This Is the Story of my Evolution
By Benjamin Ayanian
At the age of six I attended my first NBA game, Suns vs. Wizards, and from that day forward I have been infatuated with the game of basketball. The very same year I also began playing house league basketball which only made me love the sport even more. These two experiences were the catalyst for the journey I am going to share with you today.
My older brother, Justin, started training with Evolution Basketball back in 2008 when I was just eight years old. I remember going to his workouts, too young to participate, and all I wanted to do was jump in and do the drills with him. When I turned ten, I immediately started training at Evolution. Up to that point, I had been a very average basketball player and struggled to find big minutes on some of my talented AAU teams.
My freshman year success was gratifying, but I had a chip on my shoulder because I didn’t make JV that year and wanted more. The following spring and summer I repeated the same training regimen with the aspiration of being on the Varsity basketball team. With the help of strength trainers Caleigh Patterson and Stephen Boettke, I gained 22 lbs of muscle and developed my game faster than ever before. After a long six months of hard-hard work, I made the Varsity team the following winter. I played well when given the time on the floor, but unfortunately, I did not receive as much opportunity as I had anticipated. Not being given much playing time brought me many sleepless and emotional nights. All I wanted to do was play.
After many conversations with my family and my trainers, I decided to transfer to Marshall High School for my junior and senior years. I was ecstatic to be heading to a program that was excited to have me. I started playing AAU again that spring, while continuing my lifting and training with Evolution. I was playing the best basketball of my life, and having so much fun… but then it happened. I took a hard shot in the head at a tournament in Philadelphia in May, it ended up being a concussion that kept me out for three months. Though I was disappointed from the setback, I was determined to get back to full force and did countless therapy sessions that summer to get back on the court again. Every day I attacked my therapy like I did my skill development. I was 100% healthy that following fall and was very much ready for my junior year. I quickly got acclimated to my new school and became Marshall’s starting point guard. Then it happened… again. I suffered another concussion and sustained a painful neck injury. Now after playing in only our first game, my season was over. This is when the path that I was on changed forever.
Even though I was out the rest of the high school season, I still had my sights set on playing AAU in the spring and summer with the goal of attracting College recruitment. However, the spring and summer came fast, and I was still not fully recovered. The summer disappeared quick, and when my senior year arrived, I was not physically ready to get back on the court yet. Having my symptoms continue brought on more emotional stress than I had ever dealt with before in my life. My senior season tryouts came and I was still not healthy… the first game of my senior year came and I was still not healthy… midway through the season came and I was still not healthy. I had not played basketball in well over a year and my role had shifted to being a player-assistant coach on the bench for most of my last two years in high school. Soon the season would end, and so would my lifelong hopes and dreams of my high school basketball career.
Through all of my injuries, my playing career now appears to be over. Nevertheless, my love for the game of basketball has not wavered. Every day I fantasize about being back out on the court. When we lost in regionals this year and the season was over, I went home and started watching my old highlight tapes. Realizing high school basketball was finished and that I would never play for a team again, I cried. It was then I understood how much I miss playing and how hard this journey has been. I still want to be around the game in any way possible, so I had to ask myself, where do I go from here? For years I had been told that I could have a bright future in coaching, most recently from my head coach at Marshall, Dan Hale, and also Alex. Both have encouraged me to believe that even though my playing career may be over, my basketball journey certainly is not.
I recently learned from talking with Alex that many college basketball coaches were once team managers at their schools. With this new information my goals have now shifted from college basketball player to becoming a team manager wherever I attend college. I have had to mentally transition from my desire to be a player to being a manager/coach which has been challenging. It is hard watching others play when I cannot, but I am growing closer and closer to the mindset of a coach every day.
The University of Michigan is my number one college choice as I have been a die-hard fan my entire life with my dad and other family having gone there. Fortunately I have two mentors who know John Beilein, the head coach at Michigan. Both Alex and Josh Merkel (Head Coach at Randolph Macon College) know him well and reached out to him on my behalf. They both spoke with Coach Beilein explaining my situation and relaying to him that they believe I would make a great coach one day. As a result, not only did I meet with Coach Beilein and attend practice, but also have been offered a manger spot pending my acceptance. I am currently on the waitlist for Michigan, obviously hoping to get in. If I do not get off of the waitlist, I will be attending the University of Minnesota and plan to pursue a managers role there. I am more than excited for this next chapter in my basketball journey.
I love this game not only because of how much fun it is, but because of all it has given me. This game has played a huge part in evolving me into who I am today and teaching me countless life lessons. I was presented with a tremendous amount of adversity and have learned how to work through it all. Through all of the tough times, this game has brought me much joy as well, like countless friendships that will last a lifetime. This has been a long, hard-fought journey — and it is not over. I will continue to evolve with the help of the game that I love.
Marshall High School
Class of 2018