Five schools in five years — that’s the journey that has brought Juan Ferrales to Barry University.
And while the 6-2 junior shooting guard believes he has finally found a home where he can end his unusual streak of changing allegiances every year, he can at least poke some fun at himself.
“The joke that I make,” Ferrales said, “is that I only need NAIA and Division III to play at every [amateur] level.”
Ferrales’ nomadic ways started in high school, where the Kendall resident left Sunset after his sophomore season to go to Broward County and play for a loaded Plantation American Heritage team.
Ferrales, whose parents are from Cuba, started on a team that included current FIU guard Ray Taylor and former Florida Gators standout Kenny Boynton, who is now playing pro ball in Israel. The other starters at Heritage were Jake Wheeler, now a 6-7, 305-pound offensive lineman for the University of Maryland, and Remi Barry, a 6-8 forward for New Mexico State.
Although those Heritage teams were good, they could not get past Pine Crest — and their NBA-bound guard Brandon Knight — in the playoffs.
After Heritage, Ferrales fast-tracked his basketball merry-go-round, stopping at Taag Academy, which is a prep school in Tampa, then Broward College for one year of junior-college ball and FIU for one season as a Division I walk-on.
But when Richard Pitino left FIU to coach the University of Minnesota, Ferrales and fellow walk-on Deric Hill reviewed their options and decided that a scholarship offer at Division II Barry was their best choice.
So far, the move has worked out.
Ferrales and Hill have led Barry to wins in each of their first seven games. Entering Friday, Ferrales leads Barry in scoring (19.0), minutes (32.4) and three-point percentage (.490). Last season he averaged 3.5 points at FIU.
Estes said Ferrales probably studies the game more than anyone on his team and also puts in extra time in the gym.
“We put him on the other team’s best offensive player,” coach Butch Estes said of Ferrales’ defensive ability. “Offensively, we give him the flexibility to catch and shoot or attack the basket. He’s just really comfortable here.”
Hill, a 5-9 junior point guard who is averaging 8.6 points, is second on the team in minutes played (30.9) and leads Barry in assists (7.7) and steals (2.9). At FIU last season, he averaged 6.2 points, 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals.
After competing at quarterback and cornerback at South Miami, Hill brings that sport’s aggressive mind-set to basketball.
“He’s fast, and he’s tough,” Ferrales said of Hill, who is his roommate.
Hill said it is his anticipation that helps him the most.
“Knowing where the ball’s going helps,” Hill said. “I watch a lot film, so I know the little tricks of what my opponents will do next.”
Figuring out what comes next for Ferrales will be tougher.
Given his propensity to change schools, it likely comes as no surprise that he recently changed majors — from sports management to philosophy.
“I’ve thought about being a coach,” Ferrales said when asked for his postgraduation plans. “It’s intriguing, especially since I’ve played for so many different coaches. I’ve seen just about every style of coach and every system.”