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Dufault starts new professional basketball chapter in France

Most people have to pay to travel around the world.

Not Austin Dufault.

In fact, Dufault — a Killdeer High School and University of Colorado graduate — is getting paid to travel across Europe to play professional basketball. He has joined BC Souffelweyersheim in France for the 2014-15 season.

“I’m really excited and I’m really fortunate to have the opportunity to continue playing going into my third year of professional basketball,” he said. “As the years go on, you continue to appreciate each year more and more. I’m excited to get going this year and I’m excited to be living in France.

“I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the years and to see it pay off, it’s more than just getting paid to play basketball, but it’s seeing the world. I’ve probably been to 15 or 20 different countries throughout Europe. Just to see different parts is amazing and at the same time, it makes you appreciate what you have in the United States.”

Souffelweyersheim, which is located along the France and Germany border, marks Dufault’s fifth professional team in three years.

Not only is the destination of France an opportunity for Dufault to continue his professional career, but it helps his ancestors are French.

“My grandpa for sure can still speak French,” said Dufault, who is leaving for France on Aug. 6. “That’s something that’s really neat, especially for my family that I can go somewhere where I have heritage and potentially live in that city for year.”

Dufault spent the 2013-14 season with Germany’s Ludwigsburg and Macedonia’s Kozuv. He averaged nine points and 4.4 rebounds in 30 games with Kozuv.

In the 2012-13 season — his first in Europe — with the Czech Republic, Dufault averaged 14.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals. He started his professional career with BK Prostejov and then finished the season with NH Ostrava.

Though he averaged more than five points less per game in his second full year, Dufault said he learned how to become a better basketball player.

“I thought this past year was definitely a learning experience,” said Dufault, who fought tendinitis in his right knee during the 2013-14 season. “My first year was also a learning experience and it seems like every year you learn something new. This past year was up and down, but at the end of the day, it really benefitted me and I learned a lot.”

Not only is Dufault excited about continuing his basketball career in France, but his parents — Rich and Karen — are equally as happy.

“It has been fantastic for Karen and I to watch him after his career was over at CU,” Rich said. “It has been amazing to see him travel across the world. When they are done with college, you think they have matured, but to watch him mature at even a higher level has been pretty amazing. He’s pretty confident in traveling and he’s always enjoyed traveling. It’s where he wants to be right now. Every parent wants that for their kids — to able to do what they want in life. Right now, he’s really at that point.”

Though Austin has become accustomed to flying halfway around the world, Karen said there’s always a part of her that’s worried.

“As a parent and as a mom, I’m always concerned about his safety when he’s over in another country,” she said. “I know France is going to be a really good opportunity for him this year.”

Spending time in California

Austin Dufault has called either Killdeer or Colorado home since he was a kid.

This summer, however, he has been working out in southern California.

By going to southern California, Dufault can spend more time with his long-time girlfriend Lauren Sandford, who is from Orange, Calif.

“I decided to come out to California and train, partly because my girlfriend is from California and I wanted to be around her this summer,” Dufault said. “There’s a lot of great places to work out in California. I found some really good people to work out with and train with this offseason. A couple of my former teammates, I’ve been able to work out with them too.”

Dufault said Sandford, who normally stays in Europe with him during the season, won’t be there until after training camp is over — which about the first month of the season.

The Killdeer graduate said he can’t express how much he appreciates Sandford traveling around Europe with him.

“She sacrifices a lot by coming over to live with me in Europe, because she’s away from her family just as much as I’m away from mine,” he said. “Everything she does for me over there, I appreciate a lot. It’s always exciting to have someone over there to experience what you are going through.”

Returning to Europe

Playing professional basketball in Europe the past two winters has caused Dufault to miss many holidays with his family.

However, advances in technology — with Skype, FaceTime, Facebook and an app his mom found, WhatsApp — have kept Austin and his parents close.

“My family is really tight knit and they only lived an hour away from me when I was in college,” Dufault said, as his family moved to Greeley, Colo., after he graduated. “As the years go by, you don’t get to see your family as much and that’s one thing that people take for granted. It’s always great to come back and see your family and friends.”

In addition to chatting with their son, Rich and Karen can also watch Austin play online. Though it was tougher to find broadcasted games when he was Macedonia, Karen said she and Rich would wake up early on Saturday mornings to see Austin play.

“The first year he played overseas, we had Internet access to most of his games, but then last year we weren’t able to watch any of them,” she said. “I’m feeling with France, we’ll be able to watch them again.”

Rich and Karen haven’t visited Austin in Europe the last two years, but they are hoping to change that.

The tentative plan for Rich and Karen is to visit Austin and Lauren in France during the Christmas break.

“We have a goal this year to go overseas to see him,” Rich said. “We kind of own that and we are looking forward to doing that this year.”