Basketball

Former Barry University star uses basketball to enhance his world view

Former Barry University basketball player Juan Ferrales visits the Barry University gym where he played college basketball. Ferrales recently returned home to Miami after playing his first season of pro ball last year in Ireland. This September, he will start his second year of pro ball, this time in Norway.
Former Barry University basketball player Juan Ferrales visits the Barry University gym where he played college basketball. Ferrales recently returned home to Miami after playing his first season of pro ball last year in Ireland. This September, he will start his second year of pro ball, this time in Norway. emichot@miamiherald.com

He’s seen the rolling hills of Ireland, and now the northern lights of Norway await.

Like all young boys who fall in love with basketball, guard Juan Ferrales wanted to play in the NBA.

But at some point during a high school career in which he split four years between Miami Sunset and then American Heritage, Ferrales came up with a backup plan.

“When I said I wanted to play in the [NBA], people told me to be realistic — ‘You’re a six-two Cuban kid from Kendall,’” said Ferrales, 24. “So I became determined to play in Europe. I knew I wanted to see that part of the world.”

Ferrales has made that dream come true, playing in Ireland last season and heading to play for a Norwegian team in September.

But before he could make that adventure a reality, his college career would include three stops: Broward College, Florida International University and, finally, Barry University.

A sports management major at FIU, Ferrales’ perspective changed unexpectedly when he later took a philosophy course that was part of his requirements at Barry.

Ferrales enjoyed the course so thoroughly that he switched his major.

“My teachers thought I was this strange creature — an athlete majoring in philosophy,” Ferrales said. “But I found out that I like thinking about bigger questions. Critical thinking is a tool you can use in other disciplines.”

On the court, Ferrales experienced his biggest success in his two years at Barry, helping the Bucs reach the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons for first time in program history.

As a junior, Ferrales led Barry in scoring (15.7), three-pointers made (83) and three-point percentage (42.6), helping the Bucs finish 19-9.

During his senior year, Ferrales’ numbers fell a bit — he averaged 12.9 points and shot 38.5 percent on three-pointers. But he still led Barry in three-pointers made (72) and helped the Bucs finished 25-6, reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“Coming out of high school, I didn’t think Juan was good enough to play college basketball,” Barry coach Butch Estes said.

“But I was wrong. By the time he decided to transfer from FIU, he had proven himself. I was honest with him and told him I had made a mistake in my earlier evaluation. I told him, ‘Now I know how good you are. Come play for a coach who really believes in you.’”

That’s what happened, and after that 2014-15 season at Barry, Ferrales earned his bachelor’s degree and used his connections to land a roster spot playing pro basketball in Dublin for the Swords Thunder of the Irish Premier League.

As part of his deal with the team, Ferrales studied for his master’s degree at Griffith College Dublin, a business-oriented school. Ferrales, who is set to complete work on his master’s in September, studied international business management with a specialty in global branding.

Ferrales led Swords Thunder with a 16.0 scoring average despite playing just 20 minutes a game. There were four Americans on the team. But according to league rules, only one could be on the court at a time.

Off the court, Ferrales said deciphering the Irish accent was tough at first, but he learned quickly.

“They say things like, ‘He’s a sound gentleman’ and ‘Cheers!’” said Ferrales, who also gained an appreciation for rugby during his year spent living in Dublin, the largest city and capital of Ireland.

Ferrales used Ireland as a springboard to sign a one-year contract with the Kongsberg Miners in Kongsberg, Norway.

While in Kongsberg, Ferrales — at the Miners’ request — will take a leadership role on the court and in the community, teaching basketball to children.

Kongsberg, after all, is much more known for ski jumpers than basketball players.

“I want to immerse myself in the culture, learn to speak Norwegian,” Ferrales said of his upcoming assignment. “My club has a big vision. They want to build up basketball, and I want the same thing.”

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