One of the biggest misconceptions out there about NAIA is that it is “hard” to go pro from that level. I do agree that it is hard to go pro, but that goes for any level of basketball. Being a pro player takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and at the end of the day it isn’t for everyone. I also know plenty of guys who went overseas, and didn’t like it, or went out of shape and were cut, so I want to express the fact that getting a degree to fall back on is ultimately the most important thing. However, to say that you can’t go pro from NAIA is 1. Wrong, and/or 2. A negative recruiting ploy used in order to get kids to go elsewhere. Part of this page is to help bring positive attention to NAIA basketball, so when I saw the tweet by Geno Artison Jr, who spent last season playing at University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, I wanted to reach out to him to tell his story.
Geno Artison Jr
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Major: Physical Education
Pro Contract: Luxembourg, BC Mess
2nd Team All-Sooner Athletic Conference
Avg 14ppg/8.5rpg with 8 double-doubles
Geno was more than eager to share his information with me about his path to NAIA, before going pro. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are a lot of different journeys that kids take before ending up in the NAIA. Some play all four years, and others, like Geno, go different avenues before finding a home in NAIA. Geno’s college journey started out with him taking a red shirt year at NCAA D1 Fresno State University. From there he signed to play JUCO basketball at College of Southern Idaho, where through 9 games he was averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds per game before tearing his Achilles. Geno was still able to sign to NCAA D1 Tulsa, where he saw minimal playing time for two years. People told him that if he decided to go the NAIA route that he would have a hard time going pro.
Geno didn’t listen to the naysayers, and instead he chose to listen to Coach Francis at USAO, who he credits for doing a great job of recruiting him, and selling him on his vision of wanting Geno to achieve more in life. Geno said that Coach Francis did a really good job of proving he cared about him and believed in him as a player. Coach Francis showed him that USAO was a winning program and told him that players really do go pro from NAIA. Those are the points that stuck with Geno as he made his decision to end his playing career at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
Geno is a big fan of NAIA basketball, and told me that if a kid is on the fence to sign NAIA, they should look up and down different rosters, and see all of the talent at this level. He said after playing NAIA, that there are some real hoopers at this level, but also with hard work, dedication, and perseverance that anything is possible at any level!
Geno hopes to a have a long pro career, but said when he is done playing ball, that he wants to return to college athletics as a coach. He wants to be able to help kids the same way a lot of coaches helped him. Geno’s NAIA playing career may have ended, but maybe one day we will see him back as a coach!