Connor Essegian from Wisconsin Badgers has been invited to play for the Armenian National Basketball Team in two upcoming games against France, according to the club’s website.
Essegian will be making his debut for Armenia in the “Armenian Basketball Classic,” an event that will take place June 16-17 and have Armenia facing France – ranked No. 5 globally – in back-to-back games. Both games will be played in California at Premier America Credit Union Arena on the campus of California State University, Northridge. It will mark the first-ever Armenian basketball games to be played in the United States.
Building on its momentum after winning gold at the 2022 European Championship for Small Countries, Armenia begins its journey to qualify for the FIBA World Cup.
“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to play the game that I love, while also representing Armenia and my family in the process,” Essegian said. “My father’s side is Armenian and I believe one of my relatives, Chuck Essegian, was the first Armenian player in Major League Baseball, so I’m excited to add to that history through the game of basketball. I’m also excited to represent Wisconsin on an international level of competition. I plan to use this opportunity to challenge myself against professional-level players, while also better preparing for this upcoming season.”
Connor’s father is 50 percent Armenian, and Connor’s grandfather is 100 percent Armenian. The cousin of Connor’s grandfather, Chuck Essegian, is the first Armenian to play in Major League Baseball. Chuck Essegian played baseball and football at Stanford University, competing in the 1951 Rose Bowl, before going on to play in MLB for six seasons (1958-63) where he played in the 1959 World Series with the Dodgers. Chuck Essegian set a World Series record with two pinch-hit home runs, and became just the second player to play in both the Rose Bowl and World Series.
“Any time one of our athletes gets to play on an international stage and represent their heritage it is an awesome opportunity,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said. “We’ve had several players over the years use this experience as a springboard into the next season, and I know that Connor will go in with his eyes and ears wide open to squeeze everything out of this opportunity that he can. I’m excited to follow him as he competes.”