Athlete’s faith and skill built by gap year

KENZIE MEEKER/ TheThreefoldAdvocate Brent Toussaint grew up playing basketball in a small Louisiana town. He took a gap year after high school and landed at John Brown University.
Brent Toussaint grew up playing basketball in a small Louisiana town. He took a gap year after high school and landed at John Brown University.

You wouldn’t think it by looking at him, but Brenton Quintez Toussaint is a country boy at heart.

Growing up in Natchitoches, Louisianna, a town of 18,000, Toussaint said “all we really do is go hunting, play basketball, ride fo’ wheelers, dirt bikes… and you know live the country life.”

He owns his roots as country boy, but it was not a perfect childhood. Toussaint vividly recalls moments of blatant racism against him as a child.

“Some areas in Louisiana, they’ll put guns up on you,” Toussaint said. “Once me and my cousin were on a walk one day, just walking, and this guy had said, ‘get off my property,’ and then he called us the n-word. He pulled out a gun and then his wife came out and asked, ‘Honey, what’s wrong,’ and then she had a gun on her too. So we had to run from over there. That’s the most scared I’ve been in my life.”

That encounter did not stop Toussaint from living on the edge. He admits that he hasn’t always made the best decisions. Sometimes those bad decisions through the crowd that he’s run with. One of the crazier things that have happened to him wasn’t his fault, but he still almost faced jail time for it. Toussaint recounts driving his cousin, who, unbeknownst to him, was a drug dealer. Toussaint got pulled over and the police officer found drugs. The officer was going to arrest them both for possession of drugs, but Toussaint’s cousin was honest about Toussaint’s unknowing involvement, so Toussaint got off without being arrested.

Toussaint readily admits that road is one he could’ve easily gone down, one that many people he knows have gone down. The Square, where Toussaint’s grandmother lives, is a hotspot for gangs. Many of his friends looked up to the young adults, many of whom were gangsters. They convinced the kids that gang-banging was good for them. Toussaint said a kid named Buster, who was only fourteen years old, decided he wanted to be thug and got shot in the head last year.

Toussaint said it is hard to see people around him get killed.

“But he picked the way he wanted,” Toussaint added. “You can’t want to be a gangster and not suffer the consequences. You can pick the right path. It’s not hard.”

Toussaint, too could’ve continued to stay on that path, but he credits his faith for saving him from where he was. Specifically, he credits his dad for influencing him to grow in his faith. From phone calls asking him deep questions and checking in on his prayer life, to the joy his dad has, Toussaint said emphatically that without his dad’s guidance, he would not be the man he is today.

Toussaint also credits Adam Donyes, president of the Kanakuk Link Year, a faith-based gap-year program, for influencing him.

“He calls me every week,” Toussaint said of Donyes. “He always talks to me about [Bible reading], how have I been growing in my faith and if I have any questions about anything spiritual. But that’s my dude. We can always talk… I can really call him my mentor.”

That’s not all Toussaint credits Adam Donyes with. At the age of 11, Toussaint began his journey in the sport of basketball. He won the City League championship and to this day still has the trophy. From that point forward he was hooked. He had some downs, such as getting cut from his sixth-grade team, and many ups, such as working his tail off to progress over the course of that next year to start on his seventh and eighth grade teams. AAU teams came knocking and Toussaint played for a team in Baton Rouge. He then seized the opportunity to travel to Texas, California, New York, Wyoming, Vegas, Indianapolis, and Mississippi. He had a tumultuous but successful high school career, but going to Link Year and playing on their basketball team spring-boarded him into greater things.

Toussaint is quick to once again credit the gap year program by stating that it opened many doors for him. It was the first time he had the opportunity to truly shine. His best friend Tivonte Hardy, big name recruit, would begin the year with Toussaint, but halfway through left. Toussaint then began to showcase his ability to play the sport. He went from averaging 8 points a game to dropping 25 points when injured, 22 points back-to-back, 25 points in another game and so it continued.

In February, when Toussaint got to go to the Bahamas with Link Year, he said he played a magnificent game, dropping “probably 45 on them.”

Toussaint’s going to keep on growing and learning and becoming a better man, but the lessons he learned at Link Year may be the one that the big man with the big smile holds closest; “Never take a backseat [on the court], keep being Brent, smiling all the time, keep everybody in a good mood.”