The beginning of a new year is always a time of transition, but for one Richmonder 2020 is bringing with it the start of a life-long dream -- to play professional basketball.
Peter Chouquette has played in recreation leagues across the city, but a chance encounter has led him to a team in Denmark.
Peter Chouquette and I sit outside the YMCA in Richmond’s southside. He spent a lot of time here growing up, playing basketball. Last year he won a local championship game in this gym.
Inside, on a small bench on the side of the old court, Chouquette recalls first picking up a basketball when he was eight. He was raised by his mom and grandma.
“And if they were both working we had a neighbor down the street who’d say ‘You know, I don’t mind taking Peter to the gym.’,” Chouquette says. “Ever since then I always had a love and passion for the game and I just never looked back.”
But when he tried out for his school’s basketball team, he didn’t make the cut. Year after year he would show up to play and not get chosen. It went that way all through high school. He says it was upsetting.
“But after the tears and all that got out of my system I was like, you know what, basketball is not just basketball to me,” Chouquette says. “I was destined to do that. In spite of me getting cut or people not seeing that at the time.
He never stopped playing. He hopped from rec league to rec league across the city. He played on multiple YMCA teams, American Family Fitness, and others.
Most recently he’s played with RVA League for Safer Streets. The group brings together kids and men from the city’s public housing communities. His team chose the name ‘Underrated.’
Chouquette pulls out his phone, showing me video of some of their recent games. You see him score. Again. And Again. And Again. You can hear his mom and grandma cheering from the stands.
For Chouquette, faith has always been his driving force.
“God will always tell me he has greater things in store, just be patient. Although I’m telling you to be patient and you don’t see the fruit, it’s going to come,” he says.
And now that greater thing has come. A chance encounter while playing with some friends in Richmond helped get his highlight reel in front of a European recruiter. He was told the Danish team was interested.
My mind was just blown, I was just so shocked,” Chouquette remembers. “I went on and took that move, signed the contract. And go to Denmark.”
Now, at the age of 29, he’s pressing pause on his work as a vet assistant and Papa John’s delivery driver and moving overseas. He’s signed a six month contract with the Danish Falcons, part of the Foreign International Basketball League.
Still sitting in the gym at the YMCA, a group of young boys come in and start dribbling. Chouquette watches them, saying that when he comes home he hopes he can teach kids like them that faith and determination pay off.
“Not give up on their goals, not give up on their dreams... pursue their dream that they feel like might have been snatched or taken away from them because of discouragement, because of doubt,” he says.
To learn instead, that effort will be rewarded.
Like for me, 15 tries later and to Chouquette’s cheers, I finally make a basket.