Jasper Basketball Alum Offers Unique Perspective on Ukraine-Russia Conflict 

By Jocelyn Visnov, Web Editor/Asst. Production Editor

After graduating from Manhattan College in 2014, Jasper basketball alum Rhamel Brown has dribbled his way through Israel, Switzerland, Canada and Ukraine. After playing basketball in Odessa, Ukraine for three years, Brown feels a unique connection to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the land where he once hit the court. The Quadrangle was able to sit down with Brown via Google Meet to discuss the ongoing crisis.  

The Quadrangle: How did you transition from playing college basketball to playing professionally? 

Rhamel Brown: Well, it wasn’t really easy. You know, in this profession there’s no real guideline into how you take this next step. It’s a process that I had to learn and go in terms of finding an agent to represent me to kind of get my name out there from different teams in different countries and know how to travel. Knowing you know the area I’m going to, what to expect and it’s like, every place is a new experience, something special to offer. So it’s really a learn-as-you go type of thing. 

TQ: Where have you played during your professional basketball career?

RB: I’ve played in Israel, Switzerland, and Canada for two years. I played in Ukraine, I played in the Dominican Republic and now I’m in Finland. 

Rhamel Brown in his roster photo during his last year on the MC Men’s Basketball team. GOJASPERS/COURTESY

TQ: How recently did you play basketball in Ukraine?

RB: I was there last year actually … I started in 2019 and left there in May 2021. 

TQ: Where were you specifically? Did you move around during your time there?

RB: I spent most of my time in Odessa. Beautiful city, very nice people. The only place that I could think of was Kiev, the capital city. Kiev was just like being back in America. A lot of people spoke English and the city is very, very diverse out there. 

TQ: What are your thoughts on the Ukraine-Russia conflict? How do you feel having just played there?

RB: Terrible. It is absolutely terrible. You know, people don’t deserve to go through a time like this for something that they literally have no control over. Like this is just one man who, for whatever reason, once they invade this country, has ownership over their land. This is our teammates, their families, families in Odessa where we played, families in other parts of the city, even people we played against. You know, a lot of times people forget like, these are real people. Like just because you don’t see them, or you never met them, they’re real people just like us. So it’s absolutely devastating to see that this was happening.

TQ: How do you limit the stress of seeing these events unfold where you once played basketball?

RB: Honestly, I try to stay informed on what’s going on but I try not to look too much into detail in terms of, you know, graphic images and videos. You know every day I kind of worry somebody I know might be gone because these are young men around my age and they’re being put in a position where they pretty much have to fight. It’s not an option for them to just sit back and wait it out. I’ve seen that they attack all areas where people live and that I’ve lived in.

TQ: Are you still in touch with any of your teammates from Odessa? 

RB: Yeah, my teammates in Odessa are still there, and they had to stop the season because of the war. This is their life, this is their home. This is something they have to deal with. And I know there have been attacks on Odessa. So it’s just terrible to see that they had to go through this … they just have been, you know, taking it day by day. So far thankfully everybody seems to be okay. 

TQ: Do you feel a certain connection to the current conflict having played there? Is there anything you would like to add about your time playing basketball in Ukraine? 

RB: I spent two seasons which is about three years of getting to know these people, not only on a professional but on a personal level. And it’s like, I wish people in this world would consider how their actions affect others. Thank God it is not happening at our home. It doesn’t make them any less than what they are, you know, they’re people. We’re all equal. Everybody should be treated with the same love and dignity. But right now, they’re not, they’re not being treated like actual living people. They’re being attacked like they’re animals, and that’s something they don’t deserve.