SUNY Delhi star pursues pro basketball dream

SUNY Delhi Marketing & CommunicationsSUNY Delhi’s Justin Daoud drives to the basket during a Nov. 26 game against Castleton at SUNY Delhi.

SUNY Delhi senior men’s basketball player Justin Daoud is taking his show on the road.

Where, exactly, is not yet clear. But the Broncos star signed with international basketball agent Jad Saade on Thursday, April 17, formalizing his plans to pursue a professional basketball career.

“Growing up, a dream of mine has always been to play pro basketball,” Daoud told The Daily Star on Tuesday. “Now that the process is happening it’s just surreal.”

Daoud’s two seasons with the Broncos have been among the program’s most successful, with the 6-foot-4-inch guard being named a United States Collegiate Athletic Association All-America Second Team selection as the Broncos reached the USCAA national semifinals before the tournament was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He’s definitely been a huge part of our success,” fifth-year SUNY Delhi coach Zack Thomsen told The Daily Star. “My first couple years at Delhi we were struggling, but he came in and joined a class of four other guys that were going to be juniors. He came in right away and provided what that group was missing. He just bridged the gap and added a role we needed.”

Daoud said he earned the majority of his minutes at Herkimer County Community College, where he played for two seasons before coming to Delhi, by specializing in shooting from distance. But Thomsen said the past two seasons have seen Daoud develop more parts of his game and trim his body to improve his athleticism. Last season, the Yonkers native was the only player to start all 28 games for Delhi, while his 12.0 points per game led the team and his 8.1 rebounds per game were second.

Despite Daoud’s playing resume, basketball is among the most difficult sports in which to pursue a professional career. Roster sizes in the sport are small and restrictions on the number of foreign players are common in overseas leagues. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic makes any previously safe assumptions murky. However, Daoud said he is seeking a potential dual citizenship to avoid roster restrictions aimed at Americans in particular.

“It is really hard to get on an overseas team as an American. It’s only two or three spots per team and that makes things very difficult,” Daoud said. “Right now we are really just waiting things out.”

So while much remains unclear about international basketball leagues and where Daoud could land, Thomsen said Daoud’s abilities as a player are marketable.

“The number one thing they want when they go overseas is a guy who can score, and he can flat out do that,” Thomsen said. “His size will help him at the guard position, and as he transitions into a pro career he will be more of a perimeter player, but immediately his impact will be his ability to score.”

“I think he has a really good chance. The agent that he started working with works with some of his buddies and it’s pretty certain there will be some teams interested in his services, so I think he has a pretty good chance to get at least an initial contract,” Thomsen continued.

While a new level of play will likely pose new challenges for Daoud, he is coming off four seasons of team success to go with his individual achievements. Herkimer reached the National Junior College Athletic Association national quarterfinals during each of Daoud’s two seasons, and he brought success with him to Delhi as the program transitions to NCAA Division III status.

In two seasons, the Broncos have won two conference titles in the American Collegiate Athletic Association, which is a Division III conference. As a provisional member of the NCAA aiming to become a full member by 2021-22, Delhi competes in the USCAA men’s basketball tournament, and just missed out on a chance to play for a national title.

Still, the biggest challenges may not be on the court as Daoud said it was his close familial connections in Yonkers that led him to play at Herkimer and Delhi. He mentioned other career plans in case basketball doesn’t work out, but for now, going far away may give him the chance to keep his family close in the long term.

“When I first was going to Herkimer, we thought three hours was far away. I’m a mama’s boy so I didn’t want to be too far away,” Daoud said. “But now I’m a grown man and I have to do what I have to do. I know if I excel and make some money, I know I can take her wherever I go.”

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