RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Since the end of his basketball career at Division II Felician College in March 2011, Paterson resident Suquan Gary has been consumed by the dream.
"Professional basketball has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid," said Gary, 23. "I feel I still have a lot of basketball left in me, and I'm not stopping until I get there."
The dream has taken him to the Czech Republic, Austria, and Italy, all with the guarantee of nothing more than a tryout. He's traveled to Las Vegas for an exposure camp, and to Kentucky for a tryout with the National Basketball Development League (commonly known as the NBA "D-League.")
Another former Golden Falcon, Jason Romer, understands the pull of the dream. A native of Harlem, N.Y., and a 2009 graduate of Felician, Romer currently toils in the semi-professional Eastern Basketball Alliance with the New York Wizards. Romer works full-time as a desktop support analyst for an investment bank in Manhattan, but like Gary, is not ready to give up on the dream.
"I do this because basketball has become part of my everyday life," said Romer, 26. "I love the game. If I'm not hitting the weight room three days a week, or running miles every day, and continuing to work on my game, I personally begin to feel like I am doing something wrong. I plan on pursuing a professional career in basketball as long as I can still run up and down the court!"
Gary, a 6-foot-7 power forward as a collegian, and Romer, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, share a bond beyond their alma mater. Like Gary, Romer also attended an NBDL tryout last summer – his was in Chicago. Both former Golden Falcons were offered a contract out of their tryout, making them eligible for last November's NBDL draft. And ultimately, both suffered the disappointment of going undrafted in the eight-round, 16-team event.
But both men saw the setback as just a temporary derailment of the dream.
"I wasn't devastated [by not being drafted] – maybe a little disappointed, but I knew the possibility existed," said Gary, who like Romer remains an NBDL free agent. "I've learned that this is not easy – it takes time, patience and humility."
Added Romer, "Even after signing a contract, I had prepared myself for the worst, so when draft day arrived and I went undrafted, I initially told myself that I knew that would happen. But when I really sat back and thought about it, I was crushed. I believe in myself and know how much work I have put in, so why not me? The way I answer that question is to continue to push hard and most importantly not to give up!"
Gary is continuing to pursue the dream – while preparing for life after it.
"I'm finishing my degree (in business administration), working out, and continuing to work some connections that (Felician head) coach (David) DeFerrari has helped me with. I've been talking to people in Israel and Chili, and I've got an invitation to a free-agent camp in Chicago. I'm willing to give it a couple of more years; if it doesn't work out by then, maybe I'll get the point."
Romer, with the stability of full-time employment, can afford a more measured approach, but still feels the drive for the dream.
"The EBA practices and games are on weekends, so it fits with my schedule," he said. "Meanwhile, I have an acting manager, my good friend Shemika Stevens, and I've reached out to several teams via eurobasket.com. What I have learned the most is that more times than not, things are not handed to you; when you really want something you have to put in the work and take the initiative at making it happen."