Tevin Ferral St Jean turns 21 in September. Still a young man, and he’s only been playing volleyball for about a quarter of his life. But already, his athletic career has been a roller coaster. There have been some incredible highlights. And then there have been darker moments. But now, Tevin has embarked on a journey that could redefine his outlook on the sport of volleyball, and reshape his life.

The young man recently was recruited by Iraklis Thessaloniki Volleyball Club (ΤΑΠ Γ.Σ. Ηρακλής). In a matter of weeks just about when his birthday hits, he will become the third Saint Lucian to play professional volleyball in Greece. And it should come as no surprise that the trailblazer, Julian Bissette, played a significant role in helping him get there.

Julian has moved on to France now, to play with Narbonne – his season starts in October. But during his time with MENT in 2014-15, he successfully lobbied for his beach volleyball partner, Joseph Clercent, to join him. During that time, it turns out that he was simultaneously talking about Tevin, and building Tevin up as well. It almost reads like a social media romance gone right.

Julian’s former coach asked him about a middle blocker. Keep in mind that as an undersized middle player, Julian was the MVP of the Greek Volley league. Julian told him about Tevin. The coach added Tevin on Facebook. They started talking. Tevin sent him some photos and videos. “And it just went from there,” says Tevin, with a laugh.

Julian, Joe, and now Tevin were preceded in the professional ranks by former captain of the men’s national team, Jason Octave. Jason, a.k.a. ‘Long’, played collegiate volleyball in the United States before trying his hand at the pro game. Tevin says that having all that precedent has been good for him, but it’s really all come down to the influence of one man.

“I’ve always looked up to those guys, guys like Jason, and Joe, but Julian has always been like my favourite volleyballer in the world. And he has really been the person who has been really pushing me, and, you know, making sure I am a better person every day, and making sure I am mentally strong, especially to be going to Greece, because he knows how challenging it can be up there.

“I’m very excited about this. To be given an opportunity like that, that’s something great. Coming from somewhere like Soufriere, it’s been hard on me. It’s been some rough years. And I’m so excited to be going to Greece, you know. I want to give my everything. To prove people wrong. To show that I can play at a high level, you know. To make my country, my family, to make Julian proud, because he paved the way for me.”

Standing 6 feet 6.5 inches tall (1.99 metres), Tevin looks like he is built for volleyball. He has played in the Under-19 Beach Volleyball World Championship. He was Best Blocker at the 2016 Eastern Caribbean Volleyball Association’s Under-23 tournament. In any other year, he would be with the U23 team at the Pan American competition being played right now in Mexico. But all of that could have been derailed in 2014.

Soufriere Comprehensive was going up against Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in the final of the inter-school basketball tournament. The game was being played on the Vigie Sports Complex, as opposed to the Beausejour Gymnasium. The surface was still somewhat slick from rain. SCSS ended up forfeiting the game after what (at the time) appeared to be serious injuries to Tevin and another player.

“It’s just a mental thing. It wasn’t really a bad, bad injury, but it was something to wake me up, to tell me, you know what Tevin, you should take something seriously and just go forward with it. So from there, I’ve just been taking care of my body, because I remember one coach told me ‘Your body is your business.’ So I’ve been treating my body like my business and just preparing for this.

“I’m someone… I like people to almost look down on me, because it gives me that motivation to go forward. You know, it gives me that extra push to say ‘I want to be better than that person.’ But not only better than them, I want to be a better person every day. And not only on the court. Mentally, you know, to people, helping out in the community and everything like that. I really want to go far, be the best that I can be.”

Tevin has also dabbled with football and track and field, before settling on that one thing he wanted to take seriously. Now, even younger even than Julian was when he first moved to Greece two years ago, and just over five years in the game, volleyball has earned him the chance to see the world, develop himself, and earn a living.

Iraklis is based in Thessaloniki, Macedonia. The team plays in A1 Greek Volleyball League. Founded in the 1920s, they evolved in one of the most successful departments of the G.S. Iraklis multi-sports club. One of the most successful teams in Greece and Europe, they have won the Greek league five times (2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2012) and made the European Champions League final three times.

But Iraklis Chalkidas (named for the mythical Greek hero, Hercules) has fallen on hard times of late. Relegated to the A2 three years ago, they are back in the top tier, but finished just 10th last season. In a 12-team league, Manager Christos Patras is hoping that Tevin – the ‘Tower’ will help spark them back into contention. For both team and player, it’s a chance they will be eager to grab. (terry finisterre)

PHOTO -: FLASHBACK 2013 – Tevin St. Jean just drills a spike thrpough the Grenadian blockers at trhe 2013 Windward Islands Schools Games in which was held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (photo by Robertson S. Henry)