By Otago Daily Times | Posted: Thursday September 20, 2018
A quick switch from backpacking to basketball has proven successful for Benoit Hayman.
The 21-year-old former Otago Nuggets guard has landed a contract with Switzerland professional team BBC Nyon.
He had been travelling around Europe and spending time with his mother's family - who are Swiss - and had a trial lined up for a team while there.
When that trial fell through, former Otago Nugget Brendon Polyblank - who played in Switzerland - put Hayman in contact with his old agent.
He found Hayman another trial, with BBC Nyon, and the team decided to pick him up.
''It was quite fortunate,'' Hayman said.
''The coach was looking for an up-tempo guard who can play in the pick and roll and has a really energetic and positive attitude.
''So a lot of the qualities he wanted is what's instilled at Basketball Otago and especially at [the Mid City] Magic.''
Hayman was excited and adapting to the new environment - notably by learning French.
The level of basketball was similar to what he had experienced with the Otago Nuggets in 2014, when he was a squad member in his last year at Otago Boys' High School.
However, it was more a ''generic European style'' of play.
''It's really structured, highly skilled, everyone can shoot, everyone has a good feel for the game. It's quite naturally flowing.
''Not too dissimilar to what it is in New Zealand, but in New Zealand the aggression and the physicality stood out more.''
At present he was living with family friends near Nyon during the week and with his family out of town over the weekends.
However, the team was looking to find him a host family for the season.
The league was a semi-professional one, although he was not getting paid yet.
He hoped to find a job working with families and teaching children sports.
Whether it proved a springboard to bigger things or his pinnacle, his main focus was on making the most of the opportunity and enjoying it.
''It's pretty much all I've wanted to do since I was 12 years old.
''So I'm just going to absolutely go for it and give it my best.''
His season begins in two weeks and finishes in May, and while he had not thought past that, returning to New Zealand was a possibility.
''I like to try and create my own opportunities and certainly take opportunities when they present themselves.
''But I'd love to come back and play in New Zealand, absolutely. Especially if the Nuggets were back on the table.
''That'd be pretty awesome to come back to Dunedin and represent Otago - pull on the blue and gold.''