The path Daniel Ferguson has travelled chasing his dream of playing professional basketball has seen him crisscross Canada, make pit stops in the US, and end with a final destination of Switzerland.
Along the way, he has worked towards his Masters’ degree in Arts, with a specialization in coaching, from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, set school basketball records and played for a national title.
Now completely done his eligibility as a university basketball player, Ferguson is playing professional basketball with BC Boncourt of the top national basketball league in Switzerland.
Originally from Malton, Ontario, which is also home for former NCAA and Canadian national basketball point guard Sherman Hamilton, Ferguson spent time in Vancouver and Toronto before eventually playing college basketball for the Berry College Vikings, a private college in Rome, Georgia that competes in the NAIA. He averaged 18 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game with the Vikings, and was a two-time NAIA all-American. By the end of his third year, and a failed attempt at turning pro, Ferguson met, at the time, Golden Bears’ basketball coach Greg Francis, and for the first time in life, he chose his next destination based on academics first, and basketball second. He had received his undergraduate degree from Berry, so he came to Edmonton and the University of Alberta to pursue his Masters’ on a topic he had lived.
“Everywhere I had gone it had been for basketball, and originally it was just for basketball, noted Ferguson. “I was really just in school to play ball, but after my first year, I knew that I needed to go to school for academics as well. I tried to go to Europe and turn pro after a couple of years of school, but I didn’t have any success, and in the end I wound up with nothing.”
“Luckily,” he continued, “I found a connection, or a connection found me, when Greg contacted me, so I came to Edmonton to play for the Golden Bears, and continue my education at the University of Alberta. The goal was to get myself into a position where I could go overseas and play professional.”
The basketball part proved easy.
In his two seasons of CIS ball, Ferguson was a national championship tournament all-star (2012), a CIS all-Canadian (2011), a two-time Canada West all-star (2011 and 2012), and he finished inside the top four in conference scoring twice and he set a pair of Golden Bears’ records (career points per game average (21.5), and career average minutes played (34.6 per game).
While he accomplished a lot in his short CIS career, one major goal was left unfulfilled: winning a national championship.
And at first, the academic part proved just as elusive.
“When I came to the University of Alberta, I initially wanted to research the challenges Canadians faced when they go overseas to play basketball,” said Ferguson. “But, looking at just Canadians wasn’t a big enough scope, so I had to start over, and expand my thought to North Americans.”
In time, with help from Associate Professor Marvin Washington, now with the Alberta School of Business, Ferguson was able to find pathways to professional basketball overseas.
“What I found is that social connections are the arbiters of success. Naturally, working on this project earned me overseas connections, and new connections within Canada and CIS, because my name was attached and circulating with this concept of North Americans going overseas to play basketball. Having your name in those circles helped me a lot, and it helped me land this opportunity in Switzerland, which is what I’ve worked for so long.”
While he was having success in the classroom, he and his teammates were having success on the hard court as well.
In 2012 the Golden Bears racked up an undefeated regular season record at home (10-0), and hosted a home playoff series. In that series, they swept perennial CIS basketball power UBC in two games straight, upping their home winning streak to 12 games, and earning a spot in the Canada West Final Four. There they stunned the No.1 seed, and host, Saskatchewan Huskies in the opening game, in which Ferguson had 18 points, and then the team captured the Canada West championship after Ferguson posted a game high 25 points.
They then advanced to the CIS championship tournament in Halifax, and eventually played their way into the gold medal contest where they would lose to a powerhouse Carleton Ravens’ program.
“When I look back, my favourite moments are easily from the entire playoff run,” exclaimed Ferguson. “I had never made playoffs as a collegiate player, and to do what we did, to go on that run was incredible. We beat UBC in our house; we beat Saskatchewan in their house, silencing their fans, it was just amazing. We went to Halifax, played our butts off in the national championship tournament, gave it everything we could have, which I had never been a part of before as a player, and I got to do it with a great group of teammates and coaches. It’s a pretty special series of moments for me.”
Now, he’s taken those memories, those experiences, that knowledge, and most importantly, those connections made at the University of Alberta and with the Golden Bears’ basketball program, and has spring boarded himself to his dream: playing professional basketball.
“The Golden Bears’ basketball program and the University of Alberta were springboards for me towards my goal of playing professional basketball.”
“I came to Edmonton after meeting the coach, but not knowing how good the players in CIS were, or how good the school was. The quality of play in CIS, and especially my teammates, helped me a lot, in fact so many U of A connections helped me out, and not just athletically, but academically as well. Marvin was a very positive influence in my life and my time here, as were all of my teammates and coaches. The U of A has been good to me, and now I’m living my dream.”