Less than a year ago, I decided to catch up with Henry Dugat (183-PG-1987, college: Baylor, agency: BIG) concerning the winning of the 2021 NCAA title of his alma mater Baylor. I remember him transporting that pride and just enormous excitement that he was feeling. So winning the title for the first time in their 114 year history and reaching the big dance only 13 times was a massive achievement for the school that nobody will ever forget especially fellow players who have slipped on the Bears jersey. It is interesting how much Baylor basketball has grown and developed further in the last 14 years. In it’s first 101 years, the school reached the big dance only four times, but since 2008 when he was there the school has played in the NCAA tournament nine times in the last 14 years. For a player that has balled in five countries overseas and eight different organizations, it is only typical that he has seen a lot in his career, but that I would be getting in contact with him again less than a year after our glorious Baylor win interview and discuss war is something that I would never have dreamed of doing. But having that COVID experience the last two years was definitely a good preparation for any new unwanted ugly surprises that the Ukraine would give everyone living there. ‘I think life was different for everyone during COVID dealing with so much uncertainty. One thing I noticed that was difficult for me was not knowing what to expect but within that I believe I became stronger in focusing on what matters most to me in life’, stated Henry Dugat.
Henry Dugat is a 35 year old 183cm point guard from Dayton, Texas that played his 13th professional season and fifth in the Ukraine and first with SK Cherkasy Monkeys (Ukraine-Superleague). He is a point guard that also played in other countries like Mexico, Venezuela, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, and France. When Russia invaded the Ukraine last week, the American who played up tempo basketball in Germany for current EWE Baskets Oldenburg head coach Ingo Freyer was in Cherkasy. Cherkasy is a beautiful city of 279,000 inhabitants on the Dnieper river 187 kilometers away from the country capital Kiev where he actually lived for two years from 2016-2018 with Budivelnyk Kyiv (Ukraine-Superleague). He also played two seasons for BK Dnipro (Ukraine-Superleague) which is 479 kilometers away from Kiev. When the terror broke out in the Ukraine on February 24, he was still in Cherkasy and like so many other people tried to flee the country. It wasn’t any different for other Americans playing in the Ukraine. Guys like Max Mahoney who had a stellar career at Boston University and played his rookie season in Germany with the Kirchheim Knights needed three days to get back to home soil while Michael Stockton who is the son of NBA legend John Stockton also made it safely home a few days before the invasion. It wasn’t any different for Dugat, but he had to remain in the war zone for 48 hours before finally starting the trek home. ‘Fortunately I was able to get out of Ukraine on Saturday and begin my travel back home. It wasn’t easy because there were so many people leaving as well so it was a really long process. But there was an uneasy feeling in the air when I left’, stated Henry Dugat.
For any one watching the news about the saddening Ukrainian conflict in the last days, it is just horrifying to see the footage of how Russia has taken control and been dropping bombs, using their massive arsenal of soldiers on land and just creating havoc for all the innocent citizens there. There have been so many horror stories that have surfaced in the last days. I have heard stories from my relatives in Germanywho back in the day were living in cellars in 1945 while they heard the sirens and bombs as they were crouched in the corner praying to live. It wasn’t any different in 2022 in the Ukraine where citizens in Kiev were hanging out in cellars and even had the courtesy to take in friends. In hospitals pregnant women were camped out in the cellar to protect their babies in their wombs. But The Ukrainian folk aren’t going down without a fight. News reports (RTL Germany) picked up how a Ukrainian woman boldly went up to a Russian soldier giving him sunflower seeds and saying ‘what are you doing in our country? I give you some sunflower seeds so when you die, flowers will grow’.
The last days weren’t easy for the American as he was constructing a plan to get home again. Even if his family and friends were far away, he always had contact with them as they constantly checked in on him. When the season started he had a number of Americans on the team like ex UCLA great Isaac Hamilton or ex NBA and UConn great Rodney Purvis and Duvaughn Maxwell, but as he played his last game on February 17th was the lone American on the team. Despite losing his last game against Krivbas, he played a solid game having 18 points, 9 boards and 7 dimes, but had no American teammates to talk about the day to day struggles with the drama in the country. Sometimes having that other American by your side can do wonders in cold places and where nobody can tell you where the next Mcdonalds is. Especially that rookie from North Dakota needs that fellow American who can help him adjust and just have a friend in time of need. But for a player who has been overseas so long, he didn’t need any adjustment time to getting through the hard times without his own kind. ‘It wasn’t tough, although we missed guys that left, over the course of the season I was able to build a bond with every person on our team and organization’, expressed Henry Dugat. Just having to deal with war right at your door step has to be something incredibly difficult to digest, but if your club doesn’t want to let you go or help you make things easier in hard times is something that is incredibly difficult to believe and something that is even more difficult to digest. But there were other Americans that had their own horror stories about how their clubs treated them. ‘I don’t believe every organization handled the situation comfortably. Some organizations didn’t offer Americans or foreigners the opportunity to leave. The guys that left had to on their own accord against the wishes of the club without payment for time already worked. Or the option to go elsewhere and play. There were other organizations within the league that I believe handled this situation better’, commented Henry Dugat.
The American who has won two titles in the Ukraine and was a three time Superleague allstar and was the games MVP in 2020 has began the trip back to Texas. His loved ones and family must have been freaking out in the days leading up to his return. ‘They were really ready for me to return home. They were concerned, Naturally so’, stated Henry Dugat. Even if he is on his way home, the war in the Ukraine is still ongoing. He may be very far away from the Ukraine, but his thoughts and prayers go out to the people of the country that he called home for five years. ‘I want to thank my friends and all people of Ukraine for my time there. I received so much love from the people of Ukraine and I made lifetime friends in Ukraine and I don’t wish this situation on any people I hope for everyone to stay safe throughout this’, stressed Henry Dugat. Having been in the Ukraine and witnessed the Russian invasion from the eyes of an American, he will never forget the experiences that he had there. When all is said and done and he hangs up his jersey, he will always look back on his time in the Ukraine as one that had a big impact on his life. He won titles there, formed special relationships and saw a country struggle. ‘Ukraine has made a great impression on my life. I hope everyone can stay safe through this’, warned Henry Dugat.