Arissol looks set to make waves across the pond as the Great Britain youth international continues his rise through the basketball ranks.
Having spent the first two years of US his college career at Otero Junior College, the Charnwood College alumni will suit up for the Chaminade Silverswords next season having secured a transfer to Chaminade University of Honolulu.
“It’s been a crazy journey,” began Arissol.
“I remember the first time I came to Charnwood, I was skinny with big hair and couldn’t play basketball.
“But thanks to Charnwood, Loughborough University and my time at Leicester Riders I can honestly look back and say it was by far the best experience of my life – in terms of making me a man, giving me the confidence to succeed and getting me ready for the challenges I’m about to face.
“I enjoyed some great moments at the club, including winning the Elite Academy Basketball League (EABL) with Charnwood in my third and final year. We had a great team that year, with several guys coming back. The experience of just missing out the previous season was a great learning moment for us and when we got our chance again we knew exactly what we had to do.
“I had the chance to remain in Leicester and study at Loughborough University but I ultimately opted to head over to America and attend Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado.
“I still love to come back Leicester in the summer to refresh my mind and give a little back to the programme. I think it’s a great way for me to prepare before heading out to America.
“I can’t thank the organisation enough for all they’ve done for me.”
Arissol enjoyed a productive two year stint in Colorado, averaging 10.6 points (50.3 FG%) and 3.2 assists in his second season, helping Otero to a 20-9 record and a place in the NJCAA National Championship Tournament.
“Moving away was hard.
“Obviously in the beginning there was a lot of excitement – meeting my teammates, experiencing the differences in culture – it was incredibly overwhelming.
“But as time went on, particularly around Christmas, I definitely had times where I missed home and being around family.
“Their schedule is so busy out there that you don’t get much time to dwell on the negative thoughts: the expectation for us was to win and that’s was my focus. So in that respect it helped with any moments of feeling homesick.
“But the hardest situation by far was finding the right balance between basketball and your studies.
“You want to compete academically as well as on the court – so if you’re not studying you’re training and if you’re not training you’re studying. There’s really not much time for anything else.
“You have to grow up quick and develop your time management skills.
“Selling my Xbox was definitely a big moment in the processes.
“Having said all that, it’s definitely doable!
“You just have to prioritise: putting basketball and studying at the top and understanding that socialising is less likely to happen.
“It can be tough, but knowing that your dedication will be rewarded makes it worth it.
“The only other major adjustment I had to make was getting used to the athleticism of the opposition. In the UK we obviously get athletic players, but in the States being ultra athletic is the norm.
“For me it was great, as I love that aspect of the game – being physical and understanding how that impacts my decision making on the court.
“To be honest, there’s not too much of a difference in the way they approach training to the techniques that are being utilised in Leicester.
“I think as more of the top clubs in the UK adopt this approach and really begin to focus on the development of the youth players we’ll start to see the athletic gap between the UK and the USA reduced.
“I had a lot of coaches and teams reach out to me prior to this upcoming season, enquiring about my plans for the 2018-19 campaign.
“Although I spoke with many people, I felt that Chaminade was the right fit and the programme would provide me with the greatest opportunities.
“I really got the feeling they wanted me to join the programme and were invested in continuing my development as a player.
“I’ll be back playing the point guard, having shared the ball handling duties in my final season in Colorado. I’m keen to lead the team on the court and it’s a position I know well having played point at Charnwood and for Great Britain.
“To get the chance to play in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational this year is also something I’m really looking forward to.
“We’ll be facing the likes of BYU, Dayton, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan State, UCLA and Virginia Tech.
“I can’t wait to test myself against some of the top schools in the country and continue my development.
“I’ve only a couple of years left before I complete my degree so the plan is to make the most of every moment and become the best player I possibly can in that time.
“Then hopefully I’ll get the chance to play professional basketball at the highest level available to me.
“Obviously I look at the likes of Myles Hesson and Andrew Lawrence – British guys who are representing on the international stage – and want to replicate what they’ve achieved.
“For me, I believe the opportunity will present itself, it’s just a matter of how ready I’ll be when the time comes.
“That’s my goal for the next two years: to put myself in the best possible position to succeed when I graduate.
“That and achieve great things with my teammates at Chaminade.”