BY KEVIN SACDALAN
After leading the Sheridan Bruins to back-to-back provincial basketball championships and being named Sheridan athlete of the year in 2014, Dylan Periana had to make one of the toughest decisions in his life, one that required him to walk away from the game he loved.
Periana’s love of the game all started as a kid growing up in Brampton.
“My dad put a rim on the fence. Must’ve been six feet off the ground,” Periana said. “That’s where it all started.”
Periana attended Good Shepherd Catholic School and then went on to St. Marguerite d’Youville Secondary School for five years, winning three consecutive ROPSSAA (Region of Peel Secondary School Athletic Association) championships in the process in his final three years.
Periana enrolled in Sheridan College’s two-year Mechanical Engineering-Technician diploma program in 2012. At Sheridan, he also wanted to continue playing basketball.
“I knew the assistant coach, Nikki Davis, and I just wanted to play for him,” Periana said. “They didn’t recruit me at all, I just showed up.”
Jim Flack, head coach of the Sheridan Bruins basketball team, was skeptical of Periana playing.
“We wondered if he could succeed at this level given that he was pretty small, but we also knew he had a pedigree of winning,” Flack said.
Periana’s small stature has been something he has had to overcome to play at a high level. Listed at just 5-foot-11, Periana is usually the smallest player on the court, but he doesn’t let that stop him.
“I grew used to it,” the 24-year-old point guard said. “I don’t really see people’s height when I play. I just see big obstacles and small obstacles.”
Brian Owusu, a teammate of Periana for three years, is also impressed by how dominant Periana can be despite his shorter stature.
“It’s crazy to see because he’s actually the most competitive guy out there every night and he finds a way to get it done every time,” Owusu said.
Owusu is in his third and last season with the Bruins. He has been part of the winning seasons, as well as seasons where they’ve struggled. He understands what Periana brings to the team and his importance to them.
“He’s a really good basketball player, he’s a very good point guard, and he has a ‘win at all costs’ mindset which rubs off on the team,” Owusu added.
Periana made an immediate impact with the Bruins, winning back-to-back OCAA (Ontario College Athletic Association) championships in his first two seasons.
“He’s part of our leadership team, and he accepts the responsibility that comes with that,” Flack said. “A lot of guys shy away from that responsibility, but not him.”
He capped off his 2013-2014 campaign as Sheridan’s male athlete of the year. In a room full of 200 other athletes, Periana sat, as Jim Flack stood at the podium ready to read the name of the winner.
“Dylan Periana,” Flack said.
“Winning that award felt so good for 10, 15 minutes,” Periana said. “The best part was hearing coach Flack’s words before presenting me with the award. As soon as I brought the trophy back to my table, I sat there and zoned out. I realized there’s so much more to life. As much as I loved basketball, the award didn’t change the fact that I had to get an education and work just like someone who’s never participated in sports.”
Not long after, Periana sent Flack a text, telling him he was going to stop playing.
“Whatever a young man wants to do, I will support,” Flack said of Periana’s decision. “If they feel a need to take a year off or just hang the shoes up, I support them.”
Following two years of being the top team in the province, Periana decided to call it quits and call it a career to focus more on his education and paying for school.
“I was simply going through the motions in class to continue playing basketball, barely squeezing by,” Periana said. “All I did was hang out at the gym.” He came back to school for Sheridan’s three-year Mechanical Engineering co-op advanced diploma program. Periana also worked on the side, doing modification and logistics at Delta Light Canada.
“It was great,” Periana said about his work. “I learned a lot about circuitry and the small business environment.”
When Periana decided to stop playing, it was with the intention that he would not return. However, during his time away from the game, he came to a realization that convinced him to return to the team.
“Even though basketball has never put money in my pockets, the friendships, lessons, and experiences were priceless,” Periana said. “I realized this is the only time in my life I can do this and I’d regret it if I didn’t.”
Flack was also pleased to have his veteran point guard back in the lineup and to see him pursue what he wanted.
“He had an academic stream he wanted, and he is such a great leader that I knew we were going to take major steps forward,” Flack said.
In Periana’s first season back in with the team, he was able to balance out his academics with his athletics. At the end of last season, he once again sat at the athletic banquet. Just two years ago, he sat at the banquet with the thought he wouldn’t play basketball competitively again.
As usual, Flack was at the podium presenting the award when he announced the winner of athlete of the year to be Periana. The hall erupted in an ovation. While playing well on the court, he has also been having success off the court when it comes to his academics.
“My last few years I spent all my time in the library and trying to get academic scholarships,” Periana said. “The year off helped me out mentally a lot.”
This year will be his last season with the team and is looking forward to his future.
“I’m planning to take over the world,” Periana said jokingly. “I just want to make enough money to do what I want in life.”
He wants to further his education in mechanical engineering, travel, and experience as much as he can.
“When basketball is all said and done for him, he’s going to do very well in whatever field he chooses,” Flack said.
Some student-athletes struggle with balancing school with their athletics and acceptance that playing will not last forever. If Periana had advice for any student athlete, it would be “Athletics don’t last forever, academics do.”