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People love asking me, have I always been this confident? Have I always been this kind of player, the dude who plays with big emotion and talks a little trash? And everytime they ask me, I just laugh … because the answer is simple.
I’ve always been confident as hell, because of where I come from and because of my heritage. I’m a proud Haitian-Canadian who was raised by so many strong women. And that strength they showed me, it’s really been with me my whole life — and it’s only grown through the challenges I’ve had to face.
Growing up in Montreal, in the apartments that my family stayed at on Dagenais Street, I was the youngest. It was me, my older brother, Dominique, my older sister, Jennifer, and my mom. It was just us and I loved it. I loved being raised by a Haitain mother, and how she always made sure we knew that part of our heritage, and felt connected with our roots. The music we would listen to, the FOOD she’d cook for us … everything. I’m so proud to be Haitian-Canadian. It’s an important piece of who I am. And it’s why I’m always telling everybody how amazing of a city Montreal is, and how special of a country Canada is.
We have more up north than what people think we have. The culture in Montreal, man … there’s so much to it. It’s such a diverse place. I wish I could explain it to you guys better, but I’m telling you, it’s one place that you just have to visit. Just being in the city with everything it has to offer, and being with the people there, it will inspire you. And when it comes to athletes, you know we got some real hoopers that come from Montreal. Guys like Lu Dort, Khem Birch, Joel Anthony, Chris Boucher, my teammate Chris Duarte. Lu is an old friend of Dominique’s, and even came to the draft to support me, that’s how deep it goes.
Hang on, back up. We gotta talk about Haitian food for real. Man — my mom’s rice and beans with chicken?? It’s UNBEATEN!! No one and I mean NO ONE can make it like her. I know she’s reading this, so I wasn’t about to write an article and not brag about that.
My mom really did her best for us. She cared about our futures, you know what I mean?? That’s not to say we didn’t have tough times. A lot of nights when we’d go to bed, we’d hear gunshots going off. The streets where we lived were full of drugs and all types of other stuff. That wasn’t easy. I’d say the hardest part is just trying to find your way through all of it, and knowing not everybody will. Seeing some of my friends dead or in jail … it made a big impact on me. And it definitely weighed on me as I was trying to choose the right path.
The thing that I was most grateful for while growing up is the bond I had with my siblings. I’ve always been close to my sister, we just have a lot of similarities with how we are. And Jennifer was a hooper, too, with a nice shot and some solid handles. But don’t get it confused, she never beat me!! Not once!! Hahahah. (Sorry, Sis.) My brother and I, we shared a small room — and trust me when I say that room was small. We slept on bunk beds and had this tiny closet where we’d put all our clothes. The problem wasn’t sharing the room with my brother, it was how messy he was, haha. Didn’t matter how much we tried to clean the room up. Dominique would have it messy again in seconds.
And even though he could be tough on me, he’d never let anyone else start anything with me. Someone tried to pick a fight with me one time, and before I could even blink, Dominique was right there in the mix. He let everyone know: if they were fighting me, they were fighting him. I just remember standing there, like, Yeah, what — that’s MY big brother.
I was attached to his hip. It didn’t matter that he was three years older, because to me he was my twin. If we weren’t inside playing PlayStation on our tiny TV, trying to beat each other at James Bond or Call of Duty, then I was on the court hoopin’ with him and his friends. And what’s crazy is, I’d be beating them!! That’s when I think I came to this huge realization, of like, if these older kids can’t even beat me … then no one my age can hang with me. That’s probably when the trash talk started haha. And it’s when I decided to go try out for the team. That was fifth or sixth grade. And we’re doing drills and scrimmaging in tryouts, and it’s like the whole time I’m thinking to myself, This is too easy. From then on, I knew I wanted to play basketball.
And it was actually right around then when it happened … the morning I’ll never forget.
I woke up to the worst news imaginable: My brother had got in an accident with a car while he was on his bike, and had passed away. Dominique was only 15.
I couldn’t understand it. Dominique?? My brother???? My twin?? Someone who I loved was just GONE. Someone who’d always had my back was just GONE. But as hard as it was to accept, I also knew I had to face it. Life couldn’t just be about going to the park and going to school anymore. That couldn’t be my only focus now. With my older brother gone, it was my job to take care of my family. I had to stop being a kid, and become a young man. So that became my mission: I gotta do whatever it takes to make sure my family good.
In the years after Dominique died, basketball wasn’t just a game to me anymore — because I wasn’t just playing for myself. I remember one day, when I was 15, a coach of mine came up to me and said, “If the train comes … take it.” At the time, I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. But then two weeks later, the train came.
My uncle got this call about how they were about to open up this new NBA academy in Mexico, and I was one of the first players that they wanted to have. Full scholarship, room and board, nutrition … everything you could think of, they were offering it.
I won’t lie: as good as that sounds, there was part of me who wasn’t ready to get on that “train” to Mexico. At first I was just like, Nope, I’m not going. They’ll have to do this academy thing without me. But then as I researched things more, I saw how it wasn’t just a regular academy — it was a foot in the door to possibly make the NBA. So I decided, O.K. I’ll buy my one-way ticket and see where this is going. I’ll take the train.
My first couple of weeks in Mexico were kind of tough — I was just in my head a little. I was calling back home, like, “I don’t think I’ll be able to do this.” I felt bad about leaving my mom at home alone, and I was thinking about everything I was missing. But the more I started to look around and try to embrace the Academy, I realized how lucky I was. I was getting a good education, I had basketball, and most importantly I was safe. There were opportunities here that could change me as a person and a player. I was even learning Spanish while I was there — and the more we were traveling for games, the more I wanted to learn other languages. It was no distractions … just me and school and basketball. I know that not a lot of kids ever get that in life, especially not where I’m from.
Commissioner Silver even came to a game of ours in Mexico. When I saw him, I told one of my teammates, “Alright — I’m about to go up to him.” Ha. That’s that confidence I keep telling y’all about. But I really did it, man. I went straight up to the commish and said, “In a couple of years, you’re going to be seeing me at the draft.”
He nodded and was like, “I’ll be looking for you.”
When it came time to start thinking about next steps, it wasn’t a hard choice for me to pick college and Arizona. I liked how their program felt like a family, and I wanted to be a part of something like that. My freshman year was the COVID season, though, so it was hard to find a rhythm, with so much other stuff going on, all these things that were bigger than basketball. When that season ended, I knew I needed to run it back and show everyone what I could really do.
And when I got back to Tucson as a sophomore, I had it on my mind that this was going to be my year. At first the coaches were telling me to just focus on shooting the ball. But while I love to shoot, that still didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t want to be labeled as a “3-and-D” player, someone who can shoot and who can play defense but that’s it. I knew I could do it all and just needed to show it.
So I worked hard as hell. I was in the gym two or three times a day, just working on my entire game. Dribbling, finishing at the rim, passing, shooting. I wanted to be one of those guys where you’re trying to find their weaknesses, and you’re like, Oh. He doesn’t have any. I know that some people were shocked when the season started and I just skyrocketed — but I wasn’t one of them.
I’m a winner first, though, and team first. So to declare for the draft before we made our team goals happen at Arizona, that was a difficult pill to swallow. But I’ll always appreciate how happy everyone there was for me, and the way I look at it, I’ll be a Wildcat forever. Whatever I go on to do in the league, I’ll be doing that while repping my school.
The week of the draft, when I was at this lunch they have for prospects, I saw Commissioner Silver again. So you know I had to go up to him … again. I said hello, and reminded him of our talk in Mexico.
He looked at me and was like, “I remember that.”
Yeah. I might have smiled.
And I just thought to myself, This is it, right here. This is my time.
One thing I always want to make sure the world knows is that it was Dominique’s dream to make it to the NBA, too — it was a dream we wanted to achieve together. So while I’m on this journey, I bring him everywhere with me. I refuse to ever let him be forgotten.
That’s why I have a tattoo of his name on my forearm, with the date he was born and the date he passed. And it’s why in every IG post, I’m always using the hashtag #domixworld, as a way of saying how every time something happens for me in life, that’s my brother’s win as much as mine. And it’s also why on draft night, I wore a custom red suit with my brother embedded all into it. That suit meant everything — because I felt like by wearing it, Dominique could almost get to walk that stage with me.
O.K., I’ll tell you a funny story from draft night as well. So the first few picks went by … and I was feeling good that I was going to get the call soon. But here’s some advice for you all for when you’re expecting an important phone call: you should at least have your phone on vibrate, so you can answer it!!! Ha. The whole time, because I was doing all these interviews and stuff, I guess I was so excited that I forgot I had my phone on Do Not Disturb. So by the time I finally checked on it, I had six missed calls … from Coach Rick.
He was trying to call and tell me I was officially a Pacer, and welcome me to the team. And he got hit with my voicemail!! SIX times. (Sorry, Coach.)
Thankfully, Coach Rick kept trying and got ahold of me, haha. That’s when he made it clear that they want me to be a part of this thing in Indiana. I told myself before the draft I wasn’t going to cry in front of the cameras — but when I heard my name called, I couldn’t even hold it in. The tears started falling. Just thinking about everything it took for me to get here … from Montreal to the NBA. And thinking about my brother, and how proud he would be seeing me accomplish our dreams. If I could have told Dominique one thing in that moment, it would have been: We did it.
And now I’m here with the Pacers, about to play for some of the best fans in the NBA. It didn’t take any time for everyone to make me feel welcomed. I already made one rookie mistake, which is I didn’t know how it rains A LOT in Indiana. But I’m a quick learner. I invested in a rain jacket ASAP.
It’s been fun exploring the city of Indy, though, for real. One of the things that’s been most special has been getting to meet a lot of the fans and hear how excited they are for this season to start. I hit up the Indy state fair for the first time with my teammates, which was cool to be a part of. I also got to help out at the Special Olympics, and that was a great experience, just getting to play some games with the kids and see the smiles on their faces. And I told y’all I love to eat, so you know that’s one of the first things I’ve had to do, is find some of the best local spots.
I want to thank Pacers fans for really embracing me.
And then the last thing I want to tell them is: Get ready.
No, for real: just GET READY!! Because I’m a guy who wants to win badly, and who’s going to figure out a way to win no matter what. So that’s what’s in all of our futures, I’d say: hustling, and competing, and WINNING.
Those three things, that’s what I’m coming here to do.
Maybe it’s that confidence talking again, but I’ve never been scared to go up against anybody in my life. So I’m not planning to start acting scared now, just because I’m in the league. I’m coming with the same confidence I’ve always had — the confidence that every time I step on that court, you’re going to learn who I am. Whether you’re watching me or playing against me … if I’m on that court, you’ll know who I am soon.
Because I’m about to show you.