Jason Guarente (@JasonGuarente)
There were times when Tim Guers asked himself if it was worth it. Those three weeks he was stuck in a hotel room in Vietnam. Those months he spent in Luxembourg without ever playing a game. His life was transported far from home and basketball was still so far away.
Tim Guers (above) has seen COVID impact his professional career after a standout college career. (Photo courtesy Saint Anselm athletics)
Guers could never quit. Or even think about it. He’s still searching for some answers. Where can his talent take him? What level can he reach? COVID-19 has robbed him of those answers for two years.
“There have been hard times,” the Germantown Academy grad said. “At the same time I always fall back on the fact I’ve worked way too hard. Even though times are not ideal right now, I still owe it to myself to see it through.”
The pro dream began in high school, where Guers was an All-State selection under the late Jim Fenerty. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard loved the game more than most and was determined to play as long as possible. Despite his success, it has often been an uphill climb.
Saint Anselm College, a Division II school in New Hampshire, is where the dream came into sharper focus. Guers was the Northeast-10 Rookie of the Year as a freshman, averaged 21.7 points per game as a sophomore and never looked back. The Langhorne native finished as a two-time conference Player of the Year and scored 2,327 points, leading the Hawks to the NCAA D-II Final Four as a senior. His teams appeared in the D-II March Madness all four years.
“Whatever he was limited in,” Fenerty of Guers said in 2018, “was overcome by his desire to get better.”
Even though the pandemic has thrown a wrench into every league’s plans, Guers has found teams that wanted him. He just hasn’t spent much time on the court.
When Guers arrived in Vietnam in late April, his third pro stop, he owned nearly as many stamps in his passport as career games played. Six. That was it. From his journey to Australia, his detour to Luxembourg to this summer. That’s how many times he put on a uniform.
There has been so much sitting and waiting. So much adjusting to new places and new people. Guers’ first three weeks in Vietnam coincided with a COVID spike that put him in quarantine. He couldn’t leave his room under any circumstances. His meals were brought to him. He was tested every six days. Netflix, video games and books were his companions. He conjured up whatever workouts he could so he was in some semblance of shape when practice resumed.
“It was difficult,” Guers said. “It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. You just kind of accept it and get into a rhythm. Time stood still for a little while.”
The season that was supposed to start in early June didn’t tip off until mid-July. That was more than two months after Guers made the 8,000-mile trip.
Guers is one of three Americans on his Vietnamese team. The entire league was placed in an NBA-like bubble to protect against infection. The heat and humidity is so bad that portable air conditioners were brought in to provide some relief. The first scrimmage was stopped because of moisture on the court.
That number of pro games has grown. Guers has appeared in seven with the Thang Long Warriors and is averaging a team-high 25.6 points. He believes the unusual schedule has helped him. He’s a self-starter who’s used to getting better on his own.
“The one thing that would benefit me more than most people is I’ve always been one to work behind the scenes,” Guers said. “Work really hard and kind of gain ground on other players that way. Obviously you can’t replicate in-game experiences. But everywhere I go, I seem to be a level ahead of where I was the last time I played.”
The next stop is already planned. Guers is headed to Iceland in September. For the moment, he’s a man without a home. He travels where basketball takes him and stops by the Philly area whenever there happens to be an offseason.
When he saw photos of friends and family on the golf course or at the beach this summer, he felt a little homesick. That hotel room was more like a jail cell.
“You always feel like you’re missing things,” Guers said. “I feel like it’s a little bit worse dealing with these COVID days. If you were in the trenches of the season, playing games and distracted by your passion day in and day out, I think it’s a little bit easier. During COVID it’s tough.”
This is the path Guers has chosen. He turned 25 in July and is more than two years removed from becoming Saint Anselm’s all-time leading scorer. His pro career has been stalled more than he expected but it hasn’t slowed him down.
The answer is out there, and Guers intends to find it.
“The biggest thing that keeps me going forward is my curiosity,” he said. “Where do I fall on the spectrum of talent all over the world? I’ve battled through the resistance and haven’t been slowed down yet. I feel like I’m searching all over to find that challenge that’s going to put my back up against the wall. I’m ready to compete and see where it goes.”
Australia. Luxembourg. Vietnam. Soon Iceland. The search has already taken Guers around the world.