"Shooting guard for hire" finally returns home with Windy City

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • COURTESY OF WINDY CITY BULLSWindy City Bulls assistant coach Henry Domercant, a Naperville native

    COURTESY OF WINDY CITY BULLSWindy City Bulls assistant coach Henry Domercant, a Naperville native

 
 
Updated 12/24/2018 5:24 PM

The draft class of 2003 was one of the NBA's best. LeBron James is still going strong. Dwyane Wade is on his farewell tour. Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Kyle Korver are some of the other players drafted in '03.

Then there's Henry Domercant, a guy who was eligible to be drafted in 2003 after averaging 27.9 points at Eastern Illinois. But his name was never called.

 

So the 6-foot-5 shooting guard began a 12-year journey across Europe, becoming one of the most successful American exports of his era. For the first time since his senior year at Naperville North High School, Domercant is living full-time in the Chicago area as an assistant for the Windy City Bulls.

Domercant, 37, played in four different countries, joined one national team and never stayed in a city for more than two seasons.

"I liked to think of myself as Jason Bourne," Domercant said. "I was the hired assassin. I was obviously chasing contracts and money, that was basically it. If I was in a situation where they were paying more, I can get a better deal, a better contract, I'd go there.

"I know some other guys who would turn down money and stay and make themselves a home and be more comfortable. But I was fine with new places and change. It was fun and it was part of the excitement, part of the process."

Domercant didn't expect to be a European vagabond. He played on EIU's most recent NCAA Tournament team in 2001, was Ohio Valley player of the year in '02 and averaged over 20 points for three straight seasons.

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"It was NBA or bust (at the time)," he said. "I went overseas and I'm not going to say I never looked back, but there were some instances where I finally was building a name and a career for myself over there.

"I could have tried to come back to the NBA. But I was comfortable, I was getting guaranteed contracts, instead of trying to come here and make a team and be at the bottom of the roster."

Domercant was hoping a trip to the EuroLeague Final Four would be his ticket to an NBA contract. That's how fellow Naperville native Anthony Parker returned to the league after an initial failure. But that never happened, either.

"I went to the top eight, I think, six times and could not get there," he said. "A lot of the Europeans who go to the NBA were in the Final Four. Every NBA GM is there. There's no higher level other than the NBA."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Domercant began his journey in Turkey, went to Athens, Greece for a year, then Moscow, two years in Italy, up north to St. Petersburg, Russia; then out to Kazan in the middle of Russia, back to Turkey, then back to Italy. He signed with a team in Romania, but suffered an injury and didn't play in any games.

Along the way, he was as surprised as anyone to end up on the Bosnian national team for the European championships in 2005 and '11. Domercant said he had a Bosnian agent at the time who helped broker the deal to become a naturalized citizen.

"My first question was, 'Do I have to marry somebody?' They said no. 'Do I have to go in the army?' They said no," he said. "I said, 'All I've got to do is play basketball? Then sign me up.' It was a great experience. I got to play against some of the best players in the world, from Tony Parker to Dirk Nowitzki."

Sometimes playing overseas leads to culture shock, broken promises and missing paychecks. But Domercant was never in a situation where he wanted to leave.

"My first year in Turkey, there were some guys who left. There were a couple of blasts or explosions near the center of the city. I didn't live near there. For a brief moment, I had maybe a little bit of fear, but honestly because of my faith and being unaware, I wasn't very fearful at all.

"I knew guys who played in Israel. I knew guys who were playing in Ukraine more recently where they had a war breaking out in the streets. Just like in Chicago, there are places where you don't go and in Istanbul, there's places you don't go."

Domercant and his wife Alexandra had two kids while living in Europe and he kept on playing. Domercant finally made his American professional debut with the G-League's Idaho Stampede at age 35. When an injury finally ended his playing career, he landed a job as an assistant coach for the Maine Red Claws, working under Mt. Prospect native Brandon Bailey.

He joined Charlie Henry's staff on the Windy City Bulls this season. After all those years away, does Chicago even feel like home?

"For sure, just because family, friends," he said. "But I definitely do feel like I can pick up and go anywhere. If my wife was like, 'Hey, let's move to Boise, Idaho' or 'Let's move to Montana,' it's not that large for me to adjust."

The toughest part of being home might be dining out. Domercant is used to the most authentic cuisines.

"That's one thing about Europe I miss, all my favorite restaurants are in different cities around the world," he said. "I want risotto from this place, I want a steak from this place in Istanbul, I want my seafood from a different place. So it's tough."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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