Interview by Jillian Holness

The Devil Strip had the opportunity to go inside the locker room after the game and speak with point guard and shooting guard, Desmond Gattis.

The Akron Aviators ended up beating the Shizuoka Gym Rats 126-116. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the Aviators, 28-year-old Desmond Gattis from Alliance, about his experiences playing overseas, how he became an Aviator and his future plans in semi-pro basketball.

Jillian Holness: How do you think the game went tonight?

Desmond Gates:  The game went really well. I was surprised at the guys because some of them didn’t show up to practice. We were really hustling and offense clicked well. Some things we could have done better, like passing the ball instead of being selfish, but overall, we played a great game.

JH: What are your predictions for this season?

DG: I think we can win it all  [in the American Basketball Association’s Finals]. We definitely have a great team, you know, young, talented. We have a team that can make it far. If everyone comes together and plays as a unit, we can really go far. 

JH: Besides being a member of the Aviators, what else do you do?

DG: I cut hair on the side. I’m working on getting my license in barbering, and I’m working on going back overseas. 

JH: Where did you play overseas?

DG:  I played for four years in Europe. I went to Kosovo and Montenegro.

JH:  What was it like playing in Europe and experiencing a different culture?

DG: The culture was amazing. They treated us like we were royalty. Kind of rolled out the red carpet for us. Fans love you. People love you. With everything going on in the world, you would think that it’s bad to go over there, but it’s not, because we as Americans get treated differently, being in a different country. If you work with a great organization, they take care of you, they treat you good, no problems, none of that. That’s the good thing about Europe. 

JH: As a young black man are you treated better, worse or the same in Europe?

DG: I haven’t had any problems while there. I didn’t run into one person calling me the n-word or getting loud with me. Being in the States, we experience more racism. Being in Europe, you can go over there and be treated way better than in America. 

Read more: Brian Collins and The Akron Aviators have revived semi-pro basketball in Akron

JH: How did you first learn about the Akron Aviators?

DG: I met Brian two years ago. I played in two games last year or two years ago for the Akron Aviators, and I ended up going back overseas.

JH: What brought you back to Akron?

DG:  I’m waiting on a better contract. I got in touch with Brian and he put me back on the team. So, that’s what made me come back. 

JH: What’s a typical day like for you?

DG: Busy, busy. I got a little boy. He’s eight years old and lives in Charlotte. I cut my hair like a full-time barber, and I hang out with the boys. I’m pretty much busy from Monday to Sunday, to be honest. 

JH: What’s the hardest part about being a semi pro basketball player?

DG: I would say getting everyone to practice. That’s the hardest thing. For real. Nobody shows up all the time. When it’s game time, some people want to show up and expect to play. That’s probably the hardest thing about it, to be honest, and travel. It could be snowing bad one day, not too many people can make it out. It’s kind of far for certain people.  Some people live in Cleveland, an hour away. Some people live in Alliance, that’s like an hour away too. Hartville and Salem are also far. 

JH: For games are you responsible for your own ride?

DG: Yeah. Some of us carpool. If you live in Alliance, Cleveland or wherever, you’ll get with a teammate and they’ll bring you here.

JH:  What’s the best part about being on the Akron Aviators?

DG: The players. I met some really good friends. It’s probably the best part about it. Everybody getting along, everybody coming together and becoming a team. 

JH: As an athlete, what are your goals?

DG: My goals are to be successful in what I do. To put 110% into everything I do, on and off the court. I take the time to practice every day. I work out everyday on top of my busy life. This is my passion. This is my future. This is me. So, my goal is to be the best that I can be at a pro level.

JH:  Do you have plans for the future to play overseas again?

DG: I do have plans to go back, probably this summer, in August. Whatever my agent brings to the table, if it’s reasonable, then I’ll go back. My goal is to go back as soon as possible. 

JH: Which country do you want to play in?

DG: I’m willing to go anywhere as long as the situation is good. 

JH: Is there anything else that you would like to talk about?

DG: I want to talk about Brian. He’s a really good guy for bringing this organization here and getting young people showcased and showing their skill. There’s not too many places that you can go and actually play at a professional pro level. This is really a great opportunity for people to come out and have fun and do what they want love to do. I want to thank Brian and the staff for bringing this team to Ohio.

Photo: Used with permission from the Akron Aviators

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