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  • Colton Pankiewicz

Maslennikov Looks Forward as Ukraine Remains At War

By Colton Pankiewicz, Asst. Sports Editor

As George Maslennikov finished his third season playing for Canisius basketball, he was faced with the same decision as many are in their last year of college: what's next? His situation, though, is a little different than most, with his home country in the midst of a war after being invaded by Russia in February of last year.

Head coach Reggie Witherspoon stumbled upon the Ukrainian playing at Saddleback College, a community college located 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Witherspoon was able to convince Maslennikov to join him in Buffalo.

After appearing in 65 games for the Griffs, Maslennikov was able to secure a bachelor's degree in marketing, and he is now just months away from receiving his masters degree in sports administration.

The graduate student lies in an interesting spot with only a year left on his I-20, a student visa that allows international students to stay in the U.S during their education and then for an additional year after they graduate. Maslennikov plans to apply for his U.S visa before his I-20 expires, and he believes there is a good shot he will receive one. If for some reason he is not able to receive his visa, he said, it would make for a troublesome situation.

If Maslennikov were unable to secure his visa, he would be forced to go back to Europe. Being from Odessa, a city that has made headlines throughout the past year for being a target of Russian missile strikes, the graduate may choose to stay away from his home country.

If he were to cross the Ukrainian border, there would be the possibility that he would be drafted to join the front lines and defend his country. He, however, greatly prefers the idea of finding a job near his mom, who currently lives in Pila, Poland after fleeing Ukraine just weeks after the war broke out.

The man who is known more for his life in basketball than his life outside of the sport believes it is best to take things day by day.

“I’m worried about what I’m going through today instead of tomorrow or what’s happened in the past. You have to live in the present, because you don't know what’s gonna happen in a decade or two. I have a vision in my head, though, that there’s going to be more beyond this: I truly believe it,” said Maslennikov.

Provided Maslennikov is granted a visa to stay in America, he wants to be a sports

agent and maybe one day open his own agency. Beyond his career, he feels that there is a lot he wants to do.

“They’re more like side quests, I definitely want to open a car shop, or some type of

dealership, because I love cars. I also definitely want to own an Italian restaurant, because I think food is a reflection of a lot of memories I’ve had. When you think of really good food you’ve had, you can remember what you were doing and the people you shared that meal with,” said Maslennikov.

The 6-foot-10 Ukrainian always saw a life beyond basketball and said he actually preferred dancing more than basketball as a teenager. He was not aware that basketball existed outside of the NBA, and he did not start playing the sport until he was 16 when his mom thought a move to the U.S. as an exchange student would be the best option for Maslennikov after being kicked out of sailing school in Odessa.

“I’ve always felt like people who have a strict goal to play basketball — nothing against

them — but I feel like it's a boring lifestyle. Whenever your days of playing basketball are over, you’re gonna fall into a depression. When I was in L.A I got hurt and fell into that kind of depression myself; I was able to be lifted out of that darkness and realize what there is out there. I just want to experience life to the fullest and find a life that gives me the peace of mind,” said Maslennikov.

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